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The Holocaust: A New History

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This book answers two fundamental questions about the Holocaust. How, and why, did it happen? Laurence Rees' masterpiece is revealing in three ways. First, it is based not only on the latest academic research, but also on 25 years of interviewing survivors and perpetrators, often at the sites of the events, many of whom have never had their words published before. Second, t This book answers two fundamental questions about the Holocaust. How, and why, did it happen? Laurence Rees' masterpiece is revealing in three ways. First, it is based not only on the latest academic research, but also on 25 years of interviewing survivors and perpetrators, often at the sites of the events, many of whom have never had their words published before. Second, the book is not just about the Jews - the Nazis would have murdered many more non-Jews had they won the war - and not just about Germans. Third, as Rees shows, there was no single 'decision' to start the Holocaust - there was a series of escalations, most often when the Nazi leadership interacted with their grassroots supporters. Through a chronological narrative, featuring the latest historical research and compelling eyewitness testimony, this is the story of the worst crime in history.


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This book answers two fundamental questions about the Holocaust. How, and why, did it happen? Laurence Rees' masterpiece is revealing in three ways. First, it is based not only on the latest academic research, but also on 25 years of interviewing survivors and perpetrators, often at the sites of the events, many of whom have never had their words published before. Second, t This book answers two fundamental questions about the Holocaust. How, and why, did it happen? Laurence Rees' masterpiece is revealing in three ways. First, it is based not only on the latest academic research, but also on 25 years of interviewing survivors and perpetrators, often at the sites of the events, many of whom have never had their words published before. Second, the book is not just about the Jews - the Nazis would have murdered many more non-Jews had they won the war - and not just about Germans. Third, as Rees shows, there was no single 'decision' to start the Holocaust - there was a series of escalations, most often when the Nazi leadership interacted with their grassroots supporters. Through a chronological narrative, featuring the latest historical research and compelling eyewitness testimony, this is the story of the worst crime in history.

30 review for The Holocaust: A New History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I have a real interest in WWII and, as such, have been meaning to read something by Laurence Rees, one of the foremost experts in this area, for some time. Having finally taken the plunge, I started with his latest book, “The Holocaust,” a subject which there have been so many books about that perhaps you may ask what there is to say that is new. However, Rees takes a slightly different slant on the subject – asking major questions, ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ the Holocaust happened and utilising twenty f I have a real interest in WWII and, as such, have been meaning to read something by Laurence Rees, one of the foremost experts in this area, for some time. Having finally taken the plunge, I started with his latest book, “The Holocaust,” a subject which there have been so many books about that perhaps you may ask what there is to say that is new. However, Rees takes a slightly different slant on the subject – asking major questions, ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ the Holocaust happened and utilising twenty five years of research and interviews to help him answer these difficult questions. As he demonstrates in this work, there is no easy answer and no one, particular, moment, which led to the Holocaust. As important as any particular event, such as Kristallnacht, the Euthanasia programme of mentally and physically disabled, the Wannsee Conference, or any other, terrible moment, that historians can point to – these were but ‘steps and stages’ along the way to the systematic slaughter of the Holocaust. In this book, the author takes us from the ‘Origins of Hate,’ with the early history of the party, to the very end of the war, with Hitler still obsessed with the destruction of the Jews, even though the war was all but lost. He considers Hitler’s influence; not only in directing so much obsessive hate against the Jewish people, but also in allowing the ways the murderous activities unfolded down to the rather vague directions he gave those in his own Party to carry out his orders. These caused great disparities in the ways that people were treated throughout Europe and in the ways that leading members of the Nazi party on the ground interpreted the orders they received. Interestingly, as Rees pointed out, most Jewish people would have thought Germany a fairly safe haven, compared to many other countries. Anti Semitism was much more likely in Russia than in Germany, which seemed comparatively safe, and civilised, by comparison. Those who fled violent pogroms felt settled; to many, even as they boarded cattle trucks to take them to concentration camps, the rumours that Jewish people were being systematically killed seemed impossible. The book explains how early resistance to restrictions in Germany led to Hitler complaining about the ‘international conspiracy’ of Jews, which meant that any protests from overseas made things worse for Jewish people in the Reich. It shows how Hitler concentrated on a re-education of the nation and how vital it was to target the young and of how they were told they were ‘superior’ and ‘special.’ How persecution of the gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, political opponents and, always, Jews, mounted as Hitler’s powers grew. Of how other countries refused to take in refugees, the role of the Catholic Church and the fact that the Holocaust could not have functioned without collaboration from other countries. It also shows that the methods used for killing were largely changed to create better methods for those doing the killing, rather than those the system aimed to kill. The system created a mechanism of death and murder that has remained unparalleled. As defeat for Germany looked more likely, we see how countries, and later high ranking Nazi officers, tried to distance themselves from events. However, Hitler refused to countenance any excuses. For him, there was no dichotomy in pursuing the eradication of the Jewish race, even though it meant that important manpower and resources were taken away from what would seem to be the more important task of fighting the war. It is impossible to say that you enjoy reading books like this – but this is an excellent explanation of the events which led to the Holocaust and of explaining how, and why, it happened.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Macy_Novels at Night

    Wonderful book for anyone that is studying the Holocaust or just looking to learn more. This is an in-depth look at the whole situation from the start to finish. The beginning offers a good look at why the whole thing started, and progresses through each year. Eye witness accounts and stories fill the book, and prove to be very valuable in the accurate portrayal of what happened. This is not a book about the authors opinions, but facts. The research and time that must have went into this book, w Wonderful book for anyone that is studying the Holocaust or just looking to learn more. This is an in-depth look at the whole situation from the start to finish. The beginning offers a good look at why the whole thing started, and progresses through each year. Eye witness accounts and stories fill the book, and prove to be very valuable in the accurate portrayal of what happened. This is not a book about the authors opinions, but facts. The research and time that must have went into this book, was no doubt exhausting. Some parts, just like many others about this subject were hard to hear, and gut wrenching. It is so hard for me to fathom that this happened. I was surprised to hear that although this started in Germany, it was a world issue. I had no idea that these countries actually wanted to send the Jews to Madagascar! The United States was mentioned a few times, but I was surprised that at the end of the book there was not more written about their part in ending the war. I heard much about the "Red" army, but I was a little disappointed in the US efforts being left out. I look forward to doing more research of my own, and I found this book valuable in my efforts. Definitely needs to be read by everyone, this is a horrible part of history and we owe it to the victims to never let their suffering to be forgotten. I use the word victims because although the Jews were the main targets, there were also the Gypsies, mentally ill, Jehovah Witnesses and many more that were also targeted.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Omar Ali

