The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution

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Plunkett Lake Press, 2022 M09 5
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“[A] historian’s carefully researched work, based on a vast array of sources, documenting Hitler’s and Himmler’s responsibility for the murder of European Jewry. The book details the planning and the improvisations, but emphasizes the former and Himmler’s fanatical hatred of the Jewish race as the determinative cause of the Holocaust. Dealing with a charged controversy, Breitman makes a powerful case that by March 1941 ‘the Final Solution was just a matter of time — and timing,’ i.e., that the Holocaust was not a reflex of Hitler’s fear that the war in Russia could not be won. Breitman argues that the Wannsee Conference merely ratified the plans and instructed other agencies to cooperate. Breitman records the instances of resistance or opposition, but notes that of course the cooperation of thousands (many still alive and never tried) and the complicity or silence of millions were needed to carry out the murder... the book concludes that Himmler’s ‘brutality was more learned than instinctive or emotional’ — a methodical murderer impelled by racist dogma.” — Foreign Affairs

“Breitman’s book is decisively important... [It] should serve for years to come as required reading for all who wish to make sense of the Holocaust.” — Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, The New Republic

“Looking nothing like the Nordic ideal he advocated, Heinrich Himmler, chief of the Nazi SS, was short, flabby and balding — his dull, pedantic exterior disguising the caustic, cowardly, Machiavellian, immensely cruel master of deceit within. Breitman... presents compelling evidence that the extermination of Jews was an early goal of Himmler, a Bavarian and lapsed Catholic, and his boss Adolf Hitler. Drawing on previously untapped German records, as well as other source materials... this engrossing, detailed study constitutes a powerful refutation of revisionist scholars who claim that Hitler did not plan the Final Solution in advance but instead improvised it out of either military or political frustration.” — Publishers Weekly

“A truly path-breaking book, one of the few that will have a lasting impact on historical research of the period. It shows both the primacy of Hitler as the motivating force in the mass murder, and the way in which his initiatives were accepted and internalized by the SS, on the basis of ideology.” — Holocaust and Genocide Studies

“Chilling, expert history.” — Kirkus

“[A]n eminently sensible and judicious study that could well serve as a textbook on the topic.” — The Historian

“Breitman’s research [is] meticulous. Especially valuable are his novel insights into the full and frequent communication between Himmler and Hitler, who, it is known, seldom signed an order. Mr. Breitman presents his arguments cogently.” — Michael H. Kater, The New York Times

“An absorbing, important book [that] addresses the sequence of steps leading to the Final Solution.” — Financial Times

“As Breitman persuasively demonstrates, the situation kept changing, but Hitler was always in charge, and his goals always included ridding his empire of the Jews.” — Los Angeles Times

“Breitman is on the hunt for smoking guns. He finds the goods littered throughout Himmler’s speeches and conversations... Breitman shows that people knew.” — Washington Post Book World

“The book is chillingly good on the uses and abuses of language to mask atrocity.” — Newsday

“Breitman’s study is an important addition to [the] literature [on the origins of the Nazi genocide], one that provides the most likely scenario and settles important disputed questions... Breitman’s study is a major step forward in our understanding of how the Nazis initiated mass murder.” — German Studies Review

“[An] important book... I much admire this work, particularly for its resourceful combing of primary material... there is much to learn from this book about the Final Solution, its origins, its implementation, and its hate-inspired architect” — The American Historical Review


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THE ARCHITECT OF GENOCIDE: Himmler and the Final Solution

User Review  - Kirkus

An able analysis by Breitman (History/American Univ.) of Heinrich Himmler and the Holocaust he helped to spawn. By examining the roles played by major Nazis other than Hitler-Goering, Frank, Goebbels ... Read full review


Hitler Himmler and the
Plans for German Jews
Racial Planning and Euthanasia
Racial Education and the Military
To Madagascar and Back
Toward the Final Solution
Cleansing the New Empire
Heydrichs Plan
Rivals into Collaborators
Wannsee and Beyond
Epilogue Himmler in Retrospect
Glossary of Titles and Special Terms
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About the author (2022)

Born in 1947 in Hartford, Connecticut, Richard Breitman credits his West Hartford public high school history teacher Robert Derosier with bringing European history to life for him. Breitman graduated from Yale and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at Harvard. His first book, German Socialism and Weimar Democracy which explored the tensions between socialist goals and democratic convictions in the Social Democratic Party of Germany during the Weimar Republic, appeared in 1981.

Breitman read a 1983 article by historian Walter Laqueur about an anonymous German industrialist who in 1942 brought to the West information about Hitler’s planned use of gas chambers and crematoria to destroy European Jewry. Breitman proved that the industrialist was Eduard Schulte, a prominent but secretly anti-Nazi CEO of a large mining firm who traveled frequently between Germany and Switzerland. Breitman and Laqueur then wrote Breaking the Silence: the German Who Exposed the Final Solution.

In 1994, Breitman asked the National Security Agency to declassify its holdings of World War II intercepts and decodes of radio messages. As a result, the NSA Historical Cryptographic Collection, amounting to some 1.3 million pages, was turned over to the US National Archives. In this mass, Breitman found a small file of British decodes of German police radio messages, still unavailable in the United Kingdom, that revealed important information about the first stage of the Holocaust. Prodded by Parliament, the British government followed with its own, larger, declassification of German decodes. Breitman mined both British and American archives for his 1998 book Official Secrets: What the Nazis Planned, What the British and Americans Knew.

Breitman then served as director of historical research for a small US government body set up to oversee implementation of a 1998 declassification law regarding Nazi war crimes. This organization helped to declassify more than eight million pages of US government records, and a team of four historians used them to write a 2005 book on US Intelligence and the Nazis.

Among Breitman’s 13 books are the prize-winning The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution, stressing Himmler’s central planning of the Holocaust, and FDR and the Jews, co-authored with Allan J. Lichtman, which argued that Roosevelt’s policies toward European Jewry fluctuated substantially over time according to circumstances, political calculations, and constraints.

Breitman joined American University’s history department as assistant professor in 1976 and retired as distinguished professor emeritus in 2015. For 25 years, he served as editor of the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies. In 1999 he received an honorary doctorate from Hebrew Union College, and in 2018 a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Holocaust Educational Foundation.

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