With so much political activity and talk of revolution in Egypt, Tunisia, and the greater Middle East, perhaps it is time for us to revisit the darker side of resolutions and how regimes can affect the greater course of human history with decisive action. Indeed, when the object of “solving” measures is a targeted group of people, we see a range from humanizing benevolence, in the forms of enfranchisement, emancipation, and liberation, to tragedy—civil violence, slavery, and genocide.
Ian Kershaw’s Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution is a social history of the most infamous atrocity of the twentieth century, presented by one of the most distinguished historians of the period. He fully explores the mindset of the German people in the Third Reich, and Adolf Hitler’s termed “final solution of the Jewish question.” Drawing on research completed over the course of thirty years, Kershaw synthesizes his research to look at three main components: Hitler and the Final Solution; popular opinion and the Jews in Nazi Germany; and the Final Solution in historiography, that ultimately addresses the uniqueness of Nazism for our better understanding. In conversation with then-Editor of the Washington Post Book World, Marie Arana, Kershaw remarked that “the Third Reich shows in vivid form our terrible capacity for evil. But it is important to temper this pessimistic view of human nature with our immense capacity for good. Humanity has—and has had throughout history—a Janus face.” Hauntingly, or even fittingly, like January itself.