In This Review

Why Did The Heavens Not Darken? The "Final Solution" In History
Why Did The Heavens Not Darken? The "Final Solution" In History
By Arno J. Mayer
Pantheon, 1988, pp

If more evidence is ever needed for the proposition that the Holocaust endures as a living phenomenon of searing emotive power-and not by now a well-distanced historical episode-this book and the controversy it has generated is that proof. Professor Mayer of Princeton analyzes the Nazi outrage against the Jews in the context of modern European history, from the Thirty Years War onward. His chosen format is an interpretive essay upon known records, not an unearthing of hidden archives; his study has no source notes, a point which understandably upsets Holocaust scholars. What many specialists find more offensive, however, is Mayer's air of detached urbanity in confronting the hideous. Yet it is a gross distortion to claim that Mayer is slyly attempting to minimize-or even trivialize-the Jewish agony, of which members of his own family were victims. A more substantive point is worth honest debate: that the Nazi drive to actually exterminate the Jews was a function of Hitler's losing war against Soviet Russia, rather than an extension of the Nazi anti-semitism that had been present from the start. This important contribution to the literature of the Holocaust is ill-starred, ultimately, for trying to graft rational explanations upon irrational acts.