The Holocaust

An Unfinished History

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Pub Date 23 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 19 Mar 2024

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A revelatory new history that reexamines the brutal reality of the Holocaustand reinterprets the events as a living trauma from which modern society has not yet recovered

One of the UK's most acclaimed books of the year: "Outstanding" (Times Literary Supplement); "Remarkable" (Guardian); "Important and challenging" (Jewish Chronicle); "Deeply haunting" (Telegraph)

The Holocaust is much discussed, much memorialized, and much portrayed. But there are major aspects of its history that have been overlooked.

Spanning the entirety of the Holocaust, this sweeping history deepens our understanding. Dan Stone—Director of the Holocaust Research Institute at Royal Holloway, University of London—reveals how the idea of “industrial murder” is incomplete: many were killed where they lived in the most brutal of ways. He outlines the depth of collaboration across Europe, arguing persuasively that we need to stop thinking of the Holocaust as an exclusively German project. He also considers the nature of trauma the Holocaust engendered, and why Jewish suffering has yet to be fully reckoned with. And he makes clear that the kernel to understanding Nazi thinking and action is genocidal ideology, providing a deep analysis of its origins.

Drawing on decades of research, The Holocaust: An Unfinished History upends much of what we think we know about the Holocaust. Stone draws on Nazi documents, but also on diaries, post-war testimonies, and even fiction, urging that, in our age of increasing nationalism and xenophobia, it is vital that we understand the true history of the Holocaust.

A revelatory new history that reexamines the brutal reality of the Holocaustand reinterprets the events as a living trauma from which modern society has not yet recovered

One of the UK's most...

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Featured Reviews

Every book about the Holocaust is becoming increasingly important as our political climate worsens, we begin to villufy each other, and there are calls from some on the right for political opponents to be rounded up or even executed. This book was a hard read, as it does not shy away from the awful, awful reality of the worst industrialized mass murder in the history of the world.

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Highly enjoyed reading this for how brutal the history of the whole event was. A difficult read but like any book of history from this time period it is still an important book to read for anyone that is interested in learning more about this terrible thing.

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A phenomenal, comprehensive, updated history of the Holocaust with essential background, system building, and culture aspects built into a living narrative. The author has a way with setting historical sources and talking points to lead the reader into a deeper understanding of the broader context of the Holocaust. I would suggest this as my new suggested starting book for this monumental topic.

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"Come to me, you, the citizen of the free world... you whose existence and security are guaranteed by human decency and the law, and I will tell you how the modern criminals and vile murderers have crushed the decency of life and detached the laws of existence." This passage, written by Zalman Grandowski, within The Holocaust by Dan Stone, is a great summarization of what this important book entails. We learn through history and of stories of the murdered and survivors, much of what is not completely described in many Shoah books.

In addition, this work serves as a call to action for modern politics, as we have never been so close to implementing a Nazi-like regime as we are today, as we can see in the numerous threats to our local Jewish communities. As written by Kurt Rosenberg, in August 1933, "Day by day the assault on human rights and the assault on human dignities continues..." It's scary to think that he could be talking about the numerous hate crimes that appear on our evening news (or details as small as the shirts worn by violent protestors on 01/06/2021). Great book.

It is important to open our minds to the past, or it may become our present.

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What's an unfinished history? Perhaps one about which there's always more to say, because it's too immense and complex ever to be fully understood; it's too dreadful to be comprehended; and it's still happening.

Here Dan Stone takes up several themes.

1. The popular narrative of the Holocaust as efficiently industrialized mass slaughter is mistaken, he points out: until quite late in the war, the slaughter of Jews (and of course of many others) was accomplished mostly by starving people to death, forcing them into conditions under which infectious disease or simple cold would kill them, and forcing them to dig pits, then shooting them into those pits. "Almost half of the victims of the Holocaust died of starvation in ghettos or were shot in face-to-face killing actions."

2. The Holocaust is not to be understood as a purely German phenomenon: in most of the polities taken over by Nazi Germany, anti-Semitism was already rampant, and the project of national "purification" was taken up with enthusiasm.

The genocide of the Jews could not have been so thorough and so brutal without almost ubiquitous collaboration across Europe and beyond. Historians have long known this, but the true extent of this collaboration has remained covered up by successive governments across the continent.

Nor was the Holocaust only European. Jews from North Africa were also murdered, not to mention how Jews in flight from Nazism found themselves in many parts of Asia.

3. Stone argues that historiography often neglects what he calls "the Nazi imaginary":

not just racial science but the mysticism of race, in which Nazi thinkers set out a metaphysics and an anthropology of German superiority and proposed that the movement of history was driven by a clash between good and evil, represented by the Germans on the one side and the threatening race-destroyers, the Jews, on the other.

I might say, in other words, that attention should be drawn to Nazism as not only a politics but a religion.

