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Holocaust Memorial Day: A Reading List

Verso Books27 January 2016

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To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, a day of commemoration dedicated to the remembrance of those who suffered in The Holocaust under Nazi persecution, and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur and elsewhere, we present the following reading list. The books explore the multi-faceted nature of the European catastrophe that was the Holocaust and its diffuse and ongoing effects in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere, as well as books that examine conflicts leading to the persecution and genocide of peoples in Turkey, Darfur, Rwanda and elsewhere.  

Auschwitz Report
by Primo Levi and Leonardo De Benedetti

While in a Russian-administered holding camp in Katowice, Poland, in 1945, Primo Levi was asked to provide a report on living conditions in Auschwitz. Published the following year, it was subsequently forgotten and remained unknown to a wider public.

Dating from the weeks and months immediately after the war, Auschwitz Report details the authors’ harrowing deportation to Auschwitz, and how those who disembarked from the train were selected for work or extermination. As well as being a searing narrative of everyday life in the camp, and the organization and working of the gas chambers, it constitutes Levi’s first lucid attempts to come to terms with the raw horror of events that would drive him to create some of the greatest works of twentieth-century literature and testimony. Auschwitz Report is a major literary and historical discovery. Read an extract on the Verso blog.

Boy 30529: A Memoir
by Felix Weinberg

In 1939 twelve-year-old Felix Weinberg fell into the hands of the Nazis. Imprisoned for most of his teenage life, Felix survived five concentration camps, including Terezin, Auschwitz, and Birkenau, barely surviving the Death March from Blechhammer in 1945. After losing his mother and brother in the camps, he was liberated at Buchenwald and eventually reunited at seventeen with his father in Britain, where they built a new life together. 

Boy 30529 is an extraordinary memoir of the Holocaust, as well as a moving meditation on the nature of memory.

Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide 
by Linda Melvern
Linda Melvern's probing account of the events that led to the Rwandan genocide in 1994, one of the most appalling events of the twentieth century. Voted the Best Book on Africa by Foreign Affairs and Outstanding Academic Title by Choice, the book is a damning indictment of almost all the key figures and institutions involved amounts to a catalogue of failures that only serves to sharpen the horror of a tragedy that could have been avoided. (the estimated death toll is between half a million and one million).

Telling Lies About Hitler: The Holocaust, History and the David Irving Trial by Richard J. Evans
In April 2000 a High Court judge branded the writer David Irving a racist, an antisemite, a Holocaust denier, and a falsifier of history. The key expert witness against Irving was the Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans who describes here, in a book which several publishers have been intimidated into withdrawing, his involvement in the case. Recounting his discovery of Irving's connections with far right Holocaust deniers in the United States and of how Irving falsified the documentary evidence on the Second World War, Evans reflects eloquently on the interaction of historical and legal rules of evidence.
Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?: The "Final Solution" in History
by Arno Mayer

Was the extermination of the Jews part of the Nazi plan from the very start? Arno Mayer offers astartling and compelling answer to this question, which is much debated among historians today.In doing so, he provides one of the most thorough and convincing explanations of how the genocidecame about in Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?, which provoked widespread interest and controversywhen first published.

Mayer demonstrates that, while the Nazis' anti-Semitism was always virulent, it did not becomegenocidal until well into the Second World War, when the failure of their massive, all-or-nothingcampaign against Russia triggered the Final Solution. He details the steps leading up to thisenormity, showing how the institutional and ideological frameworks that made it possible evolved,and how both related to the debacle in the Eastern theater. In this way, the Judeocide is placedwithin the larger context of European history, showing how similar 'holy causes' in the past havetriggered analogous – if far less cataclysmic – infamies.

Saviours and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror
by Mahmood Mamdani

Saviours and Survivors is the first account of the Darfur crisis to consider recent events within the broad context of Sudan's history, and to examine the efficacy of the world's response to the ongoing violence. Illuminating the deeply rooted causes of the current conflict, Mamdani works from its colonial and Cold War origins to the war's intensification from the 1990s to the present day. Examining how the conflict has drawn in national, regional, and global forces, Mamdani deconstructs the powerful Western lobby's persistent calls for a military response dressed up as "humanitarian intervention". Incisive and authoritative, Saviours and Survivors will radically alter our understanding of the crisis in Darfur.

