‘Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-49’, by David Cesarani

Afa4471b-5d58-4a7f-8059-264db6cf5d8dMichael Marrus at The Financial Times:

Beginning with the advent of the Nazi party to power in 1933, Cesarani insists that anti-Semitism was not central to the consolidation of its hold on Germany. Persecution and murder did not proceed in an orderly way. From the beginning, and in various ways throughout its 12-year domination, Nazism’s destructive rampage was characterised by “improvisation and muddle”. Again and again, he documents what one author once called “the twisted road to Auschwitz” — the absence of detailed objectives, planning or clear lines of authority — even as Nazism constantly understood Jews as remorseless enemies. Nazism proceeded against the Jews implacably but inconsistently, and to the victims sometimes bewilderingly.

“This shambles was the matrix for subsequent policy initiatives,” Cesarani writes. “Having allowed hurriedly conceived, partially thought-out policies to create a situation that satisfied no one and caused much restlessness amongst loyal party comrades, the Nazi leadership had to figure a way out. This [became] a familiar pattern.” When dealing with the Jews, German instruments were “low-cost and low-tech”.

Even in eastern Europe, where military operations facilitated the radicalisation of anti-Jewish measures, the destruction of Jewry did not flow from a clearly determined plan and a rational allocation of resources. Speaking of Poland, the densest killing ground, he notes that “policy was drawn up on the hoof. What later appeared to be the first stage of a carefully thought-out strategy of anti-Jewish measures was in fact a set of hasty improvisations.”

more here.