A provocative and insightful analysis that sheds new light on one of the most puzzling and historically unsettling conundrums
Why the Germans? Why the Jews? Countless historians have grappled with these questions, but few have come up with answers as original and insightful as those of maverick German historian Götz Aly. Tracing the prehistory of the Holocaust from the 1800s to the Nazis' assumption of power in 1933, Aly shows that German anti-Semitism was--to a previously overlooked extent--driven in large part by material concerns, not racist ideology or religious animosity. As Germany made its way through the upheaval of the Industrial Revolution, the difficulties of the lethargic, economically backward German majority stood in marked contrast to the social and economic success of the agile Jewish minority. This success aroused envy and fear among the Gentile population, creating fertile ground for murderous Nazi politics.
Surprisingly, and controversially, Aly shows that the roots of the Holocaust are deeply intertwined with German efforts to create greater social equality. Redistributing wealth from the well-off to the less fortunate was in many respects a laudable goal, particularly at a time when many lived in poverty. But as the notion of material equality took over the public imagination, the skilled, well-educated Jewish population came to be seen as having more than its fair share. Aly's account of this fatal social dynamic opens up a new vantage point on the greatest crime in history and is sure to prompt heated debate for years to come.
"A remarkably fresh look at an old problem... Aly is one of the most innovative and resourceful scholars working in the field of Holocaust studies. Time and again he has demonstrated an uncanny ability to find hitherto untapped sources, frame insightful questions, and articulate clear if often challenging and controversial arguments." --Christopher R. Browning, The New York Review of Books
"The lavish evidence Aly heaps on--from both self-revealing anti-Semites and acutely prescient Jewish writers--is incredible in its own right and makes for gripping reading." --Dagmar Herzog, The New York Times Book Review
"Consistently absorbing... A penetrating and provocative study [that] offers shrewd insight into the German mindset over the last two centuries." --The Jewish Daily Forward
"Brilliant, passionate, provocative." --Micha Brumlik, Die Zeit
"The most important contribution to the massive literature on the subject. Aly's analysis of a deeply rooted social malady has made the incomprehensible comprehensible." --Michael Blumenthal, director of the Jewish Museum Berlin