Stone's prose is clear and vivid, which is to say that he re-horrifies his subject. Having read a fair amount of Holocaust history, I'm (awful to admit) inured to many of the most familiar images. Reading Stone's book brought back my first visit to Auschwitz, in the mid-1980s, and the feeling of the world giving way, brought on by the physical presence of the artifacts of genocide -- the hair, the shoes, the suitcases, the ovens. This in itself -- Stone's ability to bring his history out of the weight of platitude and cliche that usually surrounds it -- is an accomplishment. It almost goes without saying that he makes his theoretical case convincingly.

The concluding sections of The Holocaust: An Unfinished History are in some ways even more painful, though, because here Stone takes up the dismaying truth that knowledge of the Holocaust isn't proof against the rise of authoritarianism, nationalism, xenophobia, and of course anti-Semitism. In the present context of war in Israel/Palestine, his discussion of how both extremist Zionists and extremist anti-Zionists conflate "Jews" and "Israel" is particularly useful for anyone trying to find moral ground in a place saturated with the history and future of wrongdoing. I should say, perhaps, "in a world saturated with the history and future of wrongdoing."

Brilliant book, strongly recommended.

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I moved this book up on my list based on current events. I have never been one to stand for hatred. This book touched every part of my soul. I learned so much from this book. And so could a lot of people. History can and will repeat itself. We have to be the change.

I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book provided by NetGalley.

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Dan Stone crafts a phenomenally researched and thought provoking study of The Holocaust that sheds light on corners of the event many may not know and show even more details on stories and events that are common surrounding the genocide.

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WOW. Where do I start? With the over 100 highlights and notations I made? Or the fact I know this book is going to be in heavy research source rotation? Dan Stone combines years of research from historians and survivors into one book. He reminds us that the Holocaust was not only an action by Germany but by many. Many countries were actively working to remove Jewish citizens before the Germans ever occupied them. For this to happen, it takes ordinary people to participate, from the police to the neighbor next door. Many notes I made were comparing comments I hear today about crime, the economy, and immigration.

Thank you, NetGalley and Mariner Books, for the opportunity to review this ARC.

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Dan Stone’s The Holocaust: An Unfinished History is a succinct but illustrative history of the Holocaust from its murky origins through to our authoritarian threatened present.

Moving chronologically through 8 chapters, Stone presents the progression of events, drawing from a plethora of primary sources. Beginning with the rise of antisemitism as a concept alongside other foundational Holocaust ideology and post World War I instability, to the increasing legislation against Jews in Germany through to forced migration and the implementation of the final solution.’ The final section looks at the history of Holocaust history globally.

A major through line of this work is that while the Holocaust was not an automated slaughter, except for a short portion of time. Much of the killing was through direct execution or starvation and disease. Nor was most of the death possible for the Nazis to carry out all on their own, it required collaborators across Europe. The latter is especially important, as it begs the for additional research to consider the development and continued racist thinking in other European nations.

Stone also points out other areas in need of deeper research such as those considered Jewish due to the racial laws, but had been Catholic for at least a generation. How many would know that some of the ghettos held churches for these individuals? And what roles did African colonial possessions play in the shaping of national ideologies and identities?

An unflinching history that should be read by Holocaust researchers new and old, and will serve as a foundational text for scholarship to come.

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An impressive new(ish) take on the Holocaust history. This book tells the history of the Holocaust from the beginnings of Nazi rumblings to the end of the last DP camp with a continental eye and focus on moving away from the typical narratives- mainly the German-centric view and the idea of industrial genocide. The wide lens allows you to place individual events into their historical and geographical context. Stone also goes into parts of the Holocaust that have not been covered by most other mainstream Holocaust histories, especially the Romanian deportations in the early years of the war.

While impressive, I will caveat- this is not a book for casual readers. The text is very dense and requires a large amount of focus to absorb. For someone interested in the era, this book will provide new information and thought avenues. For casual readers, especially those not well read in Holocaust histories, this will be frustrating.

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A vital exploration, this book offered a nuanced perspective on less-explored aspects of history, making it a valuable addition to discussions, especially within book clubs. My sincere thanks to Mariner Books for providing an early copy through the NetGalley program.

The narrative delved into the lesser-known involvement of various countries and communities during the Nazi regime, shedding light on both lesser-known victims and survivors of the Holocaust. The comprehensive coverage extended beyond Nazi Germany, exploring collaborative efforts from diverse corners of Europe.

The depiction of events and scenes was commendable, capturing the scale of brutality while considering factors like dictatorship personas and local influences. The book also provided a thoughtful analysis of commemoration efforts, offering insight into the lasting impact of historical events.

The writing style, though dense, presented a vivid picture of the historical landscape. While some passages were detailed and engaging, others left me wanting more depth and exploration. The book’s tendency to shift topics and viewpoints, while interesting for diverse perspectives, occasionally disrupted the immersive experience.

Overall, an enlightening read that encourages reflection on lesser-known historical facets. While the narrative’s structure could benefit from more consistency, it successfully sparks important conversations around events and tragedies often overlooked. This book is a recommended choice for readers seeking a broader understanding of historical complexities.

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