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Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,928 ratings  ·  106 reviews
In Masters of Death, Richard Rhodes gives full weight, for the first time, to the part played by the Einsatzgruppen - the professional killing squads deployed in Poland and the Soviet Union, early in World War II, by Himmler's SS. And he shows how these squads were utilized as the Nazis made two separate plans for dealing with the civilian populations they wanted to destro ...more
Paperback, 335 pages
Published December 18th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2002)
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Beata Recommend Amazon, there are some pictures in the printed version, though, ebooks sometimes miss them.

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Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
They are ripping children out of the arms of their mothers down at the Mexican border, putting them in cages with little warm clothing. Where is the outrage? I know it is there because it has to be, but is it enough? Isn’t this illegal? What happened to humanity? To America?

Hitler tested the people of Germany by first shooting Jews on the streets, letting them fall dead into trenches. Where was the outrage? There was none. Some cheered. He continued. Later he took them away, put them in camps an
Lewis Weinstein
This had a few useful details for me, but mostly provided the kind of horrific examples of German criminal brutality that I have decided not to repeat in my current novel, since it has been covered often by people far more knowledgeable than me, including some who experienced it directly and survived. I will write about my characters reaction to those horrors, and their attempts to get Churchill and FDR to do something to save the Jews, which of course they never did.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Interesting book on the Einsatzgruppen, The SS special task force developed by Heinrich Himmler in Nazi Germany. This was the blueprint to the Holocaust. The Einsatzgruppen invaded with the German army parts of eastern Poland and Russia, for the first phase of Hitler's Final Solution. They murdered more than 1.5 million men, women, and children between 1941-1943. These death squads dug pits and executed them.
This book is definitely not for the faint of heart! Little has been written about the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazis' mobile killing squads, in large part because their story is so gruesome. One passage that stood out particularly in my mind was a story about how a bunch of Jews, including women and children, were pushed into a pit and then slaked lime was poured over them. Slaked lime is a powerful corrosive and these people essentially dissolved while fully alive. Their sufferings were so awful tha ...more
Patrick Belair
I've had this book for a while now,I really didn't know what to expect.More facts that we already know, some one else's take on the facts.I was very surprised by this book,the content of this story is truly disturbing,We all know about the executions the starvation,beatings etc.
What it contains is a true and detailed history of the final solution from the planning to it's implementation and near success.Of course 6 million dead is not trivial.The shear scope of Himmler and Hitlers plans boggles
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a necessary book, but not a very "uplifting" read. We walk through the eastern front as the SS-Einsatzgruppen murder innocent people. The descriptions and accounts are horrible. They come from first and second hand accounts of the massacres. People that witnessed and escaped the atrocities.

What is missing is the death camps and how they actually came to be. The immediacy of them is described, but there is no talk of the construction or running of them. There aren't accounts of conditions
Sep 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WARNING! This book is very graphic and disturbing. It is truly a horror story of a different sort.

After reading this book, I once told someone, "If a movie were made about this book, without being edited for content, it would be very difficult to watch. It is that graphic and horrifying." MASTERS OF DEATH begins innocently enough, drops you right in the middle of the Holocaust, and shows you the true face of evil.
Melody Boggs
Anyone who considers themselves a Holocaust historian--or anyone who enjoys reading of the Holocaust for knowledge and remembrance's sake--needs to pick up this book at some point in their life. This book is both easy to read yet nearly unbearable to get through. Rhodes makes a clear argument of how the Einsatzgruppen were able to kill as many people as they did--using Lonnie Athens' theory of violent-socialization--through mass shootings and other executions. He draws from a historical record c ...more
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Completely overwhelming account of nazi atrocities by nazi Germany throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
Morgan Blackledge
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have no idea what to say about this book other than it’s well written, and it further opened my eyes to the dreadful, ghastly, unspeakable horror of the holocaust.

These words seem banal. And that only increases my esteem for the peerless (and apparently fearless) Richard Rhodes.

He devoted his career to wading into subjects such as this, and he (largely) succeeded in shedding light on this and other mind boggling historical events including the nuclear arms race.

One bit of (reverent) criticis
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've seen Einsatzgruppen ('Task force,''task forces,' if you look at the Danish equivalent (as Danish is based on what is now German) you have 'action group' as well) mentioned many places - and I certainly had read snippets of their activities in many other books. This is the first longer history I've both seen and/or read of their setting up, their structure - though it became a free for all - their activities and their range.

But then, understanding. Why DO we feel the need to understand? We c
Mirosław Dworniczak
Jedna z najbardziej wstrząsających pozycji, które przeczytałem w ostatnich kilkunastu latach. Niby znałem trochę historię Einsatzgruppen, ale dopiero tutaj widać, jak precyzyjnie przebiegało wykonanie rozkazu Hitlera o wyniszczeniu Żydów. Rhodes jak zawsze wykonał doskonałą pracę, znajdując setki źródeł, jak też odwiedzając wiele miejsc kaźni.
Naprawdę warto tę książkę przeczytać, ale uprzedzam - to jest bardzo trudna lektura. Opis tego, co zrobiono w Lesie Krążel z Żydami z Konina przekracza wsz
Michael Flanagan
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww-2, holocaust, nazi
Rhodes delivers a book like few others, the sheer horrific nature of the subject is delivered in such a way that pulls at your soul. A difficult book to read at times but a must for all if only to remind us why it can never happen again. Rhodes gives a masterful mix of fact and firsthand accounts from both sides and delves into the question how can humanity visit the horror of the holocaust on itself.
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
An omnivorous intellect who has written incisively and authoritatively on a wide variety of subjects, Richard Rhodes here deploys his skills to not just describe, but also to explain the phenomenon of the Einsatzgruppen within the Holocaust.

