How the Holocaust was possible
This is a VERY disturbing book. It is well-written, with copious footnotes, and Goldhagen makes a VERY strong case for his belief that anti-Semitism in Germany was "in the air" LONG before Hitler, and that what Hitler did was to give that anti-Semitism a government-backed outlet.
Goldhagen uses documents and quotes from the Germans themselves to make his points. One of the most disturbing forms the title of the book. It is widely believed that Germans assisted in the slaughter of Jews, or at least did nothing to stop it, out of fear of being executed or otherwise punished if they did. Goldhagen cites sources indicating that that was NOT the case, that it occured sometimes that officers would tell their men that they didn't have to join in an ordered mass killing if they didn't want to, and would not get any punishment for refusing to. Even so, hardly anyone DID refuse. And the men and units written about in the book WERE "ordinary Germans", belonging to non-military units of the "order police", who were reservists who were civilians, teachers, doctors, civil servants and the like, when not on duty in their units. Their viciousness in tormenting their victims before their killings began is outlined in chilling detail. The Germans' abrupt and dreadful change of manner when some supposed German citizens are suddenly identified as Jews is sickening. The German men involved wrote orders and journal entries, and sent letters home, including photographs, often of themselves grinning at the mistreatment of their Jewish victims, and some of the photos and writings are included in the book.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wonders about the Holocaust and the German attitudes that made it possible there,but it is NOT a book for the squeamish.