The Music Libel Against the JewsBy Ruth HaCohen (Yale University Press, 507 pp., $55) IN NOVEMBER 1934, Privy Councilor Wilhelm Furtwängler, vice president of the Third Reich’s Music Chamber and conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, imprudently took to the pages of the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung to defend the composer Paul Hindemith against the charge of “Jewishness” with which Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister for propaganda and enlightenment of the people, had justified a prohibition on the performance of his work.
The only good thing I’ve ever heard about Dr. Joseph Goebbels is that he reportedly banned the publication of “overnight notices” in German newspapers, that is, reviews of operas, plays or concerts written immediately after the performance for the next morning’s paper. Most of of us think clearer after we have slept on it, and my instant response to France vs. England three days ago didn’t give the French their due. It was also, if anything, too generous to England.
The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945 By Ian Kershaw (Penguin, 564 pp., $35) It can be harder to lose a war than to win one. Nazi Germany won quick victories in 1939 and 1940 against its eastern and western neighbors, Poland and France. Many Germans who had doubted the wisdom of war came around with enthusiasm to the sound of German boots on the Champs Elysées. Warsaw and Paris fell more quickly and with fewer complications than anticipated. Their conquest convinced many Germans, including army officers, that further campaigns could be won by strokes of genius.
The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 By Saul Friedlander (HarperCollins, 870 pp., $39.95) With the publication of The Years of Extermination, Saul Friedlander adds to his already well-established reputation as one of the world's pre-eminent historians of the Holocaust and of its place in modern European, German, and Jewish history.