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EPILOGUE: The Aftermath
 pg. 675 
Adolf Eichmann would seem to be one of Daniel Goldhagen's "ordinary Germans." Eichmann's motivations, though, were more complex than Goldhagen believed.
Photo: Gov't. Press Office, Lishkat Ha-ltonut / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
The Eichmann trial was an emotional experience for many Holocaust survivors. Here, Yehiel Koydzenik faints after testifying against the defendant.
Photo: Gov't. Press Office, Lishkat Ha-ltonut / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
Nowhere is this appraisal of his book more apt than in regard to his claim that "German's antisemitic beliefs about Jews were the central causal agent of the Holocaust."

Goldhagen wrongly implied that scholars such as Raul Hilberg, Yehuda Bauer, and Christopher Browning "denied or obscured" the importance of German antisemitism. What they and other leading Holocaust scholars have done, however, is to avoid the oversimplifications that make and break Goldhagen's book. Antisemitism, for example, was a major current in pre-Nazi times. Nevertheless, while Goldhagen's work filled in empirical details about that ugly picture, pre-Nazi antisemitism in Germany was not primarily the essentially lethal variety that Goldhagen required to make his claims hold. Conveniently dismissing any evidence to the contrary as insufficient or inadequate, failing to do the comparative work that should have modified his extreme views about German antisemitism by placing it in a larger European context, Goldhagen relied too much on an assumed German uniformity to buttress his case.

At times Goldhagen emphasized that his "ordinary Germans" must not be caricatured as a slavish, order-obeying people and that their freedom of choice should be recognized as crucial if they are to be held responsible for their Holocaust-related actions. But then, to cite one of Christopher Browning's succinct rebuttals, Goldhagen ignored his own principles by describing ordinary Germans as basically "undifferentiated, unchanging, possessed by a single, monolithic cognitive outlook," especially as far as Jews were concerned before and during the Holocaust.

The verdict on how Goldhagen's book stands the test of time has not yet been reached. Meanwhile, in deliberately provocative ways, he raised significantly debatable issues about the Germans' identity and the Holocaust. Complemented and complicated by episodes such as the Goetzfried trial, clashes surrounding the Wehrmacht's history, and the future of the Berlin memorial, the repercussions of those issues remain to be defined and fully felt as the 21st century arrives. But of this we can be confident: The integrity of German identity depends on what political philosopher Hannah Arendt (a German-born Jewish refugee from the Third Reich) called "examining and bearing consciously" the burdens of 20th-century history. Nothing less should be said of the identity we share as human beings after Auschwitz.

 1966: Albert Speer, former minister of armaments and war production for Nazi Germany, is released from Spandau Prison; See 1970.
 1966: Baldur von Schirach, former head of the Hitler Youth, is released from Spandau.
 June 5-10, 1967: Responding to Syrian border raids and Egyptian troop movements and fearing an Arab attack, Israel strikes against Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, gaining victory in six days and expanding its territory by 200 percent. The conflict comes to be known as the Six-Day War. Israel now administers all former Palestinian territory that had been under British mandate from 1922-1948; See October 6, 1973.
 1967-1968: The Communist Polish government spearheads an antisemitic campaign against Zionism.
 1969: The German penal code strikes out Paragraph 175, which made male homosexuality illegal and which helped to facilitate Nazi persecution of homosexuals.
EPILOGUE: The Aftermath
 pg. 675 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.