OPINIONSrnGermans in the Dockrnby Curtis Gatern’The German may be a good fellow, but it is better to hang him.”rn—Russian ProverbrnHitler’s Willing Executioners:rnOrdinary Germans and the Holocaustrnby Daniel ]onah GoldhagenrnNew York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.;rn622 pp., $30.00rnThis is a disturbing book: not simplyrnbecause the author, an assistantrnprofessor of government at Harvard,rnpoints an accusing finger at the Germanrnpeople whom he implicitly accuses ofrnhaving been Hitler’s willing accomplicesrnin the implementation of the “final solution”rn(the eradication of Jews from Germanrnsociety), but for its claim that therngeneral mood of anti-Semitism, pervadingrnall strata of German society in thern1930’s and making the holocaust possible,rnowed a great deal to age-old anti-rnJewish prejudices and stereotypes inculcatedrnand nourished by centuries ofrnCatholic and Protestant indoctrination.rnAs Daniel Goldhagen sums up in arnCurtis Gate is a historian and biographerrnliving in Paris.rnsweeping, simplistic formula: the “Jew,”rnregarded as an instrument of the Devil inrnthe medieval Age of Belief, came to bernregarded as the Devil himself when, fromrnthe beginning of the 19th century on, religiousrnfaith declined, and with it thernmedieval belief in Satan.rnNo one can honestly accuse DanielrnJonah Goldhagen of not having done hisrnhomework. The notes and source references,rnfilling more than 120 pages, attestrnto the diligence of the author’s researchrnduring the months he spent readingrnbooks and plowing through thousands ofrnpages of documents concerning specialrnpolice battalions and other death-camprnunits preserved at the Ludwigsburg Centerrnfor the Elucidation of National-SocialisticrnCrimes, near Stuttgart, and otherrnarchives centers in Hamburg, Koblenz,rnand Munich. (One is surprised, nevertheless,rnby the absence of a badly neededrnbibliography.)rnAll of the quotations needed to buttressrnhis thesis are there, from MartinrnLuther’s ferocious anathema againstrnJewish money-lenders (“Thev hold usrncaptive in our country. They let us workrnin the sweat of our noses, to earn moneyrnand property for them They… mockrnus and spit on us, because we work andrnpermit them to be lazy squires who ownrnus and our realm”) down to ThomasrnMann’s initial sigh of relief (“the Jewishrnpresence in the judiciary has been ended”),rnthe theologian Kad Barth’s denunciationrnof the Jews (an “obstinate andrnevil people”). In this context, Goldhagenrnquotes Pastor Niemoller’s belatedrnadmission in March 1946 that “Christianityrnin Germany bears a greater responsibilityrnthan the National Socialists, thernSS and the Gestapo.”rnNot surprisingly, this disturbing book,rnwith its inflammatory title and provocativerncentral thesis, stirred a furor in thernGerman press last April, not long afterrnthe publication of the American edition,rna furor that may well become a hurricanernwhen the German edition is published.rnThe general consensus—to judge by thernnewspaper and magazine articles I havernseen so far—is that Goldhagen’s book isrnexcessively one-sided (an extreme case ofrn”monocausality,” as one reviewer put it)rnand not particulady original, being large-rnDECEMBER 1996/27rnrnrn