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Nazi Terror:
The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans

Author: Eric A. Johnson
Paperback -
656 pages 0 edition (November 2000)
Basic Books
ISBN: 0465049087
Dimensions (in inches): 1.71 x 8.01 x 5.28

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Table of Contents

List of Tables
PART I: Nazi Terror and the Gestapo
Locating Nazi Terror: Setting,
Interpretations, Evidence
Inside Gestapo Headquarters: The Agents of the Terror
PART II: Nazi Terror and the Jews,
The Course of Jewish Persecution in the Prewar Years
A Closer Look: Survivors' Recollections and
Jewish Case Files
PART III: Nazi Terror and Potential Opponents, 1933--1939
Destroying the Left
The Cross and the Swastika: Quieting Religious Opposition
PART IV: Nazi Terror and ``Ordinary'' Germans
Nazi Terror and ``Ordinary'' Germans:

Nazi Terror and ``Ordinary'' Germans: The War Years
A Summation: Defendants, Denouncers, and Nazi Terror
PART V: The Gestapo, ``Ordinary'' Germans, and
the Murder of the Jews
Persecution and Deportation, 1939--1942
Murder One by One, 1943--1945
Mass Murder, Mass Silence
PART VI: Aftermath and Conclusions
Christmas Presents for the Gestapo

Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews and Ordinary Germans reconciles conflicting interpretations of the Nazi regime and its genocidal policies by focusing on how both party officials and average individuals created and maintained the totalitarianism that gripped German society from 1933 to the end of World War II. Eric A. Johnson argues that historians have understood the authoritarian nature of the National Socialist state in two ways. Scholarship in the 1970's and 1980's highlighted the average person's resistance to the terror fostered by panoptic and ruthless police agencies, while more current investigations show that the Gestapo and related organizations often had less power than was previously assumed. These studies stress the roles played by citizens in the execution of Nazi policies. The most notable example of this interpretation is Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's chilling Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.

Johnson argues that ordinary Germans did not willfully intend to harm others, though their cowardice and apathy made the implementation of Nazi policies possible. Drawing from court records and Gestapo files from the area around Cologne, a region that had demonstrated only lukewarm support for the Nazis in elections, Johnson shows that Germans' participation in the Third Reich was not heavily driven by images of anti-Semitism but by a routine obedience to the state. In an era filled with disreputable Holocaust revisionism, Johnson lays to rest questions of accountability by showing who exactly is to blame. Detailed and compelling, Nazi Terror provides a stark, and at times moving, portrait of how individual people took part in the greatest moral quandary of the 20th century. --James Highfill --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

The New York Times Book Review, Barry Gewen
The great virtue of Nazi Terror ... is the high degree of levelheadedness and common sense, backed by painstaking research, it brings to questions that unfailingly provoke agitated debate. --This text refers to the
Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews
Following on the heels of the groundbreaking scholarship of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen and Christopher Browning, Johnson (History/Central Michigan Univ.; Urbanization and Crime, not reviewed, etc.) takes a chilling look at what motivated the German people to pursue the course of the war and the Holocaust. Writing with a vigor and economy that belie his academic background, Johnson focuses his attention on three locales in the Rhineland regionCologne, Krefeld, and Bergheimsifting through layer upon layer of social mores and records to analyze the ways the general population reacted to and participated in Nazi atrocities. The boundaries of his studyestablished by cases tried in the Special Courts ordained in various cities (where political offenders were prosecuted) and Gestapo files (where many cases ended without an official prosecution)are fleshed out by means of extensive interviews with Jewish survivors, German perpetrators, and other German citizens. Johnson argues that although the National Socialists routinely and consciously used terror as a tool against their enemies, not all objects of this terror were treated equally. The states fearsome, and fearsomely arbitrary, apparatus directed constant terror against some groups (Jews, Communists, Jehovahs Witnesses), partial or intermittent terror against others (e.g., the clergy), and none at all against still others (party members and some lucky ordinary Germans). Johnson concludes that Nazi terror, though a factor, was by no means the sole factor in motivating the German people, many of them moved by anti-Semitism or the thirst for petty revenge, to participate in the Holocaust. The interviews, along with the authors narrative skills, keep the text moving, making its 600 pages seem far shorter than its heft would suggest. A fascinating look at ordinary life, terror, and persecution during the Holocaust. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the
Hardcover edition.

New York Times Book Review
"Painstaking. . .provocative."

Publishers Weekly (boxed and starred)
"This is a benchmark work in Holocaust studies."

Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"A fascinating look at ordinary life, terror, and persecution during the Holocaust."

Book Description
Destined to become the classic study of terror in the Nazi dictatorship, and the benchmark for the next generation of Nazi and Holocaust scholarship. Nazi Terror tackles the central aspect of the Nazi dictatorship head on by focusing on the roles of the individual and of society in making terror work. Based on years of research in Gestapo archives, on more than 1,100 Gestapo and "special court" case files, and on surveys and interviews with German perpetrators, Jewish victims and ordinary Germans who experienced the Third Reich firsthand, Johnson's book settles many nagging questions about who, exactly, was responsible for what, who knew what, and when they knew it. Nazi Terror is the most fine-grained portrait we may ever have of the mechanism of terror in a dictatorship.

About the Author
Eric A. Johnson is the author of Urbanization and Crime: Germany 1871-1914 and The Civilization of Crime: Violence in Town and Country Since the Middle Ages. A professor of history at Central Michigan University and a fellow of The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, he lives in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.


Nazi Terror
The Gestapo, Jews, and the ordinary citizens.

In recent decades there has been considerable scholarship about the police system in Nazi Germany, about the behavior of ordinary Germans during those years, and on the relationship of the police in daily life to the German population and the role of the latter in the persecution of the Jews. Eric Johnson's book looks at these issues in a new way that should help define how Nazi Germany is seen in the future. The author has checked with great care the records of a large German dry, a small dry, and a little town for the whole period of Nazi rule to see what actually happened: who was picked up and what for; what happened to those arrested; who was sent to prison and who to concentration camps; what happened to specific segments of the population, such as the Jews, the religious leaders, the communists; who seined in the secret police; how the police operated; how the courts worked; what happened to police officials after the war. Johnson provides numerous individual examples from the time so that the reader gets a picture of life in Nazi Germany both before and during World War II. He has carefully checked the records, interviewed people, and examined other local studies. The resulting picture is well written and multidimensional; it compares the prior works of such able scholars as Robert Gellately with his own findings and illuminates the character of Nazi rule, popular reaction to it, and changes over time.

The acquiescence of major institutions
Perhaps the most striking feature Johnson points to is that the overwhelming majority had no need to fear a police that overlooked-and quite deliberately-the vast mass of violations such as the prohibition on listening to foreign broadcasts during the war. Always sensitive to the mood of the pub-' lic, the police were careful to pressure those elements the public was willing to see persecuted: Jews, communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, male homosexuals. In this the police had the support, or at least the acquiescence, of other dozens. The leadership of the churches accommodated itself to the regime, and when local ministers and priests acted in ways the regime did not like, their activities were usually overlooked or punished lightly lest the parishioners become disaffected.

The author is especially careful in delineating the backgrounds and careers of those in the police apparatus. After the war they had their years and promotions counted toward their pensions as local elites rallied to their defense and made sure that none were punished. It is worth noting that the police shared one essentially uniform characteristic: they were very strongly anti-Semitic. Denunciation was less prevalent than often thought, and it was followed by police action primarily in cases involving Jews.

The author points out that during the war the number of police inside Germany decreased at a time when millions of prisoners of war and other forced laborers were brought into the country. Penalties became harsher, but most death sentences were against foreigners, not Germans. There were new types of offenses, and toward the end of the war the police at times acted with terrible ruthlessness, but until the last days most Germans did not have to worry too much about the police as the number of cases taken to court decreased. "Most Germans knew what was happening"

Stressing the fact that the persecution of Jews took place in public from the restrictions of the 1930s to the deportations of the war years, and the extensive coverage of the systematic murder of Jews by the British Broadcasting Company in December 1942, Johnson explains that most Germans knew what was happening, whatever their protestations later. The book also illustrates by its presentation of cases the extent to which choices and decisions by individual Germans and policemen mold affect the fate of Jews. What Johnson has overlooked is that Jews in Germany were subject to various legal restrictions until 1919, so that for Jews who had grown up knowing those restrictions, the actions of the Nazi government until the pogrom of November 1938 looked like a return to a past-unwelcome, but one in which Jews had lived for centuries-rather than steps toward a new goal.

Not all mill agree with Johnson's depiction of a Gestapo that concentrated on a tiny proportion of the German population with the tacit consent of the overwhelming majority, who were left alone even when they broke some rule or told a joke about their leaders. But disagreement will need to be based on more than established wisdom; it will require the most careful research. "With carefully grounded archival research and interviews, Eric Johnson adds an insightful contribution to the issue of ordinary Germans and responsibility for the Holocaust:" -Charles S. Maier, Harvard University

ERIC A. JOHNSON is Professor of History at Central Michigan University, a fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, and a former member of Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Study. 6180pages 6", 9" photos, tables, notes, bibliography, index


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