Essays on Hitler's Europe

Essays on Hitler's Europe

Essays on Hitler's Europe

Essays on Hitler's Europe

Synopsis

István Deák is one of the world's most knowledgeable and clearheaded authorities on the Second World War, and for decades his commentary has been among the most illuminating and influential contributions to the vast discourse on the politics, history, and scholarship of the period. Writing chiefly for the New York Review of Books and the New Republic, Deák has crafted review essays that cover the breadth and depth of the huge literature on this ominous moment in European history when the survival of democracy and human decency were at stake. Collected here for the first time, these articles chart changing reactions and analyses by the regimes and populations of Europe and reveal how postwar governments, historians, and ordinary citizens attempt to come to terms with--or to evade--the realities of the Holocaust, war, fascism, and resistance movements. They track the acts of scoundrels and the collusion of ordinary citizens in the so-called Final Solution but also show how others in authority and on the street heroically opposed the evil of the day. With its depth, conciseness, and interpretive power, this collection allows readers to consider more clearly and completely than ever before what has been said, how thought has shifted, and what we have learned about these momentous, world-changing events.

Excerpt

It was some twenty years ago that Robert Silvers, the editor of the New York Review of Books, first asked me to write a review critiquing a book about the 1848 revolutions in Central Europe—my specialty at that time. Many other essays have followed since then, although the subjects of the books I have reviewed have moved increasingly forward in time to World War II and particularly to coverage of the domestic fronts, the persecution of minorities, the policies of the German and other occupation forces, collaboration, resistance, war crimes, postwar retribution, and, mainly, the genocide of the European Jews. Throughout the process, Robert Silvers has continued to be a conscientious, erudite, brilliant, charming, witty, demanding, impatient, and exasperating collaborator. All the essays I conceived for the journal bear the marks of his editorial pen; all were born after titanic struggles, not only over content but often over a sentence, sometimes a single word. It is through association with him that I have retrained myself as a historian of the tragic and yet ultimately hopeful events of World War II. Hopeful because, even though World War II was the bloodiest conflict in human history as well as the cruelest and the most devastating, it was also a just war. Witness its entry into American popular consciousness as the conflict that had to be fought against a vile tyranny and that was indeed fought victoriously by a united citizenry and by millions of willing civilians in uniform.

In time, another brilliant editor entered on the scene: Leon Wieseltier, a celebrated writer who solicited reviews for the New Republic, often on similar World War II themes. Because both editors sent me many more works than I could possibly review for their journals and because some authors and publishers voluntarily mail me their publications, hundreds of new books on the war now line my shelves. They serve to remind me that my essays in the two journals discuss only a small section of the vast literature in English on Hitler’s . . .

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