The Holocaust: A German Historian Examines the Genocide deals with one of the most debatable issues of the history of the twentieth century, i.e. Holocaust. In this book Benz depicts facts telling the “story with exactness and absolute candor” (ix). The uniqueness of the book is that it is one of the first books on “Jewish issue” written by a German scholar.
Thus, there is no biased perception of the historical facts, since “Benz seeks only to provide the basic and incontrovertible facts” (ix). Of course, Benz pertains to the nation which was involved in this conflict of humaneness and common sense.
Nevertheless, being German Benz has an opportunity to make a deeper analysis of those distant events. He does not try to acquit Nazis or hush up some of their horrors. The book provides many facts which took place and had an impact on the history of two nations (Germans and Jewish people) and the whole world.
Benz wrote his book more than 50 years after the events took place. This can be good evidence that the book uses only reliable and unbiased data. The book concisely reveals all the events which led to the “unique crime in the history of mankind” (p.152). For instance, Benz starts with depicting Wannsee Conference when Nazis revealed the first plans and inclinations concerning the “Jewish problem”. After this Benz considers the beginning of discrimination of the Jews which grew into anti-Semitism, massacre and genocide.
Interestingly, the book tackles various issues which others did not highlight. For instance, Benz dwells upon emigration of Jews. Admittedly, many people think that the most appropriate solution for Jews living in Germany in 1930-40s was to leave the country.
Moreover, many people (especially youth) suppose that there could be no genocide if the Jews simply abandoned their homeland. Nevertheless, Benz gives quite substantial explanation why Jewish people had to stay in Germany and other countries in constant danger and fear. Benz mentions major factors which prevented Jews from emigration, one of which is as follows: “the confiscation of assets and the crippling fees limited the possibilities for emigration” since no “country accepting immigrants is interested in impoverished newcomers” (p. 34).
Apart from highlighting difficult and controversial issues the book reveals many details which make the picture complete. Thus, Benz points out some facts which are known to Germans and those who live in Germany (or lived there in 1930-40s). Creating such atmosphere Benz manages to make his narrative more illustrative and more persuasive. The reader can not only find out some facts but can understand how this or that could happen.
The book in question is great historical narrative which can be a valuable source of knowledge on the issue. Nevertheless, I would like to point out that although the book contains bibliography where many reliable sources are mentioned, there are not footnotes in the text.
Although there are many citations the reader cannot know the source of those quotations. This peculiarity makes the book quite inappropriate for using as a source for some substantial academic writing. However, the book can be used in schools sine it is very informative and illustrative. The book can be a really good source for young people since there are many precise facts and explanations of the most difficult issues. Moreover, the language of the book is not too sophisticated and will be understandable for many students.
Of course, there are many different books about Holocaust. However, the exclusive significance of the book in question is that it does not reconsider the issue, but it simply provides comprehensive information about the events of that period. According to Hertzberg (1999) there are many “revisionist historians” who try to prove that there was no Holocaust and that “the gas ovens in Auschwitz were disposal units for the bodies of those who died in the cam from disease” (vii-viii).
So, books like The Holocaust: A German Historian Examines the Genocide are very important since they reveal the real history without any “amendments”. The book makes the reader know the past of humanity which an enable people to build up their future without making the same mistakes. Apart from this, the book makes people think of many important or even essential issues. Many people can learn not only some historic facts but the basic values of humaneness.
Thus, the reader can learn many details which became a basis for the obscure page of the human history. The reader will understand why many solutions which seem obvious now were inappropriate for people living in that period. What is more important, the reader will remember about the horrors which took place some decades ago.
They will see that those massacres grew from quite abstract ideas. Initially, those abstract ideas could seem quite positive and patriotic but in some time they transformed into a plan of genocide. After reading the book, people will be able to feel the danger of some “positive ideas” emerging nowadays. Apart from this the reader will be able to learn that all people are equal and no nation or individual should decide who deserves to live and who does not.
Finally, the reader can learn that Germans accept their past with its mistakes but they are ready to move on. They do not want to covert the deeds of their predecessors, but on the contrary, they want to reveal real historic facts which enable all people of the world know exactly what was happening in that difficult period.
I would like to recommend the book to teachers and students. In the first place, teachers should know that there is such a book concerning Holocaust written by a German scholar. They should know that there is that particular viewpoint on the events of 1930-40s. This will definitely enlarge teachers’ horizons and enable them to provide their students with more comprehensive and at the same time more precise information.
On the other hand, students should read the book since they need to know this part of the world history. They should be aware of those terrible things which took place in the world in the twentieth century so that they could never repeat those mistakes. Young people should read the book which will make them remember what can happen to the world if certain ideas win.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that unbiased and comprehensive data provided in the book makes it one of the most valuable sources for students to learn about the Holocaust which took place in the twentieth century.
Benz, W. The Holocaust: A German Historian Examines the Genocide. (Sydenham-Kwiet, J., Trans.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1999.