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All Or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941-43

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All Or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941-43

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All Or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941-43
By Jonathan Steinberg
Routledge: 2002
ISBN: 0-415-29069-4


Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - March 12, 2003

Allies that held similar beliefs, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy seemed to be mirror images of each. Both countries were ruled by megalomanic dictators, both had severe racial laws, and both countries had a decided Anti-Semitic streak. Despite these similarities, the two countries differed dramatically in how the Jews in their own country, as well as in the countries they occupied were treated.

In Nazi Germany, the Jews were robbed of their wealth and then readily assigned to death. Jews in conquered countries, as well as Jews that were German citizens were rounded up and murdered outright, or ship to concentration camps to die in the gas chambers or to be worked to death as slave laborers. In Nazi Germany, people from all walks of life conspired to aid in the extermination of the Jews.

In Fascist Italy, the treatment of the Jews was remarkably dissimilar to that meted out by the Nazis. In Italy, there was a large 'conspiracy' to save the Jews that involved numerous high-ranking government officials and military officers. Thanks to their efforts, very few Jews that fell under Italian dominion during World War II were slaughtered or sent off to concentration camps. Even when the Germans tried to pressure the Italians to 'give up' their Jews, the Italians did not budge. Regrettably, toward the end of the war, when Italy signed an armistice with the Allied powers, Germany took over many areas previously occupied by Italy. Many Jews in these regions perished during the short German occupation. For example, the Nazis took control of the Corfu from the Italians, around September of 1943. In June of 1944, 1,800 of the 2,000 Jews living on Corfu were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Today there are less than 100 Jews living on Corfu.

In All Or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941-43, Jonathan Steinberg offers an astute overview of how Nazi German and Fascist Italy differed in their treatment toward the Jews. He examines why there were such differences between two seemingly similar societies. He also looks at the factors that induced so many Italians to protect the Jews. Both those that were Italian citizens, as well as Jewish refugees and those in occupied territories.

This book is divided into two sections. In the first section, Steinberg presents the facts regarding the differences between the two regimes and their attitudes toward the Jews. In the second part of the book, Steinberg presents his theories and conclusions that he has developed regarding the material presented in the first part of the book, especially regarding the motives of those that strove to protect the Jews. As Steinberg explains in his introduction to the second section of the book, his goal was to attempt to answer the following questions, "Why did the Nazi regime murder millions of Jews?" and "...why did some Italian diplomats and soldiers save Jews at a certain time and place while their German colleagues helped to murder them?" (Pg. 167.) The answers that evolved from his research are eye opening and extraordinary, and this book is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the involvement of the Italians in the Holocaust.

Steinberg is a respected European historian. His comparison of the two Axis powers is impressive and as relevant today as when this book was first released in 1990. In this new edition of All or Nothing Steinberg has added a new introduction that explores the changes in historiography that have occurred since the book was first written and how these changes have affected the topics covered in this book. To this end, he has included a new bibliography that details relevant works that have emerged since this book was first published. His original bibliography is also included, covering works published before 1990. Extensive endnotes are also included.

All Or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941-43 is a fascinating and moving book that looks at an often overlooked aspect of the Holocaust. This important book should be required reading in any course on the Holocaust. It is also suitable for use in Italian, European and World War II history courses, on both the undergraduate and graduate levels.


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