Genocide on Trial

Prof Iam Pompous's picture

I have to say that I found Michael J Hoffmann's account of Donald Bloxham's book Genocide on Trial that appeared on the H-Test list on 24 October 2003 to be sadly lacking in what I regard as all the virtues of a book review. Since I needed to read the Bloxham book at some time anyway I took the opportunity of the Hoffmann account to undertake that job now and in the present. What I discovered - from the book itself, not the Hoffmann account - did not surprise me in the least. Here, for what it is worth, is my critical reading of Bloxham and his study. Undoubtedly, many will disagree with me, but at least I hope that I prompt more than a few to 'think again'.


Iam Pompous

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Michael J Hoffmann concluded his 'review' of Donald Bloxham's Genocide on

Trial: War Crimes Trials and the Formation of Holocaust History and Memory

(H-Test, 24 October 2003), with these words:

"This is the kind of book that, because of its range of reference, will give rise to other studies that analyse specific elements of Genocide on Trial at greater length..I think that all Holocaust scholars interested in both the post-war trials and Holocaust historiography will find this book stimulating and useful."

One can only pray, fervently, that the studies Hoffmann hopes will materialize will not be anything like the Bloxham book, but rather more akin to the balanced, erudite, and objective scholarly contribution of Michael Marrus to volume XXVI of Yad Vashem Studies - upon which, however, Bloxham pours so much scorn and cold water: viz. Michael Marrus, The Holocaust at Nuremberg, Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XXVI, pp. 5-41 (Jerusalem 1998).

Not unexpectedly, Marrus provided an objective analysis of the full and crucial documentary evidence that was provided throughout the trial of the major Nazi war criminals at the International Military Tribunal (IMT) for the Nazi campaign of murder and persecution against Europe's Jews. Second, and crucially, he evinces a sympathetic (and again, objective) understanding for the logistical and practical reasons why in the chaotic conditions prevailing in the whole of Europe in 1945 and beyond there simply could not be established the full story of the Nazi extermination of the Jews as (inevitably) we know it today. He acknowledges, as he was bound to, that the judges and lawyers did not get it all right in 1945-46. They made mistakes in detail and in wider conception, and they left much work to be done in order to understand what we have come to call the Holocaust. But they built a good understanding of Nazism and World War II. Imperfect both as a trial and as a historical exercise, I would contend that Nuremberg served the world reasonably well in 1945-46 (p. 41).

Somewhat arrogantly, Bloxham dismisses Marrus' view of the Nuremberg trials as "a turning point" (Marrus, op. cit., p 6) in this respect and sets out in his own book to correct what he obviously regards as the misconceptions of Marrus and a multitude of other historians in their view of the importance of Nuremberg, its proceedings, and the evidence provided...

Keywords: reviews