Accounting for Genocide (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
Accounting for Genocide: National Responses and Jewish Victimization during the Holocaust by Helen Fein claims to be “an application of historical sociology, not a conventional history.” For this reason, the book suffers from schizophrenia, gravitating from well-written and often eloquent history to the turgid and almost incomprehensible language of sociology. Because the book attempts to be a sociology of the Holocaust, it apparently seeks to derive sociological principles from the experience and to use sociological principles to comprehend that tragedy. A problem from such an approach is that the author is really extrapolating from a single point. In order to avoid such a charge, Fein briefly includes a discussion of Turkish annihilation of the Armenians in 1915. Inclusion of this example of genocide does little to universalize Fein’s sociological principles or to comprehend the Holocaust, and the few pages on which she considers the Armenians could well have been eliminated from the book.
To a great extent the Nazis were able to destroy the Jewish population of Europe because they developed and rationalized a bureaucracy and a technology of death in which humanity was ignored. The humanity of Jews was denied, and Jews were abstracted into raw material to be processed. This process is poignantly described in R. Rubinstein’s The Cunning of History and, most importantly, in Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European...
(The entire section is 2167 words.)
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