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How Could This Happen

Explaining the Holocaust

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The Holocaust is the defining event of the twentieth century – and perhaps all of modern history. Yet for too long, we have ignored the vital question of how and why such a monstrous event could have happened at all. Now, in How Could This Happen, historian Dan McMillan distills the existing Holocaust research into a cogent explanation of the genocide’s causes, revealing how a once progressive society like Germany could commit murder on such a massive scale. Countless barriers stand between stable societies and genocide, McMillan explains, but in Germany these buffers began to topple well before World War II. From Hitler’s meteoric rise to deep-rooted European anti-Semitism to the dehumanizing effects of World War I, McMillan uncovers the many factors that made the Holocaust possible.

Persuasive and compelling, How Could This Happen illustrates how a perfect storm of bleak circumstances, malevolent ideas, and societal upheaval unleashed history’s most terrifying atrocity.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 27, 2014 – While many books have been written on the Holocaust, this volume claims to be the “first comprehensive analysis” of its causes. McMillan, a specialist in German history, addresses multiple factors, including an authoritarian tradition in German politics dating to the 1860s, a long history of German anti-Semitism, the demoralizing loss of WWI, the weakness and collapse of the Weimar Republic, the influence of Darwinian thought on notions of a German “racial struggle” against the Jews, and Hitler’s rise “from dictator to demigod.” McMillan’s best chapter, “The Absent Moral Compass,” surveys postwar psychological experiments to explain how even non-ideologues in the German bureaucracy and army could be led to murder, thanks to “automatic obedience to authority; conformity to the behavior of a group, and adaptation to a role and situation.” McMillan’s analysis is succinct, yet its relative brevity is occasionally a weakness, as when he claims, without sufficient evidence, that a “genocidal cohort” of men, hardened by their experience in WWI, were instrumental in implementing the “Final Solution.” Despite this flaw, and the idea that no truly comprehensive explanation for the Holocaust seems possible, this thoughtful work examines both why the Nazis came to power and how they could engage in murder on such an unprecedented scale.

Customer Reviews

Good but repetitive...

This book does a great job of leaving out all of the unnecesarry fragments of history that most historians use to discuss or explain the Holocaust. It is the perfect book for a beginner whose interest lies in the topic of Europe’s extermination of Jewry. I must say that the book’s weakness arrives at its repetitiveness. Many facts are either states plainly over and over or are explained in other words, leaving the reader with a great sense of deja vu. All in all, I’m glad that I read it and will and have recommended it to others.

How Could This Happen
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  • $18.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: History
  • Published: Apr 08, 2014
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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