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Monday, February 1, 2016

Book Review: Masters of Death by Richard Rhodes

Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust by Richard Rhodes
E-book, 368 pages
December 18, 2007

Genre: Non-Fiction, History

Source: Personal purchase for my Masters program

In Masters of Death, Richard Rhodes gives full weight, for the first time, to the part played by the Einsatzgruppen - the professional killing squads deployed in Poland and the Soviet Union, early in World War II, by Himmler's SS. And he shows how these squads were utilized as the Nazis made two separate plans for dealing with the civilian populations they wanted to destroy. Drawing on Nuremberg Tribunal documents largely ignored until now, and on newly available material from eyewitnesses and survivors, Richard Rhodes has given us a book that is essential reading on the Holocaust the World War II.
Masters of Death digs in to one specific group that contributed to the Holocaust, the Einsatzgruppen. These were the men that were deployed out into the field and were the first to go into the cities and clean them out. They didn’t work in the concentration camps, but instead carried their work out on the scene. This was read for my Masters level class on the Nazis and introduced me to a whole new element of the Holocaust that I was previously ignorant to.

That being said, this was not a quick read. It was brutal and difficult to read, but necessary. The author is very detailed regarding the horrors of this group and the actions they carried out. I think is extremely valuable to understand how these men operated. The author spends a lot of time discussing a theory of criminology put forth by Lonnie Athens that is to explain how people are acclimated to violence and performing violence. While I do not buy into this theory, some might try to say that this is the author trying to show some of the men involved in these atrocities as not culpable of in a more sympathetic light; however, I feel that it presents them in more of a realistic light. I get the feeling that commitment to, participation in, and the incorporation of violence into their personality existed on a scale; some were sadistic and pure evil, while some may have been less committed to the cause and felt sick by what they saw or did.

This wasn’t something I would have picked up to read on my own volition, but it was a valuable experience and helps me to understand more of what transpired during this time period.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Richard Rhodes:

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb

Hedy’s Folly

John James Audubon

Arsenals of Folly

Hell and Good Company

Find Richard Rhodes: Website


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