Saturday, 21 January 2017

On Rees`s Holocaust book

Having been a fan of Richard J Evans for many years, using his books to inform my teaching, and admiring his stance against Gove`s ridiculously nationalistic views of the schools` history curriculum, I read his review of Laurence Rees`s new work on the Holocaust with interest (Witnesses for the prosecution, 13th January,2017). Whilst Evans does admit both that Rees has "probably interviewed more people who lived through the Third Reich than anybody else", and that "vivid descriptions of the horror" are provided, this is clearly damning with faint praise. The view is expressed that, hopefully, Rees will "continue making documentaries for many years"!
       Maybe the book isn`t all that the "publisher`s blurb" claims, and perhaps Rees should have continued his analysis beyond 1945, but to question whether the author`s reliance on testimonies is the "right way to go about putting together a book" is surely too harsh, especially on this subject?

     At a time when anti-semitism is increasingly raising its ugly head in British politics, so much so that Francis Beckett correctly has to remind readers where its "spiritual home" lies (Anti-Semitism is a right-wing problem,13th January), any book that adds to "the mass of testimony and evidence" about what can result from years of scapegoating, union-bashing, and right-wing governments, should be welcomed. Not all works of history can be "the best book", but that doesn`t mean they should not be read! 

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