Historians, psychologists, sociologists, post-modernists, literary critics and philosophers have all attempted to explain the most irrational act of modern Western civilisation. The cherished Western concepts of progress and civilisation were called into question by what one historian called ‘the German catastrophe’. Wilhelm Reich blamed the Holocaust on the obedience of the German people to the ‘Mass psychology of Fascism’, while Hannah Arendt blamed Nazi genocide on a ‘totalitarian system in which Adolf Hitler could say “the individual must perish anyway, all that matters is the state”’. Some writers have suggested that the de-humanising effects of European imperialism against so-called ‘primitive’ people in Africa and Asia during the late nineteenth century made racial-superiority, biological and eugenic theories popular, and these ‘master race’ views became embedded within Nazi ideology. Enzo Traverso has described Auschwitz as an ‘authentic product of Western civilisation’. The end product of Nazi genocide was not a product for sale in the marketplace but death. This would seem to suggest it was modern technology which made death possible on an industrial scale.
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- The Historical Debate on the Holocaust
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