In This Review

Rethinking the Holocaust
Rethinking the Holocaust
By Yehuda Bauer
335 pp, Yale University Press, 2001

An ambitious attempt to answer some of the most important questions raised by the Holocaust. For Bauer, the Holocaust was neither inhuman nor unfathomable but nonetheless was pure evil. Its uniqueness lay in its ideological motivation, whereas other genocides had "pragmatic considerations" as their causes. He points to the nineteenth-century spread of antisemitism among Germany's intellectual classes for the origins of the Holocaust, but he primarily blames an "elite of the Nazi Party" with murderous antisemitic inclinations. Although this elite came to power for reasons unrelated to its genocidal program, it could carry out its plans once it drew the intellectual stratum to its side. Bauer reviews other Holocaust theories -- including those of Daniel Goldhagen (whose approach he mostly rejects) and Saul Friedlander (to whom he is closer) -- and examines such issues as Jewish resistance and the general absence of rescue attempts. He argues that information about the Holocaust did exist and kept snowballing during the war; the problem was that it was not given credence. On Israel's creation, Bauer concludes that the United Kingdom's refusal to let 100,000 Holocaust survivors into Palestine was the deciding factor in swinging U.S. policy to support the Jewish state, even though "there were almost not enough Jews left to fight for a state." Whether one agrees with all his points, this is a thoughtful and sensible book.