    Historian Laurence Rees has spent a lifetime studying the Holocaust, and it shows in this book. This is a very readable (and horrifying) retelling that begins in post-WWI Germany and details all the steps in the somewhat haphazard but ultimately effective process that led to the most horrifying mass murder in history. The holocaust was not the largest genocide in history in terms of death toll (estimates and definitions vary, so it hard to say with certainty) but Rees makes the case (and I think Historian Laurence Rees has spent a lifetime studying the Holocaust, and it shows in this book. This is a very readable (and horrifying) retelling that begins in post-WWI Germany and details all the steps in the somewhat haphazard but ultimately effective process that led to the most horrifying mass murder in history. The holocaust was not the largest genocide in history in terms of death toll (estimates and definitions vary, so it hard to say with certainty) but Rees makes the case (and I think it is a very reasonable case) that many aspects of this particular genocide are uniquely evil and terrifying and these aspects justify its unique position in the history of human mass murder (and this includes comparison with such immense and horrendous crimes as the Arab and European trade in African slaves).  Anyhow, readers can (and surely, will) make up their own mind about the relative horror of this particular crime, but if they read this book, they will at least learn the full extent of it. Rees starts with the currents of antisemitism that circulated in 1920 Germany (many of these were pan-European, some were even of Anglo-American origin) and the process by which Hitler rose to power. The book makes it clear that while anti-semitism was commonplace in Christendom, most Germans were not thinking of systematic genocide; but some violent, sociopathic and evil people were dreaming of it, and they gradually coalesced around Hitler and got the chance to put their demonic ideas into practice, using all the terrifying resources of a powerful modern state. He also makes clear that there was no single point at which the process was set in motion. There was never one clear directive or one single individual charged with a clear mission to exterminate all Jews, or other "undesirables" (while Jew-hatred formed the central pillar of Nazi thought, Hitler and his minions had many other targets, including mentally and physically disabled Aryan Germans). A general urge to "purify" the Reich of Jews was built into Nazi policy, but it was put into practice gradually and with uneven application, with much variation in intensity, priority and methods. Many concentration camps where conditions were extremely harsh and brutal were already in place in the early years of Nazi rule, but systematic extermination started after the war was underway. The first use of gas to kill people was by physicians, who used carbon monoxide to kill disabled patients in a room where it was piped in via specially constructed pipes (the patients were stripped before being sent to the room "for showers"). This method was developed because killing them individually by lethal injection or other means was too slow, and was traumatizing for the Nazi physicians doing the killing; distance from the actual act of killing was needed.  Some of the details are chlling. For example, disabled children, already herded into special facilities, were taken from the dining room of a children's hospital "for consultation" (some crying and resisting) and never returned. A fact noticed by some of the other children there and remembered years later with horror. And so it goes. The various instances throughout the thirties where other Western countries resisted Jewish immigration and turned away Jewish refugees are all detailed, as is the everyday antisemitism of leaders from Canada to Poland. When Hitler mooted the possibility of Germany and its eastern neighbors all coordinating a plan to send all their Jews elsewhere ("the colonies" in this case), the Polish ambassador even told Hitler that "if he finds such a way we will erect to him a beautiful monument in Warsaw".    British reluctance to accept refugees or to allow refugees to go to Palestine is also detailed; Neville Chamberlain put it this way "it is of immense importance that Britain should have the Muslim world with us", consequently "if we must offend one side, let us offend the Jews rather than the Arabs" (this was part of a multi-year resistance to Jewish immigration to Palestine for which the British get no credit from the Arabs today). In the end, the Nazis could claim with some justification that "no one wants to have them", though it must be kept in mind that no one then had any clear idea of exactly how far the Nazis were about to go. The cooperation of various conquered nations (and the silence, if not the active connivance, of the Pope) in rounding up their Jews is discussed and as expected, the details vary. For example, the occupied and semi-occupied civil services in Holland and France deported more Jews than the German's axis ally, Italy. In fact, in some ways the civil services in Holland and France did a more thorough job than their compatriots in more old-fashioned antisemitic countries such as Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria; though in some cases this may be due less to humane instincts and more to early awareness in Eastern Europe that Germany may lose the war. Some countries went further than others, with Slovaks rounded up Jews with particular alacrity and Croatians even doing their own enthusiastic Jew-killing; incidentally, the Croats shocked even the SS by their shockingly brutal treatment of helpless Serbian civilians. The role of the Germans themselves is discussed in great detail, making it clear that all of them certainly did not know what was going on, and almost none of them had the whole picture, but far too many knew a lot and actively participated. In the course of the book, Lees also offers the original suggestion (original to me at least) that Himmler and company began to let other senior German officials know more about the ongoing holocaust in 1943 as a way of stiffening their spines as the war turned against Germany. By letting them know what horrendous crimes they were part of, Himmler was also letting them know that "we are all in this together", that after such crimes, defeat is not an a pleasant option. Still, this did not stop Himmler himself, in 1945, from trying to make excuses for the holocaust (in brief, "the war made us do it" or "the allies, by not taking the Jews off our hands") and to even try to make peace by handing over the few remaining Jews in his control. But luckily for the image of the human race, there are also a few counter-examples. The Danes saved almost all their Jews; part of the "credit" may go to the Nazi in charge, who let them get away without trying too hard to stop them (Lees speculates that he may have seen that the war is going badly and taken his own precautions against the future, or may just have felt that his job was making Denmark "Jew-Free"; so what if they disappeared from Denmark only to reappear in Sweden?). Even in countries where most Jews were killed, there were thousands of individual acts of heroism and humanity. The Poles, for example, have had some bad press after the war for the various antisemitic acts and utterances of Polish leaders and common citizens, but Lees points out that in the midst of horrendous suffering, reprisals and punishments, about 90,0000 Poles risked their own lives to hide 28,000 Jews in Warsaw over the course of the war (11,500 of them survived). Even in Berlin itself, 1700 Jews managed to survive by hiding with Good Germans, who took almost unimaginable risks (and some very material sacrifices, given the severe food shortages at the end) to hide them through 6 years of war. Last but not the least, in the Greek island of Zakynthos, when asked to produce a list of their Jews, the local mayor and bishop handed over a paper with only two names on it: their own. All 275 Jews on the island were hidden in non-Jewish homes and survived. And on this faint, but heroic positive note, I think I should end this review. A must-read book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jonny

    The fruits of a quarter century of research and interviews with victims, perpetrators and witnesses had produced a thought provoking, readable account of the Third Reich's hatred, persecution and war on the Jewish population of Europe. While there's little new information on offer, you are invited to rethink your views on the events and the chaotic, haphazard manner of implementation of supposed 'policy' is laid bare, together with some very uncomfortable truths about the nature and scope of ant The fruits of a quarter century of research and interviews with victims, perpetrators and witnesses had produced a thought provoking, readable account of the Third Reich's hatred, persecution and war on the Jewish population of Europe. While there's little new information on offer, you are invited to rethink your views on the events and the chaotic, haphazard manner of implementation of supposed 'policy' is laid bare, together with some very uncomfortable truths about the nature and scope of anti Semitic feeling throughout Europe. This book succeeded in challenging my conceptions of the subject, carried through by the conviction and weight of Rees arguments and evidence. A book everyone should read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    Of all the books in the airport, there were only two I wanted to read on my journey back from Glasgow to Oslo. (I'd like to point out that in my suitcase I had maybe 100 secondhand books I'd picked up from charity shops over Xmas, but didn't want to spoil the opportunity to buy a new book, so I took none of them :P) One was "How to Survive a Plague", the new book about the AIDS crisis—but see, I'd already ordered that and knew I had it waiting for me at the Oslo office this morning (which I did!) T Of all the books in the airport, there were only two I wanted to read on my journey back from Glasgow to Oslo. (I'd like to point out that in my suitcase I had maybe 100 secondhand books I'd picked up from charity shops over Xmas, but didn't want to spoil the opportunity to buy a new book, so I took none of them :P) One was "How to Survive a Plague", the new book about the AIDS crisis—but see, I'd already ordered that and knew I had it waiting for me at the Oslo office this morning (which I did!) The second was this! I'm 29 now, a dry run for 30, and you who've read more than one of my reviews have probably worked out that I'm a bit of a weirdo. Fortunately I'm now familiar with the caveats of that and am not really capable of being anything else, so I've wholly embraced it and never felt better. When getting in the plane to Heathrow, while waiting to be seated, I read a few pages of this and the air hostess said "That's a good book." "Oh!" I said. "Do you know it?" "What is it?" She was merely commenting on how engrossed I was in it, so I showed her the cover. She pronounced it The Wholocoarst in near-perfect Queen's English. I mean, what do I say about this book? From the title and description you get the general idea of its contents, so you'll know whether or not it's for you. I'll just give you my thoughts/takeaways. It's absolutely amazing that we can make any jokes at all about such a horrific event. Personally I take that as a lesson that, no matter what happens to you, yes you will get over it and laugh about it later. Because humans are capable of making jokes about events this horrendous. The more important lesson of course is that humans are capable of events this horrendous. I did gasp on several occasions. Interesting that the practicalities of mass murder were presented as a design issue, a problem to be solved, a "final solution" to the "Jewish question." And I understood why, on some occasions, young chemical engineers for example were brought in to solve them. The joy of the problem-solving engineer, it seems can be entirely divorced from the horror of what the problem is. In certain cases. That was just an interesting lesson for me, a young chemical engineer. And maybe that, on a smaller scale, if someone knows you enjoy being good at something, they might offer you that joy as a way of manipulating you into doing something you don't want to. Appearing weak is an obvious one, because people love to help and often do so at the expense of themselves... The Jewish race, by the way, was defined as being held by those whose grandparents practiced the Jewish religion—which means no definition could be created that pinned "Jewishness" to an actual race. And the definition slipped and evolved, too. It seems that Nazis so enjoyed genocide that they would've kept making new definitions just to keep it going—while anything was tolerated amongst the Nazi's own ranks, such as homosexuality. Similarly, anti-Semitic Germans who met Jews they didn't know were Jews were certain that these Jews were not in fact Jews—or rather, not the Jews they directed their hatred towards. Ie, only by completely dehumanising the other could they condone the mass murders—if they knew about them at all. The SS communicated with each other in code, and vehemently denied that they were suggesting murder, since they knew it would "look bad." Hitler himself gave woolly instructions, goals without methods, because he didn't care what they were. And one of the problems of the murders was the traumatising effect it had on the people carrying it out. I had to skim towards the end, which is offensive in itself, I guess—but it just became swathes of numbers, locations. Seems so unreal. Something about 6 million Jews seems possible and yet if you break it down in to 45,000 in this location, 17,000 in this location you think... Hang on: in how many places was this happening, over how long, involving how many compliant people? Astoundingly disgusting. But anti-Semitism was already widespread, it seems. There was no way Hitler could've forced people to do something they had no inkling for at all–he had to gradually push their thoughts to the extreme (the principle of the Overton window, of which contemporary white supremacists are well aware.) Made for an interesting two days reading for sure.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tariq Mahmood

    The Nazis actually blamed Western democracies of not doing enough to tackle their Jewish problem. How could they accept the western high moral stance when they were equally responsible for racial segregation in their own countries and colonies? They also used the Jewish issue as a common denominator to forge common ties with any country wanting to deal with their own Jewish menace. The west was blackmailed on their moral higher stance, if Germany went to war than the Jews would pay a high price, The Nazis actually blamed Western democracies of not doing enough to tackle their Jewish problem. How could they accept the western high moral stance when they were equally responsible for racial segregation in their own countries and colonies? They also used the Jewish issue as a common denominator to forge common ties with any country wanting to deal with their own Jewish menace. The west was blackmailed on their moral higher stance, if Germany went to war than the Jews would pay a high price, and it would be all your fault, as all they were doing was mere speeches! Anti Semitic policy of Nazis created a world in which any idea, no matter how radicle or eccentric could be floated and discussed. No ethical restrictions held them back apart from practical considerations. The political reference has also become clear for me, the far Right ideologies rely on pure practicality as guide to implement their policies while the far Left ideologies use humanity. Lastly, I could not read this book without making parallels with the current wave of Islamophobia afflicting the Western world. Although I cannot believe that any sane government can go ahead and apply anti-Muslim policies like the Nazis, but then most the the people during WW2 also could not believe the Jewish atrocities as well......

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    Engaging narrative history of the Holocaust from historian and filmmaker Rees (The Nazis: A Warning from History). Where most writers on the Holocaust, understandably daunted by the subject, often resort to simply compiling its atrocities at encyclopedic length, Rees tries to make his work both comprehensive and accessible. Thus his narrative covers the expected ground (from the antisemitism and political chaos of Weimar Germany to the uncertain role of Jews, whether integrated or outcast, acros Engaging narrative history of the Holocaust from historian and filmmaker Rees (The Nazis: A Warning from History). Where most writers on the Holocaust, understandably daunted by the subject, often resort to simply compiling its atrocities at encyclopedic length, Rees tries to make his work both comprehensive and accessible. Thus his narrative covers the expected ground (from the antisemitism and political chaos of Weimar Germany to the uncertain role of Jews, whether integrated or outcast, across Europe) while maintaining a documentarian’s perspective, zooming in for telling, human details within the broader chaos and carnage. His trump card’s a wealth of firsthand interviews: Rees surveys survivors of pogroms, death camps and mass shootings, Jewish rebels and partisans who resisted, German and other Axis perpetrators and Gentile witnesses (whether bystanders, friends or partisans), all of whom allow Rees to present key events in the Holocaust vividly, without dwelling on excessive, pedantic detail. And despite its relatively concise length (509 pages in hardcover), it leaves very few key events or personages out. Perhaps there’s too much time spent on some events, like Hitler’s rise to power (which, while necessary to understand antisemitism’s centrality to National Socialism, feels disproportionately represented), and not enough on others; there could, for instance, be more attention to the Nazi persecution of non-Jews who died in roughly equivalent numbers. Yet it’s hard to criticize Rees for synthesizing such a ghastly, overwhelming topic into a volume that’s as moving as it is readable.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bon Tom

    Once a year I go on my Holocaust spree... wait, that didn't sound good. I meant to say that over a few weeks, I binge on Holocaust literature, both fiction and documentary. During that period, I also watch related movies. You know, the usual suspects. Schindler's List, The Pianist... There may be some deep, personal reasons. Or maybe it's much more simple than that. And universal. I watch myself doing it, and it's perfectly clear what I try to accomplish: to really get to the bottom of it, go to the Once a year I go on my Holocaust spree... wait, that didn't sound good. I meant to say that over a few weeks, I binge on Holocaust literature, both fiction and documentary. During that period, I also watch related movies. You know, the usual suspects. Schindler's List, The Pianist... There may be some deep, personal reasons. Or maybe it's much more simple than that. And universal. I watch myself doing it, and it's perfectly clear what I try to accomplish: to really get to the bottom of it, go to the frontiers of my limited capacities for understanding these ultimate questions of humanity and get something close to an answer: why? And the answer seems to be always the same. Paradoxically, it's the same reason I'm always, intellectually and emotionally, being pulled back into the abyss of Holocaust. Because we're human. As such, we're capable of both endless good and evil. Something in me needs to live, vicariously, of course, through these scenes of unimaginable horror, utter, despicable evil one human being is capable of doing to another. I believe that trying to wrap my mind around worst, systematic, engineered evil in history does something to me that puts me in my place. So I bitch less about "white people problems" of today like planned obsolescence of consumer electronics and cars. Because, only a few decades ago, handful of so called intellectuals, some of them with no less than doctorate degrees, were plotting planned obsolescence of living human beings. That handful of perfect representatives of human dreck just orchestrated the music, but they struck a chord in millions of Germans who kept playing the soundtrack of horror that would put Psycho to shame, as conductor kept wiggling his pathetic little stick. And that's the worst, most concerning thing. Holocaust didn't happen at once. It didn't just explode. It's series of escalating moments that led to it. Nazis were slow brewing their own people in the hatred against Jews. And every time, those who should have protested, didn't. For great evil to emerge, it just takes a good man to do nothing. Be careful not to do nothing when you should be doing something. Especially when doing something means saying NO.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cj Dufficy

    The greatest lesson we have learned, that should have been self-evident from the start, we are in this together, whatever this is. I would call this a brilliantly crafted narrative that really does everything Lawrence Rees wanted it to do. How a premise such as the Nazi's provided for their desired actions got a foothold in society can only really be explained by the incremental steps posited in Holocaust. If someone were to propose the extinction of a subset of Europe because the Ukrainian peas The greatest lesson we have learned, that should have been self-evident from the start, we are in this together, whatever this is. I would call this a brilliantly crafted narrative that really does everything Lawrence Rees wanted it to do. How a premise such as the Nazi's provided for their desired actions got a foothold in society can only really be explained by the incremental steps posited in Holocaust. If someone were to propose the extinction of a subset of Europe because the Ukrainian peasants, Polish coal miners, Dutch teachers and French dentists were in cahoots to install an international theocratic Jewish superstate could it have gained traction? Or in fact does that sound like the plan of the National Socialist trying to install a German superstate from Belgium to the Asian steppe? I have never read anything written about the Holocaust until now that got the fine balance this book achieves. Mr Rees knows the facts speak for themselves and he tries to allow them and the reader work it out. I am one of those who believe everyone should know this story, and this is the way to do that. Hitlers attitude and actions are the largest amplification yet of the fear, ignorance and opportunism that generates racism but we are all susceptible to it and need to recognise and have it pointed out so that our own ill-gotten prejudices do not inform our actions. Hopefully we'll spot it on time next time. I just watched a movie about Heydrich's assassination (Anthropoid) that fails to mention his crimes before his job in Prague and gives the impression that non-Jews were being deported to Poland. And so it goes.....

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie.dorny

    This was the clearest narrative about the Holocaust I’ve ever read and Rees makes a point of making the book readable for all. Combining factual statistics with first hand narrative from survivors of the Holocaust, Rees horrifyingly depicts the end of World War One and Germany’s socio-economic standing your explain how World War Two started and the eventual establishing of the Holocaust. This book contained so much detail that is left out of popular history and really blew me away. This was also This was the clearest narrative about the Holocaust I’ve ever read and Rees makes a point of making the book readable for all. Combining factual statistics with first hand narrative from survivors of the Holocaust, Rees horrifyingly depicts the end of World War One and Germany’s socio-economic standing your explain how World War Two started and the eventual establishing of the Holocaust. This book contained so much detail that is left out of popular history and really blew me away. This was also one of the heaviest books I’ve ever read as Rees spares no detail in explaining the reality for millions of Jews, Gypsies and prisoners of war.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sandis

    It was in a second-hand store in Denmark where I came across this brilliant, but at the same time solemn book. I bought it without a doubt, being confident that I will read it. So, the same day I started to read it. From the beginning, I found the book captivating. I thought, who is this man Laurence Rees that writes about such a complex issue in an understanding way?! He revealed the whole Holocaust in a real way. Drawing not only from speeches, diaries, and documents of that time, Rees made th It was in a second-hand store in Denmark where I came across this brilliant, but at the same time solemn book. I bought it without a doubt, being confident that I will read it. So, the same day I started to read it. From the beginning, I found the book captivating. I thought, who is this man Laurence Rees that writes about such a complex issue in an understanding way?! He revealed the whole Holocaust in a real way. Drawing not only from speeches, diaries, and documents of that time, Rees made the pages palpable of fear, suffering, and death from the testimonies of eyewitness I have never read a better book than this. (So I also bought his newest book - "Hitler and Stalin"). Because of this masterpiece, I was stirred to watch the two Oscar-winning movies on this subject - Schindler`s List and The Pianist. The words in Rees`s book became even more tragic. The first chapters of the book introduced WW2. It was the calm before the storm. And the reading seemed to go smoothly. However, after the description of Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, it was not easy to keep on reading, even though this book was a "page-turner." I can explain it with an example of how I watched the HBO TV series Chernobyl. Even though it was only 5 episodes, and it could been finished in one day, it was not possible because of the gruesome scenes. Well, the same was with several chapters in the Holocaust book, sometimes even paragraphs, when a crime took place against humanity. Some of the crimes Rees displayed should not ever happen against any human being. The last sentence of the book is this: "...Seventy years, I cannot get over it. I cannot get over the evil." These words are from a survivor, who at the timr was age 18 years old, could not comprehend what a human being is actually capable of doing. What strikes me the most about the Holocaust, is that most of the Nazis who committed this outrageous evil were intelligent men and women. Humans with education. Another unjustifiable fact was regarding some of the Christian acts during this period. It is well known that Pope at the time refused to condemn publicly the deportation and extermination of the Jews. Not only that, the President of Slovakia - Jozef Tiso - who was actually a Roman Catholic priest, was involved in deporting Jews from Slovakia. These two examples serve me as an example that only because one calls himself Christian, does not imply, that he is an actual follower of Christ. Damn it. How many wolves are out there in the world dressed in sheep clothing? Alright, enough with venting. In conclusion, I must say that I appreciated the process of reading this book, even though my heart became sad at times, Rees did his work to present, as he calls it, "the Nazi persecution of the Jews" exceptionally well.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ram

    An excellent history of the Holocaust. Clearly written, with many examples, witness testimonies and analysis. At the center stands the question of how the Holocaust happened. For Rees, there was nothing inevitable about it. While Hitler was an exceptionally vicious anti-Semite from the start of his political career – calling for the “uncompromising removal” of Jews as early as 1919 – he had no master plan for murder. Nazi policy followed a twisted road, with plenty of stops, starts and turns, be An excellent history of the Holocaust. Clearly written, with many examples, witness testimonies and analysis. At the center stands the question of how the Holocaust happened. For Rees, there was nothing inevitable about it. While Hitler was an exceptionally vicious anti-Semite from the start of his political career – calling for the “uncompromising removal” of Jews as early as 1919 – he had no master plan for murder. Nazi policy followed a twisted road, with plenty of stops, starts and turns, before heading towards mass extermination. And even then, there was no single order from the top. Hitler set the direction, to be sure, but he left his underlings to devise ever more extreme measures to realize his vision. There were great variations across Europe, depending on local circumstances, leading the Nazis to implement the Holocaust “ in radically different ways in different countries.”. The book's title claims it is a new history, and I expected to find new insights and points of view that I have not seen before. This I did not find. While I am no expert on the subject, I have read a few books about the subject, and while this is an excellent book, I did not find anything revolutionary about it. Bottom line… If you have not read any book about the subject , this is an excellent book. If you have read allot and are looking for a new point of view, this book, in my opinion, will probably not change your understanding of the Holocaust.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Steve Roberts

    I thought I knew something about The Holocaust but having just finished this new history I now realise I was only partly aware of the full, horrific story. The way the Western powers (including Britain) tried to avoid taking Jewish refugees in the late 30's with the argument that this would open the flood gates has some alarming parallels with today's news about Syrian refugee children. This book should be compulsory reading for everyone. I thought I knew something about The Holocaust but having just finished this new history I now realise I was only partly aware of the full, horrific story. The way the Western powers (including Britain) tried to avoid taking Jewish refugees in the late 30's with the argument that this would open the flood gates has some alarming parallels with today's news about Syrian refugee children. This book should be compulsory reading for everyone.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    ‘Holocaust’–a word which originally meant ‘burnt offering’ or ‘sacrifice’ and only came to be associated in the popular consciousness with the extermination of the Jews relatively recently. Concentration/ Extermination Camps : 23 Main Camps Satellite Camps : 1,000+ Ghettos : 270 Arbeitsdorf Commanders : Martin Weiss & Wilhelm Schitli Inmates : 800 Deaths : 6 ( listed as suicide, heart attack or accident) Notes of Interest : ( Ferdinand Porsche & Albert Speer ) - Volkswagen - Auschwitz (Birkenau)- ‘Holocaust’–a word which originally meant ‘burnt offering’ or ‘sacrifice’ and only came to be associated in the popular consciousness with the extermination of the Jews relatively recently. Concentration/ Extermination Camps : 23 Main Camps Satellite Camps : 1,000+ Ghettos : 270 Arbeitsdorf Commanders : Martin Weiss & Wilhelm Schitli Inmates : 800 Deaths : 6 ( listed as suicide, heart attack or accident) Notes of Interest : ( Ferdinand Porsche & Albert Speer ) - Volkswagen - Auschwitz (Birkenau)- Death Camp Founding Commander : Rudolf Höss Inmates : 1.3 million Deaths : 1.1 million Around one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died in Auschwitz. By nation, the greatest number of Auschwitz's Jewish victims originated from Hungary, accounting for 430,000 deaths, followed by Poland (300,000), France (69,000), Netherlands (60,000), Greece (55,000), Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (46,000), Slovakia (27,000), Belgium (25,000), Germany and Austria (23,000), Yugoslavia (10,000), Italy (7,500), Norway (690), and others (34,000). Notes of Interest : Adolf Burger, Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, Viktor Frankl, Imre Kertesz; Maximillian Kolbe, Primo Levy, Fritz Lohner-Beda; Irene Nemirovsky, Witold Pilecki, Edith Stein, Simone Veil, Rudolf Vrba, Alfred Wetzler, Else Ur Belzec - Death Camp Commanders : Christian Wirth & Gottlieb Hering Deaths : 434,508 - 600,000 Notes of Interest : Rudolf Reder Bergen-Belsen Commander : Adolf Haas & Josef Kramer Inmates : 120,000 Deaths : 50,000+ Notes of Interest : Anne & Margot Frank Brandenburg - Euthanasia Centre Commander : Karl Brandt & Philipp Bouhler, Irmfried Eberl, Franz Stangl Deaths : 9,972 Notes of Interest : Nazis killed people with mental problems, including children. They called this operation "Action T4" because of the Berlin address, Tiergartenstraße 4, the headquarters of this planned and well-organized killing "euthanasia" organisation. Buchenwald Commander : Karl Otto Koch & Hermann Pister Inmates : 280,000 Deaths : 56,545 Notes of Interest : Prisoners came from all over Europe and the Soviet Union—Jews, Poles and other Slavs, the mentally ill and physically disabled, political prisoners, Romani people, Freemasons, and prisoners of war. There were also ordinary criminals and sexual "deviants". Chelmno - Death Camp Commanders : Herbert Lange & Christian Wirth Killed : 152,000 - 200,000 Notes of Interest : Mordechaï Podchlebnik, Szymon Srebrnik, Szlama Ber Winer Dachau Commanders : Large list of SS Commandants, Staff, Doctors Inmates : 188,000+ Deaths : 41,500 Notes of Interest : The camp's layout was developed by Commandant Theodor Eicke and were applied to all later camps. He had a separate, secure camp near the command center, which consisted of living quarters, administration and army camps. Eicke became the chief inspector for all concentration camps, responsible for organizing others according to his model. Flossenbür Founders : Theodor Eicke & Oswald Pohl Commanders : Jakob Weiseborn, Karl Künstler, Max Koegel Inmates : 89,974 Deaths : 30,000 Notes of Interest : German Earth and Stone Works Gross-Rosen Commanders : Arthur Rödl, Wilhelm Gideon, Johannes Hassebroek Inmates : 125,000 Deaths : 40,000 Notes of Interest : Boris Braun, Adam Dulęba, Franciszek Duszeńko, Heda Margolius Kovály, Władysław Ślebodziński, Simon Wiesenthal, Rabbi Solomon Zev Zweigenhaf Herzogenbusch Commanders : Karl Chmielewski, Adam Grünewald, Hans Hüttig Inmates : 31,000 Deaths : 749 Notes of Interest : Helga Deen, David Kroker, Anton constandse Hinzert Inmates : 13, 600 Deaths : 1,000+ Kaiserwald Inmates : 11,878 Deaths : ? Kauen - Kovno Ghetto commandant : Kaunas Jurgis Bobelis Victims : 29,000 Survivors : 3,000 Notes of Interest : Aharon Barak, Aharon Barak, Zev Birger, Leyb Gorfinkel, Kama Ginkas, George Kadish, Joseph Kagan, Baron Kaga, Judith Meise, Harry Gordo, Avraham Duber Kahana Shapiro, Ephraim Oshry, Abe Rich, Sidney Shachnow, Aleksandras Štromas, Sara Ginaite, Elchonon Wasserman Kraków-Płaszów - Ghetto Commanders : Amon Göth, Arnold Büscher Estimated Inmates : 150,000 Deaths : 8,000 Notes of Interest : Oskar Schindler - Schindler's List The Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp was divided into multiple sections. separate areas for camp personnel, work facilities, male prisoners, female prisoners, and a further subdivision between Jews and non-Jews. While the primary function of the camp was forced labor, the camp was also the site of mass murder of inmates as well as prisoners brought in from the outside. The main targets were the elderly and the sick. Mass murder was carried out by shootings. Killing Fields (42,5000+ sites discovered) Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945 (to be published 2025)contains more than 42,500 sites that the Nazis used to persecute, exploit, and murder their victims. Much of these findings came to light starting in 2001, doubling estimates previously known. The number of sites discovered continue to rise and could be much higher. Łódź Ghetto Commander : Chaim Rumkowski (1877 – 1944) Victims : 210,000 Notes of Interest : Chaim Mordechaj Rumkowski was the head of the Jewish Council of Elders in the Łódź Ghetto appointed by the Nazis. (industrial based manufacturing - liquidated in 1944). All remaining prisoners were sent to death camps in the wake of military defeats on the Eastern Front. As the head of the Judenrat, Rumkowski is remembered for his speech Give Me Your Children, delivered at a time when the Germans demanded his compliance with the deportation of 20,000 children to Chełmno extermination camp. Majdanek - Death Camp Commanders : Karl-Otto Koch, Max Koegel, Hermann Florstedt, Martin Gottfried Weiss , Arthur Liebehenschel Inmates : 150,000 Deaths : 78,000 Mauthausen Commanders : Albert Sauer & Franz Ziereis Inmates : 85,000 in 1945 Deaths : between 122,766 and 320,000 Mittelbau-Dora Commanders : Otto Förschner & Richard Baer Inmates : 60,000 Deaths : 20,000 Notes of Interest : Jean Amery, Heinz Galinski Natzweiler-Struthof Commanders : Hans Hüttig, Egon Zill, Josef Kramer, Fritz Hartjenstein, Heinrich Schwarz Inmates : 52,000 Deaths : 22,000 Neuengamme Inmates : 106,000 Deaths : 42,900 Niederhagen Commanders : Himmler Inmates : 3,900 Deaths : 1,285 Notes of Interest : inmates were slave laborers for the development of Wewelsburg Castle, which - according to Himmler's plans - was to be the "center of the world" after the "Final Victory" Ravensbrück Commanders : Günther Tamaschke, Max Koegel, Fritz Suhren Inmates : 132,000 Deaths : 30,000 - 90,000 Notes of Interest : imprisonment exclusively for Woman Sachsenhausen Inmates : 200,000 Deaths : 100,000 Notes of Interest : 295 women guards worked as staff in the Stutthof complex. Notable female guard personnel: Elisabeth Becker, Erna Beilhardt, Ella Bergmann, Ella Blank, Gerda Bork, Herta Bothe, Erna Boettcher, Hermine Boettcher-Brueckner, Steffi Brillowski, Charlotte Graf, Charlotte Gregor, Charlotte Klein, Gerda Steinhoff, Ewa Paradies, and Jenny-Wanda Barkmann. Becker, Bothe, Steinhoff, Paradies, and Barkmann were identified later as having committed crimes against humanity. Sobibor - Death camp Commanders : Franz Stangl, Franz Reichleitner Deaths : 170,000 - 250,000 Stutthof Commanders : Max Pauly, Paul Werner Hoppe Inmates : 110,000 Deaths : 65,000 Notes of Interest : Alleged human soap production controversy regarding whether corpses from Stutthof were used in the production of soap made from human corpses at the lab of Professor Rudolf Spanner. Joachim Neander argued that the production was experimental, contrary to some claims made in the previous years, and that the majority of Spanner's subjects came from other places. An investigation by Polish IPN carried out between 2002 and 2006 published among its findings that Spanner did indeed produce soap from human corpses. Treblinka - Death Camp Commanders : Irmfried Eberl, Franz Stangl, Kurt Franz Deaths : 700,000 - 900,000 Notes of Interest : Richard Glazar, Artur Gold, Janusz Korczak, Chil Rajchman, Jankiel Wiernik, Samuel Willenberg, Oskar Berger Vaivara Commanders : Hans Ammeter, Helmut Schnabel Inmates : 20,000 Deaths : 1,000+ Warsaw (Ghetto) Commanders : Wilhelm Göcke, Nikolaus Herbet, Wilhelm Ruppert Inmates : 8,000-9,000 Deaths : 4,000-5,000 (death march out of the camp) Notes of Interest : The camp, which seldom appears in mainstream historiography, has been at the center of a conspiracy theory that asserts that a giant gas chamber was built inside a tunnel near the Warszawa Zachodnia railroad station and that 200,000 mainly non-Jewish Poles were exterminated there.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Although the general outlines of this book are familiar, the inclusion of the latest research and Mr Rees' exhaustive interviews over the last quarter century makes this a very readable history of the Holocaust. Although the general outlines of this book are familiar, the inclusion of the latest research and Mr Rees' exhaustive interviews over the last quarter century makes this a very readable history of the Holocaust.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Zan

    Really gives great insight and in-depth knowledge of why, how and who was involved in the holocaust as a whole. Shocking to read how many countries played a role, even indirectly in the atrocities that befell innocent people. Also insightful to learn how many countries were actually anti-Semitic during the time from the first world war. I applaud Laurence Rees for this book, and how much time went into the research to write this book

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aneta

    This story is beyond belief and yet it happened. It is a very sobering reminder that the most bloodthirsty beast in nature is actually a human and there’s no end to his imagination and creativity when it comes to killing people. The book is very comprehensive and easy to follow which is priceless when it comes to documentaries. It is a gripping read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Corban Ford

    A detailed account into one of the great horrors in our history. I've always enjoyed reading Laurence Rees' work, and even though the content is graphic and heartbreaking, it's also informative and frankly important to read. A detailed account into one of the great horrors in our history. I've always enjoyed reading Laurence Rees' work, and even though the content is graphic and heartbreaking, it's also informative and frankly important to read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pietro Condello

    There have been so many books written on this subject, it just seemed redundant to have yet another contemporary account of this aspect of the Third Reich. Turns out, Laurence Rees, an authority on WWII history, provides a fresh look at a subject that has been discussed ad fin over the decades following end of Nazi Germany. Rees walks the reader methodically up to and right through the long-winding road, that collectively came to be known as the Holocaust. He further and in my opinion, in greate There have been so many books written on this subject, it just seemed redundant to have yet another contemporary account of this aspect of the Third Reich. Turns out, Laurence Rees, an authority on WWII history, provides a fresh look at a subject that has been discussed ad fin over the decades following end of Nazi Germany. Rees walks the reader methodically up to and right through the long-winding road, that collectively came to be known as the Holocaust. He further and in my opinion, in greater detail than other writers, describes how the Holocaust was not an "event", but a series of small, cumulative escalations in government policy on dealing with political opponents, communists, homosexuals, the mentally & physically handicapped, Roma and Sinti, Slavs, and of course by large majority, Jews in a multi-faceted approach that included among many other "solutions", the final: extermination in gas chambers in the network of concentration camps, most famously at Auschwitz Birkenau. The straight line is drawn from the Treaty of Versailles, through the Weimar Republic, to the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch that landed Hitler in Landsberg Prison where he wrote Mein Kampf, to Hitler's rebuild of the Nazi party, to his appointment as chancellor, to the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, resulting in segregation, concentration and deportation of Jews, to the Wannsee Conference that "formalized" the Holocaust, to the 1943 Bermuda Conference, where Britain and America turned down a plan to approach Nazi Germany with an offer to accept Jewish refugees. Rees adds to the excruciating story leading all the way to the Allied liberation with first-hand accounts of survivors, some of which are told for the first time. Also highly recommend: "KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps" by Nikolaus Wachsmann, for an account from the perspective of the concentration camp system as an institution.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    It's profoundly necessary to read books about the Holocaust from time to time to keep the history alive and remind ourselves of how bad things can get if you let them. This is an especially good example because the author has brought together some thoroughly fact-checked interviews with camp guards as well as survivors. He goes into detail, not only of the horror of the camps themselves but of the way in which the national mood grew that led to the crime, and the way in which the Nazis corrupted It's profoundly necessary to read books about the Holocaust from time to time to keep the history alive and remind ourselves of how bad things can get if you let them. This is an especially good example because the author has brought together some thoroughly fact-checked interviews with camp guards as well as survivors. He goes into detail, not only of the horror of the camps themselves but of the way in which the national mood grew that led to the crime, and the way in which the Nazis corrupted those around them, drew other people in as accomplices and bound them into loyalty. This is a very valuable fresh take on the story. I've read a few first person narratives this year and of course those are good too, but this has a measure of objectivity, which felt useful, especially as the times we live in now can feel pretty bleak too, at times, and it's useful to have a map of the road into darkness.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Simone

    This book is required reading for every human being. Laurence Rees writes beautifully about the most horrible history. It becomes more clear how and why something this terrible could have happened. How can Hitler inspire many SSers to become killing machines? Why did no one stop them?.. well there are hundred of questions...but in short; how on Earth was it possible for the Holocaust to happen?! I never understood this, I still don’t completely but the picture is more clear due to this book. This This book is required reading for every human being. Laurence Rees writes beautifully about the most horrible history. It becomes more clear how and why something this terrible could have happened. How can Hitler inspire many SSers to become killing machines? Why did no one stop them?.. well there are hundred of questions...but in short; how on Earth was it possible for the Holocaust to happen?! I never understood this, I still don’t completely but the picture is more clear due to this book. This book shows us what we, humans, are capable of doing. Therefore, it is important history.. In a way it tells us something about our kind, something we rather not face.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    It's always so difficult to review these type of books. This was very well written and did feel like a new history of the holocaust, as there was lots I didn't know before despite reading lots round this topic. It is vital these events are never forgotten. It's always so difficult to review these type of books. This was very well written and did feel like a new history of the holocaust, as there was lots I didn't know before despite reading lots round this topic. It is vital these events are never forgotten.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Niyati Bhanja

    Take a plunge into this masterpiece of Laurence Rees to understand ‘What-Why-Hows’ aspects around the Holocaust. It demands thorough intense reading; runs over 500 pages with chronological nitty gritty detailing. A must read for any WW-II history enthusiast, in particular.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rosie Pendrey

    An excellent history of the Holocaust from start to end, dealt with in a sensitive and considerate way. Very readable style of writing which provokes thought even where you may have read a hundred books on the subject. A must read for anyone.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Ellis

    Absolutely brilliant! A well researched, easily accessible book. Laurence Rees is an excellent historian and writer. I look forward to his next book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    David

    Fascinating and heart-rending.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dileep RK

    A well documented book with all the events that triggered the holocaust and leading to WWII.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paula Monica

    How can I say I liked the book without sounding creepy? It is an ugly story that we ll should know about.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Carter

    A wonderful, powerful history of the Holocaust, and the audiobook performance is awesome as well. A good listen for those interested in The Holocaust itself or WWII in general.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Seylene sl

    He tells the stories in periodical order and by locations which facilitate the reading. Hatred, fear, and racial discrimination bring about disasters. But I so wonder why sense of guilts didn't prevail? He tells the stories in periodical order and by locations which facilitate the reading. Hatred, fear, and racial discrimination bring about disasters. But I so wonder why sense of guilts didn't prevail?

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