In 1997, Daniel Goldhagen published his groundbreaking
international bestseller entitled "Hitler's Willing Executioners,"
which he believed would lay to rest many myths about the Holocaust:
that Germans were ignorant of the mass destruction of Jews, that
the killers were all SS men, and that those who slaughtered Jews
did so reluctantly.
Drawing on a wealth of unused archival materials, principally
the testimony of the killers themselves, Goldhagen took his readers
into the killing fields where Germans voluntarily hunted Jews like
animals, tortured them, and then posed cheerfully for snapshots
with their victims. From mobile killing units, to the camps, to the
death marches, Goldhagen showed how ordinary Germans, nurtured in a
society where Jews were seen as evil and dangerous, willingly
followed their beliefs to their logical conclusion.
An explosive work, exhaustively documented and richly
researched, it offered irrefutable proof that should have forced a
fundamental revision in our thinking and recording of events, but
instead of seeing this work as a chance to seriously re-evaluate
what happened in Germany, the influential German historians angrily
rejected it with accusations of a lack of scholarship, to a
reaction against its popularity. This investigative work deals with
that historical bias and the resulting complicity.
Fred Kautz could not understand why leading professional German
historians refused to take up the gauntlet thrown by Goldhagen. The
German Historians is the result of his attempt to get to the bottom
of this mystery. First he presents an overview of Goldhagen's work,
then he subjects the public, and private, utterances, and the
written reviews of three prominent German historians--Hans Mommsen,
Hans-Ulrich Wehler, and Eberhard Jackel--to a very close
examination, and finally he draws some conclusions and warnings
about how we record history.
Fred Kautz, Ph.D., is currently a freelance historical
researcher in Darmstadt, Germany.
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