A blog post

Holocausting everyone

Posted on the 02 February, 2011 at 9:26 pm Written by in Books, Research

I have finished reading Jonathan Littell’s The kindly ones, 1026 pages in the Norwegian translation, a remarkable book, even if I retain some scepticism on the psychology level. SS officers need not be personal killers, like the protagonist in this book, yet Littell’s way of treating this theme can also be seen as a way for creative literature to make its voice heard, to create an experimental field – and as such, very interesting.

The last part of the book contains a scathing critique of the idea that the Nazi gas chamber and elimination strategy was only directed against the Jews. It was directed against everyone “inferior” in Nazi race terms, the Jews were only the first victims. Empirically, in some contexts, the proportion of communists killed may have been as large as the proportion of Jews, and the main strategical matter was to eliminate everyone who were opposed to the new order.

Littell thereby also goes beyond David Goldhagen’s thesis that the holocaust was about the Jews and that more or less “any” German supported it. Littell’s fiction portrait of Nazi power basically willing to eliminate all opposition is more realistic. Goldhagen’s idea that almost every German was behind this, is not directly addressed by Littell, but is – mainly correct, I think – undermined by his storytelling, showing how even SS officers had a lot of private doubt and problems regarding the killing machine that they participated in.