This month, Rutgers University Press released the paperback edition of The Holocaust Averted: An Alternate History of American Jewry, 1938-1967 by Jeffrey S. Gurock (Yeshiva University). The publisher’s description follows:
The increasingly popular genre of “alternative histories” has captivated audiences by asking questions like “what if the South had won the Civil War?” Such speculation can be instructive, heighten our interest in a topic, and shed light on accepted history. In The Holocaust Averted
, Jeffrey Gurock imagines what might have happened to the Jewish community in the United States if the Holocaust had never occurred and forces readers to contemplate how the road to acceptance and empowerment for today’s American Jews could have been harder than it actually was.
Based on reasonable alternatives grounded in what is known of the time, places, and participants, Gurock presents a concise narrative of his imagined war-time saga and the events that followed Hitler’s military failures. While German Jews did suffer under Nazism, the millions of Jews in Eastern Europe survived and were able to maintain their communities. Since few people were concerned with the safety of European Jews, Zionism never became popular in the United States and social antisemitism kept Jews on the margins of society. By the late 1960s, American Jewish communities were far from vibrant.
This alternate history—where, among many scenarios, Hitler is assassinated, Japan does not bomb Pearl Harbor, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt is succeeded after two terms by Robert A. Taft—does cause us to review and better appreciate history. As Gurock tells his tale, he concludes every chapter with a short section that describes what actually happened and, thus, further educates the reader.
In April, Brill Publishers will release The Scientification of the “Jewish Question” in Nazi Germany by Horst Junginger (University of Leipzig). The publisher’s description follows:
The Scientification of the “Jewish Question” in Nazi Germany describes the attempt of a considerable number of German scholars to counter the vanishing influence of religious prejudices against the Jews with a new antisemitic rationale. As anti-Jewish stereotypes of an old-fashioned soteriological kind had become dysfunctional under the pressure of secularization, a new, more objective explanation was needed to justify the age-old danger of Judaism in the present. In the 1930s a new research field called “Judenforschung” (Jew research) emerged. Its leading figures amalgamated racial and religious features to verify the existence of an everlasting “Jewish problem”. Along with that they offered scholarly concepts for its solution.
Last month, Hachette Book Group released My Brother’s Keeper: Christians Who Risked All to Protect Jewish Targets of the Nazi Holocaust by Rod Gragg (Coastal Carolina University). The publisher’s description follows:
Thirty captivating profiles of Christians who risked everything to rescue their Jewish neighbors from Nazi terror during the Holocaust.
MY BROTHER’S KEEPER unfolds powerful stories of Christians from across denominations who gave everything they had to save the Jewish people from the evils of the Holocaust. This unlikely group of believers, later honored by the nation of Israel as “The Righteous Among the Nations,” includes ordinary teenage girls, pastors, priests, a German army officer, a former Italian fascist, an international spy, and even a princess.
In one gripping profile after another, these extraordinary historical accounts offer stories of steadfast believers who together helped thousands of Jewish individuals and families to safety. Many of these everyday heroes perished alongside the very people they were trying to protect. There is no doubt that all of their stories showcase the best of humanity–even in the face of unthinkable evil.
In November, Brill Publishers will release Rosa Manus: The International Life and Legacy of a Jewish Dutch Feminist edited by Myriam Everard and Francisca de Haan (Central European University). The publisher’s description follows:
Rosa Manus (1881–1942) uncovers the life of Dutch feminist and peace activist Rosa Manus, co-founder of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, vice-president of the International Alliance of Women, and founding president of the International Archives for the Women’s Movement (IAV) in Amsterdam, revealing its rootedness in Manus’s radical secular Jewishness. Because the Nazis looted the IAV (1940) including Manus’s large personal archive, and subsequently arrested (1941) and murdered her (1942), Rosa Manus has been almost unknown to later generations. This collective biography offers essays based on new and in-depth research on pictures and documents from her archives, returned to Amsterdam in 2003, as well as other primary sources. It thus restores Manus to the history from which the Nazis attempted to erase her.
Contributors include: Margot Badran, Mineke Bosch, Ellen Carol DuBois, Myriam Everard, Karen Garner, Dagmar Wernitznig, and Annika Wilmers.
This month, Penguin Random House Press releases Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, by Timothy Snyder (Yale). The publisher’s description follows:
In this epic history of extermination and survival, Timothy Snyder presents a new explanation of the great atrocity of the twentieth century, and reveals the risks that we face in the twenty-first. Based on new sources from eastern Europe and forgotten testimonies from Jewish survivors, Black Earth recounts the mass murder of the Jews as an event that is still close to us, more comprehensible than we would like to think, and thus all the more terrifying.
