Review of The Holocaust – Laurence Rees

Posted: September 28, 2018 in history, nonfiction, Review
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This landmark work answers two fundamental questions – how, and why, did the Holocaust happen?

Laurence Rees has spent twenty-five years meeting and interviewing survivors and perpetrators of the Holocaust. Now he combines this largely unpublished testimony with the latest academic research to create the first accessible and authoritative account of the Holocaust in over three decades.

Through a chronological, intensely readable narrative, featuring the latest historical research and compelling eyewitness testimony, this is the story of the worst crime in history.

The Holocaust

Laurence Rees

Viking

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Lawrence Rees asks two important questions: how, and why, did the Holocaust happen? By this, he does not limit himself to the treatment of the Jews, but all those subjected to the destructive genetic practices of the Nazis. Anti-Semitism, racial hygiene and a hierarchy of races were ideas that had been floating about since before World War One. The Nazis, under Hitler’s direction, took this to the (il)logical extreme: not only were they to be excluded from the Nazi society, they were to be removed from society and by death if necessary.

Rees plots the development of the Holocaust in 18 chapters, over 430 pages plus prologue, epilogue and endnotes. He follows a chronological sequence, examining the development of the various strands of the Holocaust as the Nazi party and then the Nazi state adopted and then promulgated its racial agenda. Rees also follows the two main strands of the Holocaust’s implementation: exclusion, and elimination, from society.

These two actions, exclusion and elimination, slowly developed in the Nazi state, even though they had been heavily foreshadowed in Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Rees explores why this was, and why certain eugenics programmes were pushed harder than others. He also explores the reaction to these programmes, both in the Third Reich, its conquered and allied territories and the wider world. And why some of these programmes continued even in the face of Nazi Germany’s imminent defeat

Lawrence Rees is a respected historian with a considerable corpus of work, much of it devoted to WW2 studies. This is another fine volume from him: well written, well researched and well presented on a subject that fascinates as much as it horrifies. Buy it. Read it.

I thank Penguin Random House New Zealand for the review copy and apologise for the lateness of this review.

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