Saul Friedlander: Interviewed about the Holocaust by Spiegel

Historians in the News

Israeli historian Saul Friedländer -- winner of the 2007 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to be presented this week at the Frankfurt Book Fair -- spoke to SPIEGEL about the importance of victims' accounts in researching the Holocaust and the failure of efforts in Germany to draw a line under the issue.

SPIEGEL: Professor Friedländer, in contrast to other accounts of the history of the Holocaust, in your book "Nazi Germany and the Jews, the Years of Extermination," you give us ample opportunity to hear from the victims through diaries and letters. Why didn't you limit your focus to the history of the perpetrators?
Saul Friedländer: Because that's not enough. We basically still needed a book that went beyond an analysis of German politics and included the environment -- in other words, the churches, the elites, the general population in Germany and in other countries -- and incorporated the voices of the victims, of those who were murdered.

SPIEGEL: Were you interested in the educational effect here, since the horror becomes more vivid this way?

Friedländer: No, many aspects only become clear from an examination of the victims' sources, not from official documents. For instance, the fact that the Jews in Germany and Western Europe didn't know what was going on -- and in Eastern Europe they didn't want to believe what they saw. Take my parents -- after their deportation from France in 1942, a friend wrote to my grandmother, who lived in Stockholm, to say that my parents had been sent to Germany or to a Jewish reservation in Poland. He had no idea that they had been murdered....
Read entire article at Spiegel

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