“Superbly written and researched, synthesizing the classics while digging deep into a vast repository of primary sources.” —Josef Joffe, Wall Street Journal
Why? explores one of the most tragic events in human history by addressing eight of the most commonly asked questions about the Holocaust: Why the Jews? Why the Germans? Why murder? Why this swift and sweeping? Why didn’t more Jews fight back more often? Why did survival rates diverge? Why such limited help from outside? What legacies, what lessons?
An internationally acclaimed scholar, Peter Hayes brings a wealth of research and experience to bear on conventional views of the Holocaust, dispelling many misconceptions and challenging some of the most prominent recent interpretations.
About the Author
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.
Clearly written, cogently argued…courageously confronts some of the thorniest issues raised by the Shoah, making Why? Explaining the Holocaust an indispensable work for specialists and informed readers alike.
— Michael N. Dobkowski
[Hayes] show[s] a sophisticated and judicious mastery of the most up-to-date historical scholarship…This timely, level-headed book is a model of public engagement.
— Robert Eaglestone
Hayes has written a valuable book for today’s challenges, with perspective and sensitivity, that is, indeed, authoritative, readable and revealing.
Explain? Impossible. But Hayes’s timely, accessible book sheds light on the horror. In certain circumstances it reminds us that humans can rationalize anything.
I recommend this book for a lucid, well-crafted introduction to the history of the Holocaust. Unlike most works on the history of the Holocaust… Hayes’ book concentrates… on helping readers to understand why the Holocaust occurred when it did, in the manner it did and with the results it produced. It offers readers a window onto how historians go about finding answers to these questions.
— David Engel
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? Taking up this most difficult of challenges, his pages answer questions that many analysts dare not even ask, let alone answer. That is why 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. On every issue around which there has been either controversy or confusion—from the interrelationships between the Holocaust and the mass murder of individuals with disabilities to the motivations of the perpetrators, the economics of the killing operations, the special situation of Poland, the experiences of slave laborers, or the dimensions of Jewish resistance—Peter Hayes helpfully distills the debates and provides judicious, orienting assessments. 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
An original, informative, and essential addition to the field of Holocaust studies. It should be required reading for every introductory course on the Holocaust.
— Lawrence L. Langer, author of Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory and Using and Abusing the Holocaust
Peter Hayes poses eight key questions about the Holocaust and then analyzes and answers them with enviable mastery, succinctness, and clarity. Hayes’s arguments are presented with a scholarly authority that is judicious, compelling, and accessible. A gem of a book.
— Christopher R. Browning, Frank Porter Graham Professor of History Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill