the forgotten executioners

the forgotten executioners

Gštz Aly and Susanne Heim reveal the crucial role of academics and civil
servants in their meticulous history of the men behind the Holocaust,
Architects of Annihilation

Peter Preston
Sunday January 12, 2003
The Observer

Architects of Annihilation
by Gštz Aly and Susanne Heim
Weidenfeld & Nicholson £25, pp514

How, 60 years on, can there be anything fresh left to think, write or research
about the Holocaust? No scar on the human psyche has been more exhaustively
probed, no wound more constantly exposed. Yet this new work, from a couple of
young German historians, is still a revelation. It sidelines Hitler, Himmler
and the hateful rest, and looks beyond – at the civil servants who devised the
policy and the academics who gave it credibility.

Here was the underpinning of annihilation, these doctors and professors its
true architects, learned men and women who, after 1945, simply went back to
their university desks and carried on, as though million upon million of
murdered Jews, gypsies and Russians had nothing to do with them.

And the really chilling conclusion is that they were not zealots, madmen or
uniquely evil. They didn't turn on the taps in the gas chambers. They wrote dry
reports and analyses. They were, for the most part, demographers, town
planners, economists; respected chaps from respected institutions. Many of them
didn't dream of joining the Nazi party. They valued their 'academic
independence' too highly.

you have to know where you come from to realize where you are going, most of knowledge seems ahistorical, which is extremely problematice, because all moral positions rely on historical context.