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Author of controversial book on wartime Germany honored

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BONN, Jan. 12 (JTA) — The Bonn-based Journal for German and International Politics has decided to award author Daniel Goldhagen its annual Democracy Prize. In a statement, the journal said Goldhagen, more than any other scholar, stirred the conscience of the German public with his book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners.” In August, the book sold out its first German edition of 40,000 copies in less than a week and prompted a flurry of debate. For many Jews in Germany, the book’s value lies in that it tells non- Jewish Germans that the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers and was not perpetrated solely by SS officials in the death camps. They point to Goldhagen’s suggestion that the persecution began in schools, at the workplace, in stores, at every street corner — that it was committed by millions of “simple” Germans from every walk of life. Goldhagen, whose book has been on Germany’s bestseller list for months, told the editors of the journal, “When I wrote my book I believed it was only about how to understand and think about the past. “More and more, I have come to realize that the book is also about the present and the future.” Meanwhile, the public debate continues about Goldhagen’s thesis, though with less intensity than when the book was first published here last year. Frank Schirmacher, co-publisher of the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, wrote, “Goldhagen is building a new mythology around the Holocaust. He traces it back to the Faustian depths of German consciousness and, by doing so, prevents it from being dealt with on a rational basis. “If one is to believe the arguments in this book, the advance of the Germans into the 21st century is something to be observed with skepticism and fear.” The Munich-based Suddeutsche Zeitung ran an article saying, “The lasting disgrace is not just the many who were Hitler’s willing executioners, but also the millions who looked away when it would still have been possible to look. “It is this moral indifference that nearly all Germans were guilty of at that time — which does not by any means suggest, as Goldhagen asserts, that the Holocaust was a national project.” Rudolf Augstein, founder and publisher of Der Spiegel, wrote in the Hamburg-based weekly: “One should be allowed to ask whether there is anything new to be gained from the book. The answer would be very little, one could even say next to nothing. “But the simple fact that the history of the Holocaust is being gone into again can only be good, and will certainly cause a stir. If Goldhagen manages this, he will have achieved quite a lot.”

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