That is not what the controversy about Goldhagen's book was about.
gkaplan wrote:I'm a little over half way through Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing and Dying: The Secret World War II Transcripts of German POWs by Sönke Neitzel and Harald Welzer. British intelligence recorded these transcripts in hopes of gaining information that might be useful in the Allied war effort; however, the transcripts proved to be of little value in that regard. What the transcripts did provide, though, was a window into the minds of the soldiers in the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, and the German navy and disproved once and for all the myth that the German armed forces were not complicit in war crimes to the degree that the Waffen SS was. (Daniel Goldhagen made the same point some fifteen years earlier in his late 1990s book Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, a book that was met with much criticism and hostility.)
Dry reading (Neitzel, a historian, and Welzer, a social psychologist, are not as accomplished writers as Goldhagen) but well worth the effort.
(or at least it was largely not about that-- as below, it has come to be accepted in modern Germany that 'ordinary' Wehrmacht soldiers were participants in the Holocaust).
There was a touring exhibition in Germany in the early 1990s, called something like 'War Crimes of the Wehrmacht' that made the point that the regular German forces were heavily involved in the perpetration of the Holocaust (over half of the victims of the Holocaust were killed by 'retail' means-- ie bullets, garrots etc, the death camps were actually quite late). It was heavily visited and widely discussed in Germany at the time: the exhibition had documentary evidence from diaries, photographs, home movies taken by german soldiers to support its contentions.
The debate about Goldhagen's book, which was huge in Germany, was about his contention that German history and society had *uniquely* anti semitic roots, ie the Holocaust was quite specifically a *German* thing, would not have happened in other countries.
The best riposte to Goldhagen was Browning's book 'Ordinary Men: Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution'
http://www.amazon.com/Ordinary-Men-Rese ... 0060995068
This was an ordinary German reserve military unit, made up of professional policemen. They were not required to participate in the Final Solution-- they were offered alternative service. But, largely, they chose to do so-- the unit killed 10s of thousands of Jews and other targets in occupied Poland.
This is well in line with the Milgrom experiment and other psychological evidence. Such as the massacre by the Americal division at the village of My Lai in Vietnam, whose playbook was right out of the Final Solution (even down to stopping for lunch). Given legitimate authority, most humans who are part of a group, a uniformed group, will adhere to the social norm-- even if that means mass slaughter.
The evidence suggests that Goldhagen is wrong. Germany, which had the longest history in continental Europe of Jewish integration into society (there weren't ghettoes any more in pre 1933 Germany, whereas there were in Poland etc.; many Jews went to the gas chambers clutching military decorations they had won fighting for Germany in WW1), was not unique in having the Holocaust. The enthusiastic participation by citizens of other countries (France, Latvia, Poland, Hungary etc.) in the Holocaust substantiates that, ditto the wide sweep of the barrel of the Holocaust (not just Jews, but homosexuals, resistance fighters, leftists etc.).
The message of the Holocaust is pretty clear: change the norms around which people operate, and they will do terrible things-- especially if in uniform in a miltiary or paramilitary setting. The behaviour of Allied forces fighting the Japanese (see the documentary and book 'Hell in the Pacific'), the Japanese behaviour towards Allied forces and POWs in turn, the Japanese atrocities in China, and various western 'reprisals' in colonies (Belgium in the Congo first and foremost, but others as well eg British concentration camps in Kenya and South Africa) all point in that direction.
The Holocaust was not a uniquely German thing (although the industrial efficiency had a distinctly Germanic genius for organization) it was at the very least a European thing, if not a human thing.