Why?: Book summary and reviews of Why? by Peter Hayes

Why?

Explaining the Holocaust

by Peter Hayes

Why? by Peter Hayes X
Why? by Peter Hayes
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Book Summary

A bold new exploration that answers the most commonly asked questions about the Holocaust.

Despite the outpouring of books, movies, museums, memorials, and courses devoted to the Holocaust, a coherent explanation of why such ghastly carnage erupted from the heart of civilized Europe in the twentieth century still seems elusive even seventy years later. Numerous theories have sprouted in an attempt to console ourselves and to point the blame in emotionally satisfying directions - yet none of them are fully convincing. As witnesses to the Holocaust near the ends of their lives, it becomes that much more important to unravel what happened and to educate a new generation about the horrors inflicted by the Nazi regime on Jews and non-Jews alike.

Why? dispels many misconceptions and answers some of the most basic - yet vexing - questions that remain: why the Jews and not another ethnic group? Why the Germans? Why such a swift and sweeping extermination? Why didn't more Jews fight back more often? Why didn't they receive more help? While responding to the questions he has been most frequently asked by students over the decades, world-renowned Holocaust historian and professor Peter Hayes brings a wealth of scholarly research and experience to bear on conventional, popular views of the history, challenging some of the most prominent recent interpretations. He argues that there is no single theory that "explains" the Holocaust; the convergence of multiple forces at a particular moment in time led to catastrophe.

In clear prose informed by an encyclopedic knowledge of Holocaust literature in English and German, Hayes weaves together stories and statistics to heart-stopping effect. Why? is an authoritative, groundbreaking exploration of the origins of one of the most tragic events in human history.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This noteworthy book is a chilling compendium of warning signs, past and present." - Kirkus

"Hayes reveals the virtues of dealing with this overwhelming subject in a topical rather than a chronological way." - Publishers Weekly

"In a narrative brimming with historical sources, Hayes's work is required reading for history scholars, amateur history buffs, and anyone interested in answering necessary questions surrounding this tragedy." - Library Journal

"A fascinating, remarkably lucid, compulsively readable explanation of how the mass murder of Europe's Jews came about and how it transpired in the middle of the twentieth century." - David I. Kertzer, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Pope and Mussolini

"Calmly argued, alert to the most recent scholarship about the Holocaust, and full of good sense, Peter Hayes's new book carries an essential title asked universally: Why? Why did such a thing happen? ... this work should be required reading, both for specialists and for those who seek more recently to understand." - Michael R. Marrus, Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto and author of Lessons of the Holocaust

"This book is outstanding - beautifully written, with enviable clarity of argument, countless instructive details, and memorable, evocative images ... A masterful, indispensable, landmark work." - Dagmar Herzog, distinguished professor of history and the Daniel Rose Faculty Scholar at the Graduate Center, City University of New York

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Author Information

Peter Hayes

Peter Hayes is professor of history and German and Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Professor of Holocaust Studies Emeritus at Northwestern University and chair of the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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