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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .

The Holocaust
Peter Neville

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)
103pp. Index. Bibl.Pb.: £6.95/$11.95; ISBN 0-521-59501-0.

Neville's book is a study in brevity, a student's primer. Many readers will conclude that so short a work cannot do justice to a subject as ramified as the Holocaust. It is divided into nine narrative chapters, each utilizes an opening paragraph stating issues clearly, excerpts from primary and secondary sources of two or three sentences, and sharply focussed study questions. The book has a few well-chosen photographs, several charts, a map of camp locations, short bibliography, and a detailed chronology for 1933-45.

Neville handles several themes well, such as tracking Hitler's antisemitism as the master emotion of the führer. Neville's differentiation of Intentionalists from Functionalists is clear and precise. He makes the important point, usually ignored, that after Kristallnacht 40,000 German and Austrian Jews found refuge in Britain. Neville is judicious but too gentle on the Holocaust deniers: They are frauds, not "historians" or "analysts" or "revisionists"; he is sounder in concluding that they are "pseudo-academic, anti-Semitic fanatics" (72).

Clearly, however, Neville is no specialist on the Holocaust. To write a chapter on "The Killing Machine" without reckoning with Raul Hilberg's Destruction of the European Jews is unacceptable. Neville makes several questionable judgments. Thus, "instances of collaboration with the Nazis in Poland were virtually non-existent" (80). A great many Poles denounced Jews, exposed their hiding places, or attacked them directly in assaults, massacres, etc. Neville is balanced on the "silent" Pius XII, although passive is more accurate. It is strange to hear, regarding the Holocaust, that "the Catholic Church, in particular, has been reluctant to admit any error" (164); what of the Vatican's promulgation of Nostra Aetate, 1965, We Remember, 1998, and much else? Some residual No Popery? The presentation of Voltaire should include his being a flaming antisemite and the source of secular antisemitism. On Marx, rather than that he was a Jew, that he too was a flaming antisemite and, baptized in childhood, was not a Jew.

There are, unfortunately, numerous petty errors which may not vitiate the beginning student's approach to the Holocaust but which, nevertheless, mar the book. Victor Klemperer did not "perish" in the Holocaust, but survived to write a classic work on Nazi language. The caption of the photograph of Nuremberg defendants (84) errs badly-Albert Speer was given twenty years, not life, etc. Such errors should have been caught by manuscript reviewers or the Cambridge Perspectives in History editors: that is not the way of a great publishing house.

Professor Frederick M. Schweitzer
Manhattan College, Bronx, NY 10471

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