Stepping back from the immediate controversy surrounding the merits and shortcomings of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners, this edited volume intervenes in the continuing discussion by exploring aspects of the public's reception to Goldhagen's book—what the authors call the "Goldhagen Effect."
The first essay, by Omer Bartov, examines the extent to which the book's reception in the United States, Germany, France, and Israel reflected differing attitudes toward the Holocaust, thereby highlighting the role that the genocide of Jews has come to play in a variety of national contexts. Atina Grossman then analyzes the "Goldhagen Effect" in Germany, looking at Germans' shifting reactions to the American and German editions of the book and the accompanying publicity tour. Grossman considers these responses in the broader context of Germans' ambivalent relationship to their history.
Next, Pieter Judson turns his attention to the reception to Hitler's Willing Executioners in Austria, exploring why most Austrians—particularly those on the far right—calmly accepted Goldhagen's conclusions. Finally, Jane Caplan describes some of the ways in which Goldhagen's book resonates with contemporary American sensibilities and suggests why the book experienced such popular success in America.
The revised and expanded essays in this volume were originally presented in a symposium organized by Kathleen Canning for the University of Michigan Center for European Studies to discuss the response of academia and the broader intellectual public to Goldhagen's work. The "Goldhagen Effect" will be of interest to historians and others in the humanities and social sciences, as well as to the informed general reader.
Geoff Eley is Professor of History and German Studies, University of Michigan.