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About this book

The Holocaust was the central event of the twentieth century. How can we understand the Nazi drive to murder millions of people, or the determination of concentration camp prisoners to survive? In this new collection of original documents and sources, Steve Hochstadt brings the reader into direct contact with the Holocaust's human participants. The words of Nazi leaders and common soldiers, SS doctors and European collaborators show how and why they became involved in mass murder, while those of the victims help us to imagine their torments.

Sources of the Holocaust moves from the origins of Christian anti-Semitism to today's controversies over restitution to reveal the ideas that made the Holocaust possible, the detailed Nazi plans to destroy human lives, and the ability of those targeted to mount resistance. Hochstadt's authoritative commentaries on each source, based on the latest research, describe the people who produced these documents, and provide a full history of the Holocaust. At the same time, Hochstadt offers fresh ideas on major perpetrators, the significance of resistance, and the meaning of the word 'Holocaust'.

Both shocking and compelling, this volume of authentic accounts of Holocaust experiences offers new insights into one of the most terrible episodes in human history.

Table of Contents

Section I. Introduction

Abstract
Why read documents from the Holocaust? What do these details matter now? Contemporary society has become so numbed to violence by its repetition and its constant portrayal, that the Holocaust is sometimes seen as just another historical nightmare, to be acknowledged but also avoided.
Steve Hochstadt

Section II. The Context of Christian Antisemitism

Abstract
Within the long history of Western Christianity, antisemitism has played a significant but changing role in relations between Christians and Jews. I have chosen a handful of documents which recognize the influence of certain forms of antisemitism on the history of Jews in Europe. Antisemitism is only one facet of the Christian tradition of doctrine and practice. A few documents cannot tell the history of even this single element, but they can illustrate key points in the development of Christian attitudes toward Jews during nearly 2000 years of coexistence in Europe.
Steve Hochstadt

Section III. The Creation of Monsters in Germany: Jews and Others

Abstract
In Germany during the 19th century, enormous social energy was poured into emphasizing the most monstrous aspects within the web of Christian antisemitic beliefs. A few documents illustrate the strength and character of attitudes toward Jews which became increasingly prominent in Germany.
Steve Hochstadt

Section IV. The Nazi Attack on Jews and Other Undesirables in the Third Reich, 1933–1938

Abstract
The Holocaust did not begin immediately when the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933. During its first five years, the Nazi government disposed of all political rivals, militarized the state and economy, prepared for wars of aggression, and employed a variety of strategies to eliminate Jews from German life. Jews were only one target of the Nazis in power. Socialists and Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted, arrested, and killed as political challengers; homosexuals, Gypsies, and the handicapped were attacked as racial inferiors and threats to the purity of Aryan blood. The documents in this section show some of these strategies and trace the rapid isolation of various social groups from their German neighbors. The lack of public opposition to the persecution of certain German citizens allowed the Nazis to continually escalate their attacks on these groups.
Steve Hochstadt

Section V. The Physical Assault on Jews in Germany, 1938–1939

Abstract
Words in documents lose their ability to convey the real meaning of historical events when those events become violent. Until 1938 a major mode of attack on Jews and other racial inferiors was through the power of language. Jews were constantly confronted with signs of their persecution, ranging from the crudely lettered ‘Don’t Buy from Jews’ placards of the SA on 1 April 1933, to the officially printed ‘Not for Jews’ signs which proliferated in public places, to ‘Jews Not Welcome’ affixed to sites of service, entertainment, and transport. The Nuremberg Laws were proudly published for all to read. Less open forms of persecution also affected the entire German Jewish community: loss of jobs in the public sector, government-sponsored humiliations, and occasional threats of violence. Other despised groups were attacked more physically in 1933 to 1937. First socialists and communists, then Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals were arrested and often brutalized in the system of concentration camps scattered across Germany. Jews were threatened in every way, but violence was only rarely directed towards them.
Steve Hochstadt

Section VI. The Perfection of Genocide as National Policy, 1939–1943

Abstract
This section is designed to outline the evolving Nazi policy of genocide; this is the Holocaust. The makers of these documents realized the enormity and the inhumanity of what they were planning and doing, so they developed a coded and obscure language to use in their communications. Secrecy, camouflage, euphemism, omission, and deception pervade these documents. Not only were the intended victims to be deceived, but also participants at lower levels, Germans at home, and the rest of the world. The Nazis attempted to carry out unprecedented genocides and to cover them up at the same time. Their documents here must be read with great care.
Steve Hochstadt

Section VII. ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’: Work and Death in Concentration Camps and Ghettos

Abstract
The documents in the previous section, mainly official German sources, displayed policy. This section and the next present many sources from Jewish eyewitnesses, and portray experience.
Steve Hochstadt

Section VIII. Assembly Lines of Death: Extermination Camps

Abstract
The death camps were the most remarkable, inventive, unprecedented aspect of the Holocaust. Even finding a set of words to label them has proved elusive: I first heard the phrase ‘assembly line of death’ (‘Fliessband des Todes’) from the mouth of Franz Suchomel, an SS guard at Treblinka who was filmed secretly by Claude Lanzmann in his astonishing film ‘Shoah’. On these 6 spots of earth, over 3 million people were murdered in 3 years using the most highly developed industrial methods of transportation, killing, and disposal. The vast riches that Globocnik tallied up in the table shown previously (document 54) were carefully separated from the new arrivals, individually made destitute by previous persecution, but collectively a source of the resources needed to run the whole operation. At Treblinka the SS boasted ‘from door to door in 45 minutes’.
Steve Hochstadt

Section IX. The Aftermath

Abstract
The Holocaust was unbelievable. Despite accurate reports by eyewitnesses to all aspects of this genocide, those outside could not and would not grasp what they were being told. American and British leaders hearing Jan Karski describe the Warsaw ghetto or reading the report on Auschwitz made by two escapees, Western newspaper readers confronted with vivid stories, even Jews with relatives in Europe could not understand what they could not imagine.1
Steve Hochstadt

Section X. The Holocaust in Contemporary Life

Abstract
The Holocaust demands a response. The fact that a powerful 20th-century nation organized the killing of millions as a state project has forced people in Europe and across the world to acknowledge an ugly abscess under the skin of modern society. As the previous section displayed, it has been difficult for groups of people to find the social courage to make appropriate responses. Every response bears political, intellectual, and emotional weight, and each effort has been controversial. Powerful voices urge an end to dealing with the past, while others insist that more needs to be done.
Steve Hochstadt

Section XI. Conclusion

Abstract
A document alone, seen apart from its context, reveals little. Numerous documents must be read together to understand the meanings of any one. Viktor Brack’s suggestion that 7 to 8 million Jews be killed or Goebbels’ claim that Jews started World War II could be taken for the ravings of the insane. Placed next to repeated tabulations of how many people the Nazis planned to kill or had already killed, their words radiate much more ominous meanings. Only when read together with detailed descriptions of killing operations, can their historical significance be fully understood.
Steve Hochstadt
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