This is just not a reworking of the Holocaust. If it is possible to humanise the Nazis progroms Kristallnacht portended in 1938, Rees has managed it.
It psyched the German Nazis for war, and that included the deaths of six million Jews.
Many thousands of Jewish intellectuals, professionals, religious practitioners, artisans and homosexuals were herded into camps, their broken bones if they survived privations and death by gas shoveled as slag heaps for burial. In its rawness, The Holocaust is harrowing.
Hitler said Germany needed more land in order to prosper.
Death by decree was his mantra. He invented the killing fields before the term adhered from modern Asian culture. During Kristallnacht, Hitlerites had sufficient hold for Hitler’s followers to shout in the streets, “Out with the Jews! Off to Palestine”.
Thus, the tone, if forewarned tacitly, became policy. Some nationals could claim, “I am ashamed to be a German”.
And what of global protests? France complained of deportations (from clerics!), yet not one word from, say, Pope Pius XII in support of French protests.
Was the Vatican concerned it had no divisions to repel invasion, as Stalin famously noted in 1935? Reminders of the exigencies of the Holocaust are constant.
“Day and night prisoners cry out for ‘Mother! Water! Water! Mother!’”, chanting day and night. The pain at Bergen-Belsen said Alice Lok Cahana an inmate there from Auschwitz, “cannot be described in human language”.
Laurence Rees has written the definitive narrative. It may not be the last book, but for many it is the last word. Holiday reading, but not at night.
The Holocaust by Laurence Rees. Pbk, $50.
– Phil Campbell.
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