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The Villa, the Lake, the Meeting:
Genocide is never easy to explain, especially when the perpetrators appear to be an educated elite, enjoying many of the trappings of civilisation. In The Villa, the Lake, the Meeting, Mark Roseman brilliantly explores this paradox, describing the night, 60 years ago, when the Nazi top brass met over cognac and cigars in a Berlin suburb, and drew up the Protocol that implemented the unprecedented and chilling brutality of the "final solution" to the "Jewish question".
Roseman, the prize-winning author of The Past in Hiding, uses the anniversary of Wannsee not only to reconstruct the events of that evening and examine the differing backgrounds and motives of those who took part. He also provides an exhaustive investigation of the longer-term genesis of Nazi policy towards the Jews, from repression and denial of civil rights, to random acts of military pillage and execution, through to deportation and emigration. Evidence for and against the influence of Hitler is carefully sifted, and the timing of the onset of the "final solution" amidst the faltering German offensive against Russia and the entry of the USA into the war is meticulously reconstructed. The book does not offer any easy answers. Wannsee, Roseman concludes, did no more or less than transfer Jewish repatriation policy from the civilian authorities to the SS. But by then the Holocaust was already in full swing, and barbarism was the order of the day. For a clear and cogent account of the most terrible years in 20th-century history, this book is a must.--Miles Taylor [via]