Hitler's Willing Executioners
Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust is a 1996 book by American writer Daniel Goldhagen, in which he argues that the vast majority of ordinary Germans were "willing executioners" in the Holocaust because of a unique and virulent "eliminationist antisemitism" in German political culture which had developed in the preceding centuries. Goldhagen argues that eliminationist antisemitism was the cornerstone of German national identity, was unique to Germany, and because of it ordinary German conscripts killed Jews willingly. Goldhagen asserts that this mentality grew out of medieval attitudes rooted in religion and was later secularized.
The book challenges several common ideas about the Holocaust that Goldhagen believes to be myths. These "myths" include the idea that most Germans did not know about the Holocaust; that only the SS, and not average members of the Wehrmacht, participated in murdering Jews; and that genocidal antisemitism was a uniquely Nazi ideology without historical antecedents.
The book, which began as a Harvard doctoral dissertation, was written largely as an answer to Christopher Browning's 1992 book Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. Much of Goldhagen's book is concerned with the actions of the same Reserve Battalion 101 of the Nazi German Ordnungspolizei and his narrative challenges numerous aspects of Browning's book. Goldhagen had already indicated his opposition to Browning's thesis in a review of Ordinary Men in the July 13, 1992, edition of The New Republic titled "The Evil of Banality". His doctoral dissertation, The Nazi Executioners: A Study of Their Behavior and the Causation of Genocide, won the American Political Science Association's 1994 Gabriel A. Almond Award for the best dissertation in the field of comparative politics.Goldhagen's book stoked controversy and debate in Germany and the United States. Some historians have characterized its reception as an extension of the Historikerstreit, the German historiographical debate of the 1980s that sought to explain Nazi history. The book was a "publishing phenomenon", achieving fame in both the United States and Germany, despite its "mostly scathing" reception among historians, who were unusually vocal in condemning it as ahistorical and, in the words of Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, "totally wrong about everything" and "worthless".Hitler's Willing Executioners won the Democracy Prize of the Journal for German and International Politics. The Harvard Gazette asserted that the selection was the result of Goldhagen's book having "helped sharpen public understanding about the past during a period of radical change in Germany".
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