* Lew’s Goodreads review of “The Twisted Road to Aushwitz” by Karl A. Schleunes
Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 13, 2016
This is one of the first books (published in 1970) to put the persecution of Jews by the Nazis into a sequential narrative context, and it is still valuable today even after many other works have added information not available to Schleunes.
The Nazi efforts to achieve the Jew-free Germany demanded by Hitler are described as a series of vicious programs which failed, from 1933 to 1938, to accomplish Hitler’s goal. Boycotts, legislation, emigration and pogroms all caused incredible hardship but still failed to eliminate Jews from Germany or even from the German economy. Finally, after Kristallknacht in November 1938, Hitler turned the Jewish problem over to Goering, Heydrich and Eichmann, which led to Auschwitz.
Schleunes argues that Nazi policy until late 1938 was implemented by various underlings acting without consistent direction from Hitler. From what I have so far read, I think this was true but not a complete analysis. Hitler’s fanatical Jew-hatred never wavered, from the moment he came to public attention in the early 1920s until his last statement before he died in 1945. But Hitler was patient, and his career is marked by a willingness to wait for the right opportunity and to defer action on one priority – ridding Germany of Jews – while focusing on the then-higher priorities of economic recovery and rearmament. When those goals had been achieved, and Germany no longer needed to be concerned with international opinion, Hitler turned to the Jews.
One aspect of the Nazi Jew-hatred that Schleunes does not address is why Hitler hated and feared Jews as he did, and why so many (most?) Germans had no problem accepting that hatred as valid and acquiescing in Hitler’s policies, even to the point of mass murder. Why were Jews hated? Where did Hitler acquire that hatred? Why was persecution of Jews so acceptable to so many Germans? These are issues I am dealing with in the almost completed A FLOOD OF EVIL (1923-1933) and the sequel which is now taking focus.