Fire and Blood: The European Civil War, 1914-1945
by Enzo Traverso

Fire and Blood
 looks at the European crisis of the two world wars as a single historical sequence: the age of the European Civil War (1914–1945). Its overture was played out in the trenches of the Great War; its coda on a ruined continent. It opened with conventional declarations of war and finished with “unconditional surrender.” Proclamations of national unity led to eventual devastation, with entire countries torn to pieces. During these three decades of deepening conflicts, a classical interstate conflict morphed into a global civil war, abandoning rules of engagement and fought by irreducible enemies rather than legitimate adversaries, each seeking the annihilation of its opponents. It was a time of both unchained passions and industrial, rationalized massacre. Utilizing multiple sources, Enzo Traverso depicts the dialectic of this era of wars, revolutions and genocides. Rejecting commonplace notions of “totalitarian evil,” he rediscovers the feelings and reinterprets the ideas of an age of intellectual and political commitment when Europe shaped world history with its own collapse.

Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State
by Götz Aly   In this groundbreaking book, historian Gotz Aly addresses one of modern history’s greatest conundrums: How did Hitler win the allegiance of ordinary Germans? The answer is as shocking as it is persuasive. By engaging in a campaign of theft on an almost unimaginable scale—and by channeling the proceeds into generous social programs—Hitler literally ‘bought’ his people’s consent. A stunning account of the economic workings of the Third Reich and the reasons ordinary Germans supported the Nazi state, Hitler’s Beneficiaries makes a radically new contribution to our understanding of Nazi aggression, the Holocaust, and the complicity of a people.
Born Jewish: A Childhood in Occupied Europe
by Marcel Liebman

Marcel Liebman's account of his childhood in Brussels under the Nazi occupation explores the emergence of his class-consciousness against a background of resistance and collaboration. He documents the internal class war that has long been hidden from history – how the Nazi persecution exploited class distinctions within the Jewish community, and how certain Jewish notables collaborated in a systematic program of denunciation and deportation against immigrant Jews who lacked the privileges of wealth and citizenship.

An eminent anti-Zionist and Marxist, Liebman tells the story of his family's struggle to survive in the face of persecution, terror and constant evasion, an existence observed with acuity, humor and lyricism.

The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust
by Noam Chayat

The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust 
is the deeply moving memoir of Chayut’s journey from eager Zionist conscript on the front line of Operation Defensive Shield to leading campaigner against the Israeli occupation. As he attempts to make sense of his own life as well as his place within the wider conflict around him, he slowly starts to question his soldier’s calling, Israel’s justifications for invasion, and the ever-present problem of historical victimhood. 

The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering
by Norman G. Finkelstein
In his iconoclastic and controversial study, Norman G. Finkelstein moves from an interrogation of the place the Holocaust has come to occupy in global culture to a disturbing examination of recent Holocaust compensation settlements.
The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel
by Gabriel Piterberg

In this original and wide-ranging study, Gabriel Piterberg examines the ideology and literature behind the colonization of Palestine, from the late nineteenth century to the present. Piterberg breaks open prevailing views of Zionism, demonstrating that it was in fact unexceptional, expressing a consciousness and imagination typical of colonial settler movements. Shaped by European ideological currents and the realities of colonial life, Zionism constructed its own story as a unique and impregnable one, in the process excluding the voices of an indigenous people — the Palestinian Arabs.

My Grandmother: An Armenian-Turkish Memoir
by Fethiye Cetin
Translated by Maureen Freely

Growing up in the small town of Maden in Turkey, Fethiye Çetin knew her grandmother as a happy and respected Muslim housewife called Seher.

Only decades later did she discover the truth. Her grandmother's name was not Seher but Heranus. She was born a Christian Armenian. Most of the men in her village had been slaughtered in 1915. A Turkish gendarme had stolen her from her mother and adopted her. Çetin's family history tied her directly to the terrible origins of modern Turkey and the organized denial of its Ottoman past as the shared home of many faiths and ways of life. A deeply affecting memoir, My Grandmother is also a step towards another kind of Turkey, one that is finally at peace with its past.

Deep Mountain
by Ece Temelkuran

A personal and political journey to the heart of the Turkey-Armenia conflict, by Turkey's most famous female journalist.
From the Armenian communities of Venice Beach and Paris, to Turkey and Armenia, Deep Mountain is a nuanced and moving exploration of the living history and continuing denial of the Armenian genocide. Encountering writers, thinkers and activists from across the Turkish-Armenian divide, Ece Temelkuran weaves together an absorbing account of the role of national myths and memories, and how they are sustained and distorted over time, both within Turkey and Armenia, as well as among the vast Armenian diasporas of France and America. Deep Mountain is both a brilliant, personal exploration of one of the most enduring and intractable issues of our time, and an illuminating look at the part nationalism plays in the way we see ourselves and others.

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