Date:         Mon, 8 Apr 1996 15:50:46 -0500
Reply-To:     H-NET List on German History 
Sender:       H-NET List on German History 
From:         H-GERMAN EDITOR Dan Rogers 
Subject:      Goldhagen's _Hitler's Willing Executioners_

Submitted by:   Shelley Baranowski 

        Having just finished reading Daniel Goldhagen's book this past
weekend, I agree with Eric Weitz about the book's deficiencies,
particularly Goldhagen's suggestion as to the inevitability of the
Holocaust and his regurgitation of older arguments that have been
seriously questioned. In one major respect, however, the book (to me at
least) seems to be the culmination of efforts to substitute a focus on
race in Nazi Germany over class analysis -- efforts that have been
underway since the eighties. Moreover, the book's stress upon ordinary
Germans as moral actors with opportunities for individual choice (indeed
the cooperation of conservative elites with Nazism that constituted so
much of the discussion about class in Nazi Germany has been significantly
deemphasized) go over well at a time when few (particularly politicians)
are willing to address the structural or class bases of injustice. The
only "structure" in Goldhagen's book is ideological; namely the
long-standing "cognitive map" of antisemitism. Also, emphasizing the
primacy of the ideological over the material also has a certain
contemporary currency.

        By no means do I wish to deny the salience of race in Nazi
Germany, for recent scholarship dealing with the "racial state" has
addressed the main weakness of so much fascism theory. Nor do I object to
such notions as individual choice and responsibility as long as we
understand that structures other than ideology inform those choices. Yet I
think we need to achieve an understanding of the Third Reich that
recognizes that racial policy was to achieve a unified, militarized, and
purified nation against a Germany ridden with social conflict. The Jew was
more than just the defining element of a collective mental architecture
stemming from Christianity, "he" was the very symbol of class conflict and
national disintegration. That's the main reason why the equation between
"Jew" and "Bolshevik" became so lethal. That the state put its full weight
behind antisemitism during the Third Reich, which was not the case in the
Wilhelmine period as Goldhagen argues, had something to do with rejecting
the "Marxist" republic and eliminating class divisions that war, Weimar,
and the depression exacerbated.

Shelley Baranowski
Professor of History
University of Akron: