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To take advantage of all LARB has to offer, please create an account or log in before joining The Los Angeles Review of Books is a c 3 nonprofit. Donate to support new essays, interviews, reviews, literary curation, our groundbreaking publishing workshop, free events series, newly anointed publishing wing, and the dedicated team that makes it possible. And yet we can never stop asking why. Rosenbaum found a morally pitch-perfect way to address our craving for answers without pretending to have an answer.
But Evans sharpens the point and reminds us of what I think some historians and intellectuals have lost sight of. Again, that played a part, Evans believes, but code-breaking has been given a glamorous triumphalist history which, he points out, ignores Allied intelligence failures and German intelligence successes.
Then what was it? An affirmation of the remarkably prescient insight of the late historian Raul Hilberg: that so much of the truth of what went on in those years can be found in the railway schedules.
For Hitler, it was not a matter of making the trains run on time so much as making the trains never stop running to Auschwitz and Treblinka. One relatively new aspect of Holocaust study is a focus on what happened when the trains finally did stop running, because the Russians were about to overrun the mainly Polish-based camps.
When the camps were disbanded, the large SS and native Polish and Ukrainian guard troops feeding the gas chambers were not redeployed to stave off the Russians. Instead they were ordered to take all the living and half-dead captives on the road in what became the final phase of the Final Solution: the Death Marches. There was no sanctuary left safe for killing, but the killing had to continue at all costs, a horror at least as unfathomable as the camps themselves. As Evans argues, killing Jews was more important than military objectives.
These commanders risked their own lives to continue the murder. It is a testament to how deeply dyed the souls of the killers were. Hitler was possessed, some might say, but he was also the cause of possession in others. A position at first countered by Alan Bullock and others such as A. He fell under his own spell. Not the war Evans argues was most important to him: the racial war. Hitler won that war.
Six million to one. Yes, he committed suicide at the end. And yes, 50 million others lost their lives so he could win the part of the war he cared about most. Collateral damage. He blew up Europe to kill the Jews in it, even if it meant killing himself and tens of millions of others in the end. In the process of interviewing the survivors scouring the bunker and Berlin in the immediate aftermath of the defeat , Trevor-Roper conjured up a vision of a strange mesmeric talent and a single unshakable mission.
In any case, I decided to ask Trevor-Roper what I feared might seem a simplistic question but turned out to be a gateway to the entire realm of the philosophy of evil and the subdiscipline of theology known as theodicy. Many of my encounters in the book are taken up with the ramifications of this question. The real question is, what heightens susceptibility to evil ideas?
More on this, but first:. How has the image of Hitler and our perception of the reality evolved? Forgive me, but I must begin with what can only be called a meme. For the past five years, for better or worse, it has been the most frequent way that Adolf Hitler has been brought back to life in the new century: as a YouTube parody meme, the one based on a four-minute clip from the German film Downfall, featuring Bruno Ganz as Hitler delivering a raving, demented, and deluded rant to subordinates in the Berlin bunker when he finally realizes all hope for military survival is lost.
The new subtitles have Hitler raging, not about the crumbling of the Russian front, but about, shall we say, lesser things. Things of more contemporary and trivial relevance. The demonic reduced to the trivial. But the genius of the parodies is that they trivialize the trivialization.
That is the question without a satisfying answer. Something we may not fully know but something upon which we project our worst conception of humanity. Even if we know not the explanation, we know there is something there that has to be contended with, incorporated into our view of history and human nature.
But at a perhaps irrecoverable distance from ourselves. Everything we are not. The YouTube parodies have lasted decades in Internet time. Which, in a way, is a good thing. That he has not been successfully subject to reductionism, the real target of my skeptical analysis of Hitler explanations.
The recent non-parodic history of Hitler explanations has been mixed. Add to this one unexpected, almost forgotten work. For Hitler. Shirer had his number in a way Hannah Arendt never would. He found the key damning document — the testimony of a fellow officer who quoted the Chief Operating Officer of the Final Solution toward the end of the war. Although it does deepen the mystery of how someone as brilliant as Arendt undeniably was could have been so willingly misled.
Different, almost incomprehensible, to those of us consigned to a remote viewing. Sifting through the crumbling original issues of the paper I found in the basement of a Munich archive, seeing the rise of Hitler through their eyes, I felt an almost palpable sense of that spell.
I still feel not enough recognition has come to their efforts to investigate and publish the truth about Hitler, particularly from the world of journalism where there are few greater models of heroism. The fact that few of their German readers seemed to realize its full implication does not excuse ignoring their achievement.
Indeed, a former mayor of Munich did his Ph. Moving beyond Hitler, there are concentric circles of controversies about the consequences of Hitlerism and how to put the Holocaust in perspective. Consider for instance two books that deal not with what happened but with how to integrate — or separate — two overlapping mass murders.
Two of the most interesting writers on these questions, Alvin Rosenfeld and Timothy Snyder, have differing, though not necessarily contradictory, ways of talking about the Holocaust, its centrality, and its uniqueness. And then the meshing of two mass-murdering nations in the wake of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of , which led to the almost immediate murder of tens of thousands of Poles and the beginning of the murder of millions of Jews. It raises profound questions about how we establish a hierarchy of evil acts.
Is an order about agricultural administration that seems to deliberately seek starvation the same as rounding up, shooting, and gassing Jews in a hands-on way? Alvin Rosenfeld has some concerns about this. And about the denatured domestication of the Holocaust, in the way its memory is transmitted. There are other dead to be buried, they say. A less taxing version of a tragic history begins to emerge, still full of suffering, to be sure, but a suffering relieved of many of its weightiest moral and intellectual demands and, consequently, easier to be … normalized.
What are those weighty moral and intellectual demands? For one thing, I think the Holocaust demands of us that we not lose sight of the fact that it was not just another tragedy in war-torn Europe amidst clashing nationalisms. And that the Holocaust portended not an end but a beginning.
That is no longer so today. Because Auschwitz in fact occurred, it has now been established in our imaginations as a firm possibility. What we are able to imagine, especially because it once was, can be again. The only thing that has changed is that now we know that it can happen at all. In fact Rosenfeld, a far more learned figure on the subject, devotes the final section of his book to taking up and elaborating upon the necessity of confronting the potential for a second Holocaust.
One recurrent question raised by both the Snyder and Rosenfeld books is the one of comparative evil. Hitler vs. What we talk about when we talk about evil. Do we measure it by body count? Hands-off killing can be just as bad or worse. Indeed I believe that if we err we should err on the side of seeking commonality with victims of other genocidal horrors, mass murders, and the like Rwanda, Native Americans, slavery, etc. He saw himself as a savior of the human race from a plague, a disease.
Someone has to do it. But I do draw the line. One that had been utterly discredited. Perhaps the most poignant consequence of a misreading or myth-reading of an aspect of my book was the case of Norman Mailer and Geli Raubal. But here is where the story gets poignant. Mailer decided on the basis of reading Explaining Hitler that he would focus on the murky Geli Raubal relationship about which, I should reiterate, I concluded there was unlikely to have been a sexual relationship nor did Hitler murder or have her murdered, though he may have driven her to suicide.
Nonetheless, this was going to be the core of a vast three-novel Mailer trilogy, the first of which, The Castle in the Forest, he completed before his death, the second of which he was working on when he died. If most explanation attempts were unsatisfying, incomplete, or reductive, it can be said they were often worth examining for the fears they projected and reflected: what they told us about ourselves and our culture.
Of course, it is true, many explanations become exculpations, but I would suggest that does not deny, prima facie, the validity of the search to know more than we do. It may be because human nature has more profound depths than we imagined. Or it may be that we lack some crucial piece of his personal history. But something or some things made Hitler want to do what he did. It required his impassioned personal desire for extermination, even at the potential cost of defeat for Germany.
It required him to choose evil.
Explicar a Hitler
Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil is a book by historian-journalist Ron Rosenbaum , in which the author discusses his struggles with the "exceptionalist" character of Adolf Hitler 's personality and impact on the world or, worse from his point of view, his struggle with the possibility that Hitler is not an exception at all, but on the natural continuum of human destructive possibility. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. H5 Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil is a book by historian-journalist Ron Rosenbaum , in which the author discusses his struggles with the "exceptionalist" character of Adolf Hitler 's personality and impact on the world or, worse from his point of view, his struggle with the possibility that Hitler is not an exception at all, but on the natural continuum of human destructive possibility. Hidden categories: All stub articles.
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