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Nazi Germany and the Jews, Volume I: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939

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Nazi Germany and the Jews

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Nazi Germany and the Jews
Volume I: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939
By Saul Friedlšnder
Harper Perennial, 1997
ISBN: 0-06-092878-6

Reviewed by Zev Harris - November 28, 2008

Nazi Germany and the Jews, Volume I: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 is the first of a two-volume series in which Saul Friedlšnder provides a comprehensive, academically rigorous, yet eminently readable account of the Holocaust. Friedlšnder, a professor of history at UCLA, spent his childhood in Nazi occupied France, and has since become a noted authority of Nazi Germany, World War II, and the Holocaust.

Working chronologically, Friedlšnder chronicles the rise of Nazism and the corresponding rise in persecution of German Jews. He also examines the steps that led Germany to war, and the numerous factors that inevitably led Nazi Germany to attempt to exterminate all of Europe's Jews. Throughout, he provides details about the advent of anti-Jewish laws and policies, and why so many Germans, from every walk of life, gave their explicit or tacit approval to these forms of institutionalized antisemitism. These laws and polices, combined with prevailing antisemitic attitudes and cultural biases laid the foundation for the Holocaust and the mass murder of more than six million Jews.

Nazi Germany and the Jews, Volume I: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 is a masterful work that chronicles, in detail, the increasingly onerous demands placed upon Jews and the ever increasing physical danger that they were in as the Nazi's solidified their power and their anti-Jewish polices gained wide acceptance. Most important, he examines how these policies fostered German political goals, and how they affected both Jewish and non-Jewish Germans.

In writing this book, Friedlšnder looks at the issue from both sides, providing a voice to both the victims of Nazi persecution as well as to the perpetrators and their accomplices. Throughout you will find excerpts from letters, diaries, and other documents that provide a unique glimpse into the lives and thoughts of the people who lived through the events described.

Balanced, unbiased, and informative, Nazi Germany and the Jews, Volume I: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand why Germany strong-armed its way into a devastating war. Most important, this book shows the methodical steps that the Nazis took in establishing the foundation for their 'final solution' and why many German Jews did not appreciate the danger that was growing around them.

The paperback version of this book features extensive endnotes and a generous bibliography that will prove invaluable to students of the Holocaust. Best of all, Friedlšnder's writing style is engaging and vibrant, making this complex book accessible to both general readers and scholars with an interest in the Holocaust, World War II, and the history of Nazi Germany.

Nazi Germany and the Jews, Volume I: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 was first published in 1997, and it has been a long wait for the concluding volume in this series. However, the wait is over. The second volume in this series, The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 was released this year, and it concludes Friedlšnder's history of the Holocaust. I highly recommend both of these books.


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