"Birn's and Finkelstein's essays constitute a sharp rebuttal provoked by the public's and the press's love affair with a book that casually dismisses excellent work done by others; that contains many contradictions; and that upholds dangerous myths regarding the existence of 'national characteristics.' "
--István Deák, author of Beyond Nationalism: A Social and Political History of the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1848-1918 Back
Note 6: Christopher Browning told me: "What's important about Finkelstein's critique is that he has traced the inconsistencies and contradictions in Goldhagen, and no one else has taken the time to do that. It's not my style of writing. But I don't think he's gone beyond the bounds of polemic in replying to Goldhagen's polemic." In interviews, Holocaust scholars sounded grateful that someone had stood up so boldly to Goldhagen, who, in Hitler's Willing Executioners, had dismissed the work of virtually every scholar who came before him. Two of the blurb writers have quite understandable grudges: Goldhagen has, for years, been railing against Browning's emphasis on peer pressure in explaining why German soldiers participated in genocide; in a NewRepublic review, he accused another endorser, Arno Mayer, of being a Holocaust revisionist. In any event, these blurbs often appear to be more the expressions of well-wishers than of close readers. Hobsbawm is not alone in saying he didn't read Finkelstein's essay "line-by-line." Back
Note 7: Finkelstein notes that anti-Semitism in other countries was often worse; there was, in pre-Hitler Germany, "no equivalent of the riots that attended the Dreyfus Affair in France or the pogroms in Russia." In the Weimar period, moreover, the Nationalist Socialists found they couldn't get much mileage out of raw appeals to anti-Jewish prejudice, and often toned down their anti-Semitism around election time. Back
Note 8: Footnoting historian Peter Pulzer's sober study Jews and the German State, Goldhagen asserts that only the "core of the socialist movement, its intellectuals and leaders" opposed anti-Semitism. In fact, Pulzer says no such thing. He found little evidence of anti-Semitism among Social Democrats, intellectuals or workers. Back
Note 9: "Thus interpreted, the Nazi extermination both justifies the necessity of Israel and accounts for all hostility directed at it: The Jewish state is the only safeguard against the next outbreak of homicidal anti-Semitism and, conversely, homicidal anti-Semitism is behind every attack on, or even defensive maneuver against, the Jewish state. 'The Holocaust' is in effect the Zionist account of the Nazi holocaust." Back
Note 10: Among other things, they warn against the danger of removing the Holocaust from history and turning it into a sort of secular religion, the central symbol of Jewish identity. They also deplore the invocation of the Holocaust as a justification for policies that most Jews would deplore if they were implemented in their own countries. Back
Note 11: Goldhagen asserts the German police battalions knew of the planned destruction of the Jews before entering the Soviet Union, rather than two months after, as most historians believe. He bases this claim on the "conclusive" statement of two former storm troopers. In fact, their statements about extermination orders from above evolved over time, Birn explains, as part of a "defense focused on superior orders as an excuse." Back