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Adam LeBor is a British journalist based in Budapest and writes for the Independent, the Jewish Chronicle and Literary Review. He is the author of Hitler's Secret Bankers and A Heart Turned East, on Muslims in the West. Roger Boyes is The Times of London German correspondent and lives in Berlin. He is the author of The Naked President, a biography of Lech Walesa, The Priest Who Had to Die and Hard Road to Market.
Two British journalists who lived and worked in Eastern Europe, LeBor (Hitler's Secret Bankers) and Boyes (The Naked President) are sensitive to the myriad moral choices made by ordinary and extraordinary Germans in the face of evil. As the authors and others have pointed out, "few knew everything, millions knew something" about the vast project to exterminate the Jews. Although their theory of seduction is neither new nor original, LeBor and Boyes do offer (without crediting him) a Gramscian model of hegemony: that power is never only the simple threat of force, but a combination of the threat of force along with consensus. It is the consensus that concerns them more than the violence per se of National Socialism. In short, they explain, there were choices to be made and most people made the "wrong" ones, for various reasons (fear, greed, etc.). Although the book opens up new avenues of inquiry and questions, it diminishes somewhat the role of ideology and anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. Small vignettes embedded in each chapter are revealing: jokes, miniature biographies, micro-episodes of the Reich. LeBor and Boyes's claim that "historians have mainly constructed a world inhabited only by victims and criminals" demonstrates a lack of familiarity with some recent work in the field, such as Tzvetan Todorov's Facing the Extreme: Life in the Concentration Camps. Undeniably, Hitler and his propaganda machine were masters at mass, public seduction. But this is only one facet of a dark era in history. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.