Why We Watched
A historian examines the mental landscape that allowed the Holocaust to happen.
(Page 2 of 2)
Jews were already suspect because of their religious beliefs, “odd” customs, and easy-to-spot looks, and they ended up as the primary scapegoats in spite of (and partly because of) their small numbers.Skip to next paragraph
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As a result, when the atrocities of the Nazis began to spread, Jews in Germany and the other lands it had recently come to control found it difficult to find asylum in other countries.
Part Two of the book focuses on the United States, as its various power structures allowed anti-Semitism to rule public policymaking, despite an avowed abhorrence of Hitler’s final solution.
Part Three of the book examines the grinding down of the European Jewish population while so many of the world’s citizens either watched from afar or averted their eyes.
Part Four of the book explains the transformed state of world Jewry after World War II. Part of the transformation involved the acceptance – much too late – of the fact that Hitler’s final solution should have been alleviated by intervention from the World War II allies, especially the governments of the United States, Britain, and France.
Scholarly, with rich narrative
Although the book is built on a hypothesis and therefore is frequently theoretical, it succeeds in part because Hamerow indeed peoples it with characters, from the obvious choices of Hitler, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt to religious leaders and nearly anonymous individuals, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
Another large part of the book’s success can be attributed to Hamerow’s writing style. Unlike most academic historians, he has mastered a conversational tone that never comes across as either condescending or stuffy.
Another excellent book about Jewry might appear in the future, assessing a world that no longer feels a need to grapple with a “Jewish question.” As Hamerow notes, the conflict over the Jewish question during the 20th century led to “vain hopes and failed aspirations.”
May the history of the 21st century “have a happier ending than the old one,” he writes.