New book critiquing Goldhagen/new issue of Covert Action Quarterly

Chris Burford cburford at
Thu Jan 6 15:36:07 PST 2000

At 12:31 06/01/00 -0800, Michael Pugliese wrote:
>Just saw this new book, at my local, independent bookseller, "Nazi Terror:
>The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans
>Eric A. Johnson, Basic Books. Billed as comprehensive critique of
>Goldhagen's work, looks like a useful supplement to Norman Finkelstein's NLR
>piece, later published in paper. Before lunchtime hunger took me away,
>glanced at chapter headings- examination of
>KPD and SPD for example, with biographical vignettes.


Under cover of generalising from truths about cognitive psychology, Goldhagen re-presented the idealist version of the anti-semitic holocaust, once again.

The existence of a chapter on the KPD in this book looks promising. Any concrete analysis of the holocaust must include an assessment of the errors of the KPD (and the wider international Communist Movement). This led to Dachau being full of socialists and communists for five years before any significant number of Jews arrived (from Vienna, after the Anschluss).

The idealist version of history that promotes the horror (and horror of course it was) of the treatment of the jews in a way that blinds us to a political and economic analysis, ironically continues to play into the hands of the Nazi strategy. In some ways it used anti-semitism as the sharp end of its attack on civil liberties. By establishing that Jews could be stripped of their citizenship, or lined up in front of trenches and killed, it prepared the rest of the population for violent attacks on all democratic rights.

Hence the riddle that an anti-semitic regime filled its concentration camps for the first five years with democrats, who would otherwise have fought for civil liberties. And the deaths of jews in any significant numbes came later. But such contradictory and paradoxical details are not the stuff of idealist historical writing.

Chris Burford


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