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Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: War and Genocide by Doris L. Bergen

War & Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust by Doris L. Bergen
Kindle, e-Book, 263 pages
Rowman and Littlefield Publishers
October 23, 2002

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Personal purchase for my Masters class
In examining one of the defining events of the 20th century, Doris Bergen situates the Holocaust in its historical, political, social, cultural and military contexts. Unlike many other treatments of the Holocaust, Nazism, World War II and the Holocaust discusses not only the persecution of Jews, but also other segments of society victimized by the Nazis: gypsies, homosexuals, Poles, Soviet POWs, the handicapped, and other groups deemed undesirable. With clear and eloquent prose, Bergen explores the two interconnected goals that drove the Nazi program of conquest and genocide - purification of the so-called Aryan race and expansion of its living space - and discusses how these goals affected the course of World War II. Including first-hand accounts from perpetrators, victims and eyewitnesses, the book is immediate, human and eminently readable.
I found War and Genocide to be an interesting read because it covered some niche areas that were not focused on in other books I was reading at that same time. While Bergen doesn’t spend as much time on the broad concepts of the war (she definitely touches on them), she digs in to smaller issues, for example, other victims of the Nazi actions. She analyzes the effects on the Jews, but also homosexuals, Communists, the disabled, and more. This was what I found new and informative because I had not heard of attacks on other populations during the rise of the Nazi party in other classes or readings which focus primarily on the attack on Jews. Bergen sticks with her thesis of the Nazi race and space rationale throughout the entire book.

The structure of this book is one that is easily readable and actually lends itself to bite sized reading; the sections are short and many, so you can certainly read this in between different events in your day. Also included, throughout the text, are many photos that enhance the reading. I always find photos integrated into the text more useful than a section centralized to the center of the text because you are provided with context. Interspersed in the text are anecdotal stories of everyday people who experienced something related to the focus of that section: for example, the stories of children forced into hiding.

At the end of the text the author provides an extensive list of sources that you can go to for further reading (broken up by chapters), but it doesn’t have a standard bibliography or footnotes which makes it challenging to fact check, but makes the book more readable.

If you are looking for a book that will give you a solid overview and understanding of the Nazi evolution and WWII, this isn’t that book. But if you already have an understanding of the generalities and are looking for a book that will dig in to different aspects this might be the book for yet.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by Doris Bergen:

The Holocaust

Twisted Cross


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Sounds like you have to have some idea of the background of this subject before you delve into it. Glad you liked it.

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