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This article attempts to explain the heated controversy sparked by Daniel Goldhagen's bestselling book Hitler's Willing Executioners, by comparing it with its most obvious precedent: the international furor in 1960–62 over William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Through such a comparison, the Goldhagen controversy emerges as a relatively shallow event, largely driven by the book's own weaknesses and by media hype, that provides little of value for a deeper historical understanding of the Holocaust. At the same time, however, Goldhagen's surprising popularity in Germany does, in fact, signal a possible shift in the Germans' long postwar struggle to ‘come to terms' with the Nazi past.


Copyright 1999 Cambridge University Press.

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Contemporary European History

Published Citation

Rosenfeld, G. (1999) "The Controversy that Isn't: The Debate over Daniel J. Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners in Comparative Perspective," Contemporary European History, Volume 8, Nr. 2, 1999, pp. 249-273.

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