The Final Answer; BRUTAL TRUTH: Hitler at a Rally in 1939, and Children Inside Auschwitz Concentration Camp

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), June 29, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Final Answer; BRUTAL TRUTH: Hitler at a Rally in 1939, and Children Inside Auschwitz Concentration Camp


Byline: Andrew Roberts

Hitler, The Germans, And The Final Solution by Ian Kershaw YaleUniversity Press and Yad Vashem [pounds sterling] 19.99 . [pounds sterling]18 inc p& p (0845 606 4213) . . . ...

Sir Ian Kershaw is a historian who asks the same big questions about Hitler andthe Nazis that we have all asked ourselves, then addresses them with rigorousintellectual analysis backed up by a lifetime of scholarship.

Was Hitler essentially like Stalin? How much of the Holocaust was Hitler'sidea? How much did ordinary Germans know about what was happening to the Jews?If they knew, what did they think? These are some of the most importantquestions of 20th Century history, and in this riveting book Kershaw answersthem all.

A collection of Kershaw's essays from highbrow historical journals since 1981,this short book goes to the heart of the great debates over Nazism, thenexamines the progress of the debates themselves.

Published jointly between Yale and the Holocaust Institute of Yad Vashem inJerusalem, it is an important contribution to the historiography of the SecondWorld War. Plus it's a page-turner.

Kershaw argues that despite superficial similarities, Hitler's regime hadlittle in common with Stalin's. The latter rose within the party bureaucracy; amachine politician adept at committee work. By contrast, Hitler abolished hiscabinet early on and wrote only one policy position paper in his life, whichwas about economics. He showed it to three people, but not his Minister ofEconomics.

Whereas Stalin intervened constantly and personally in every aspect of Sovietlife, Hitler was immensely lazy. Most importantly, whereas Nazism was entirelybased on Hitler, Communism would have survived, and indeed probably prospered,without Stalin.

In considering Hitler's anti-Semitism, Kershaw accepts - as came out mostvividly during the trial of historian and Holocaust denier David Irving - thereis no single piece of paper that makes a documentary connection between theFuhrer and the Holocaust. 'It seems impossible to isolate a single, specificFuhrer order for the Final Solution,' Kershaw writes. That was clearly becauseafter his victory, Hitler wanted to be able to deny the Holocaust had happened.Yet the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming that he gave the key orders toSS leaders Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich. As Kershaw states: 'Hitlerwas the supreme and radical spokesman for an ideological imperative that, by1941, had become priority for the entire regime leadership.

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