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Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, the author of the three-volume “The Destruction of the European Jews,” has died.

Hilberg succumbed to lung cancer Saturday in Vermont, where he lived with his wife, Gwen. He was 81.

A Vienna native, Hilberg fled Austria with his parents in 1939, and arrived in the United States after stops in France and Cuba. Most of his relatives were murdered in the war.

Hilberg returned to Europe as a soldier with the U.S. Army in 1944. A year later he discovered Hitler’s private library in boxes in the former Nazi headquarters in Munich. This reportedly prompted Hilberg’s interest in writing about National Socialism.

Hilberg studied with another European Jewish exile, the political scientist and lawyer Franz Neumann, in the United States. Hilberg’s study of the Holocaust, published in 1961, became one of the most important works ever written on the Holocaust. Hilberg’s autobiography, “The Politics of Memory: The Journey of a Holocaust Historian,” was published in 1996.

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