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EPILOGUE: The Aftermath
 pg. 671 
Himmler's SS troopers believed they were uniquely special, when in fact most of them, including these former Auschwitz guards who are pictured at their trial, were dull men devoid of scruples and conscience.
Photo: State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
These former Auschwitz guards, put on trial in Poland in 1947, had once been "typical" German women. Power appealed to them, and they found fulfillment in the barracks and gas chambers.
Photo: State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
For mainly good reasons, the leading scholars whom Goldhagen vied to supplant found his methodology suspect and the tone of his writing arrogant and disdainful of even the best work in Holocaust studies. They considered his research results to be either far less original than Goldhagen claimed or perniciously incorrect to the point of being destructive because they reignited undeserved prejudices against Germans and Jews alike.

What did Goldhagen--this young academic of a postwar generation--say to provoke such critical reactions? Note, first, that Hitler's Willing Executioners was preceded by the work of Christopher Browning, a distinguished historian who published a 1992 work that has achieved classic status in Holocaust studies. Browning called his book Ordinary Men. It analyzed the postwar judicial interrogations of 210 members of Reserve Police Battalion 101, a 500-man killing squadron of the German Order Police that was responsible for 83,000 Jewish deaths in Poland during the Holocaust. Goldhagen targeted Browning's book when he chose Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust as the subtitle for Hitler's Willing Executioners. Having probed the same archival material about Reserve Police Battalion 101 that Browning had investigated, Goldhagen believed that Browning mishandled and misinterpreted the data. Specifically, Goldhagen contended that Browning underestimated the extent and depth of antisemitism in Germany and played down its tenacious grip and deadly influence on the German people. Furthermore, Goldhagen charged that Browning inadequately explained the killing behavior of the men in Reserve Police Battalion 101 by citing conformity to peer pressure, blind acceptance of current political norms, and careerism as among its chief motivational causes.

Browning's interpretation did stress that the reserve policemen, German though they were and antisemitic though they may have been, were of special significance because they were also very ordinary human beings. He maintained that the story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 should cause, at the very least, discomfort for men and women everywhere. For as post-Holocaust history shows, people in other times and places--people like us--are also capable of complicity in genocide. Goldhagen was not impressed, let alone persuaded. He found fault with Browning's book because it missed what he regarded as the essential point about the Holocaust: Only the deep-seated racist antisemitism that infested the German people could motivate, and thus account for, the behavior of particular Germans who committed the atrocities that advanced the Final Solution.

 1957: Fritz Katzmann, former SS-Gruppenführer responsible for the extermination of Jews in the Galicia region of Poland, dies after evading prosecution for 12 years.
 1957: The last operating displaced-persons camp, located in Belgium, closes.
 1958: The Einsatzkommando trial in the Soviet Union documents the Nazis' genocidal actions during their occupation of Lithuania. Ninety-four percent of Lithuanian Jewry--about 220,000 people--were murdered during the Holocaust.
 1958: The West German government establishes the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist (Nazi) Crimes.
 1959: Karl Jäger, former SS-Standartenführer and head of Einsatzkommando 3, is arrested, but he commits suicide before his trial.
 1959: Ante Pavelic, founder of the Fascist Ustasa terrorist organization in Croatia, and the man behind the murders of tens of thousands of Jews and hundreds of thousands of Serbs, dies two years after a terrorist attempt on his life.
 1959: American film director George Stevens releases The Diary of Anne Frank, a dramatization based on the biographical play concerning the young Dutch Jew Anne Frank, her family, and the secret room in Amsterdam in which they hid from the Nazis. The film, as the play before it, de-Judaizes Anne and her family. Her father, Otto, approves of this because he feels, correctly, that the public is not ready to accept a film that is "too Jewish."
EPILOGUE: The Aftermath
 pg. 671 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.