The Holocaust began in a dark but accessible place, in Hitler’s mind, with the thought that the elimination of Jews would restore balance to the planet and allow Germans to win the resources they desperately needed. Such a worldview could be realized only if Germany destroyed other states, so Hitler’s aim was a colonial war in Europe itself. In the zones of statelessness, almost all Jews died. A few people, the righteous few, aided them, without support from institutions. Much of the new research in this book is devoted to understanding these extraordinary individuals. The almost insurmountable difficulties they faced only confirm the dangers of state destruction and ecological panic. These men and women should be emulated, but in similar circumstances few of us would do so.
By overlooking the lessons of the Holocaust, Snyder concludes, we have misunderstood modernity and endangered the future. The early twenty-first century is coming to resemble the early twentieth, as growing preoccupations with food and water accompany ideological challenges to global order. Our world is closer to Hitler’s than we like to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was — and ourselves as we are. Groundbreaking, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, Black Earth reveals a Holocaust that is not only history but warning.
This month, NYU Press releases “Post-Holocaust France and the Jews, 1945-1955” edited by Seán Hand (University of Warwick, UK) and Steven T. Katz (Boston University). The publisher’s description follows:
Despite an outpouring of scholarship on the Holocaust, little work has focused on what happened to Europe’s Jewish communities after the war ended. And unlike many other European nations in which the majority of the Jewish population perished, France had a significant post‑war Jewish community that numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Post-Holocaust France and the Jews, 1945–1955 offers new insight on key aspects of French Jewish life in the decades following the end of World War II.
How Jews had been treated during the war continued to influence both Jewish and non-Jewish society in the post-war years. The volume examines the ways in which moral and political issues of responsibility combined with the urgent problems and practicalities of restoration, and it illustrates how national imperatives, international dynamics, and a changed self-perception all profoundly helped to shape the fortunes of postwar French Judaism.
With contributions from leading scholars, including Edward Kaplan, Susan Rubin Suleiman, and Jay Winter, the book establishes multiple connections between such different areas of concern as the running of orphanages, the establishment of new social and political organisations, the restoration of teaching and religious facilities, and the development of intellectual responses to the Holocaust.
In October, Random House released “Hitler’s First Victims: The Quest for Justice,” by Timothy W. Ryback. The publisher’s description follows:
The remarkable story of Josef Hartinger, the German prosecutor who risked everything to bring to justice the first killers of the Holocaust and whose efforts would play a key role in the Nuremberg tribunal.
Before Germany was engulfed by Nazi dictatorship, it was a constitutional republic. And just before Dachau Concentration Camp became a site of Nazi genocide, it was a state detention center for political prisoners, subject to police authority and due process. The camp began its irrevocable transformation from one to the other following the execution of four Jewish detainees in the spring of 1933. Timothy W. Ryback’s gripping and poignant historical narrative focuses on those first victims of the Holocaust and the investigation that followed, as Hartinger sought to expose these earliest cases of state-condoned atrocity.
In documenting the circumstances surrounding these first murders and Hartinger’s unrelenting pursuit of the SS perpetrators, Ryback indelibly evokes a society on the brink—one in which civil liberties are sacrificed to national security, in which citizens increasingly turn a blind eye to injustice, in which the bedrock of judicial accountability chillingly dissolves into the martial caprice of the Third Reich.
We see Hartinger, holding on to his unassailable sense of justice, doggedly resisting the rising dominance of Nazism. His efforts were only a temporary roadblock to the Nazis, but Ryback makes clear that Hartinger struck a lasting blow for justice. The forensic evidence and testimony gathered by Hartinger provided crucial evidence in the postwar trials.
Hitler’s First Victims exposes the chaos and fragility of the Nazis’ early grip on power and dramatically suggests how different history could have been had other Germans followed Hartinger’s example of personal courage in that time of collective human failure.
Last month, Macmillan published Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust by Götz Aly (University of Vienna). The publisher’s description follows.
Why the Germans? Why the Jews? Countless historians have grappled with these questions, but few have come up with answers as original and insightful as those of maverick German historian Götz Aly. Tracing the prehistory of the Holocaust from the 1800s to the Nazis’ assumption of power in 1933, Aly shows that German anti-Semitism was—to a previously overlooked extent—driven in large part by material concerns, not racist ideology or religious animosity. As Germany made its way through the upheaval of the Industrial Revolution, the difficulties of the lethargic, economically backward German majority stood in marked contrast to the social and economic success of the agile Jewish minority. This success aroused envy and fear among the Gentile population, creating fertile ground for murderous Nazi politics.
Surprisingly, and controversially, Aly shows that the roots of the Holocaust are deeply intertwined with German efforts to create greater social equality. Redistributing wealth from the well-off to the less fortunate was in many respects a laudable goal, particularly at a time when many lived in poverty. But as the notion of material equality took over the public imagination, the skilled, well-educated Jewish population came to be seen as having more than its fair share. Aly’s account of this fatal social dynamic opens up a new vantage point on the greatest crime in history and is sure to prompt heated debate for years to come.