In so doing he makes practical application of the research and "violent socialization" theories of Professor Lonnie Athens, which he had previously explored in his book Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist. Like many (perhaps even most)
G.M. Burrow
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
One of the most difficult books I've read. Reviews had told me that it was gruesome -- too gruesome for some to finish. One reader couldn't get past page 30. But I bought it, read it (about thirty minutes at a time; no more), and finished it for one simple reason: I wanted to know. I wanted to know the name of every Jew that died by bullets, by beating, by gas, by burning alive, by suffocating beneath the bodies in the mass graves. It kills me that I will never know them all. That I will never k ...more
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The most brutal book I have ever read in my life but the largest treasure trove of SS-Einsatzgruppen information I've yet to run across. If you're into history, particularly that of the Holocaust, I suggest this book - but please be warned that the violence is graphic, gruesome, and absolutely heartbreaking at best. It certainly gives a better understanding of how it all got going but it definitely leaves you feeling haunted by memories that are not your own.
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Richard Rhodes has written many great books. The subject matter in this one is so intense and mind-bogglingly horrific that to review it like a good GoodReads member trivializes it's subject matter. Is it worth one's time? Unless you are already an expert on the subject, learning more about this topic is one of the essential (albeit painful) experiences of any member of humanity.
Mylie Bucyrus
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Solid book focusing on the einsatzgruppen and their role in the Holocaust, detailing "actionen" taken outside of labor or death camp settings. Tough to read at time because of the subject matter, detailing how most Jews were killed by bullets (instead of by gas) and buried in mass graves throughout eastern Europe.

One glaring error: the author states that the United States declared war on Germany at the same time as its declaration of war on Japan, saying that Germany's declaration of war followe
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-ii
The Grim Details …

Six million is a number that will always be synonymous with the Holocaust. While it may shockingly convey the magnitude of loss, the figure somehow comes across as disturbingly clinical in the way it overshadows the multitude of hideous incidents that contributed to the final figure. Richard Rhodes’ MASTERS OF DEATH shines a light on the gut-wrenching atrocities committed by roving bands of German Einsatzgruppen in Eastern Europe to facilitate the Nazi pursuit of Jewish-free Le
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an important addition to the historical record of the killing fields of eastern Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, focusing on the actions of the SS Einsatzgruppen in the Holocaust from the conquest of Poland in 1939 to the wind-down of these murder squads in 1943, when the death camps came on-stream to ramp up the death rate. The main victims were Jews, but gentile intelligentsia, communist functionaries, gypsies, and others were also targeted.
It contains mention of Hitler's rationalizatio
Sep 05, 2014 rated it liked it
This is quite possibly one of the hardest books I've ever had to read in terms of content, as it concerns mass murder on an industrial scale in stomach churning detail. The story is of the setting up of the Ensatzgruppen in Nazi Germany before the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Their task was to destroy the Jewish communities in those areas conquered by the Nazis, by lining them up, shooting them, & burying the bodies in pits, over and over and over again.
Whilst this is a harrow
Nov 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A much more engaging read than Goldhagen's book. It posits vaguely similar ideas (about the militarization of German society, and how it led to organizations like the Einsatzgruppen), but is a much easier read for interested parties who are not WWII history specialists. It has also escaped the criticisms which Goldhagen's book has received (which is not to say I would recommend skipping Goldhagen's book if you are a WWII history buff, but if you have a casual interest, this is a better choice).
May 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
After about fifty pages into this history, I could no longer go on. The descriptions of the violence were too graphic for me. A previous book that I read by this author, “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” won a Pulitzer Prize. I don’t think that this one will receive a very wide audience.
Jonathan Hedgpeth
Aug 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Thoroughly depressing as one would expect. It is mostly about the psychotic nature of the Einsatzgruppen. The most morbidly interesting parts were about how members of the Einsatzgruppen lost their minds because of all the killing they were doing. This ofcourse necessitated the more industrial methods of the Final Solution. Sickening.
Rodney Harvill
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
When the typical American thinks about the Holocaust, he probably envisions death camps and labor camps, but these actually represented a later stage of the Holocaust. In this book, Richard Rhodes explores the early phase, in which task groups (einsatzgruppen) were sent into occupied territory on the eastern front to round up Jews and others marked for death and murder them en masse as they found them.

Germany had been late in the game in becoming a colonial power and lost its colonies as a conse
Aug 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Step by step Rhodes deepens the awful sense of the utter evil of the Holocaust. The numbers of the dead blur and lose all meaning - One has to try hard to remember that these are individual lives that are being systematically destroyed. Truly a war against the Jews.
Arthur Sperry
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent and well-researched book about the Einsatzgruppen and the Holocaust. It is very sad and depressing, but an important book.
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: holocuast
Well written, not for the faint of heart and covers a subject that mostly gets a general overview in most holocaust history's but not often covered in this amount of detail.
"The notorious gas chambers and crematoria of the death camps have come to typify the Holocaust, but in fact they were exceptional. The primary means of mass murder the Nazis deployed during the Second World War was firearms and lethal privation. Shooting was not less efficient than gassing, as many historians have assumed. It was harder on the shooters' nerves, and the gas vans and chambers alleviated the burden. But shooting began earlier, continued throughout the war and produced far more vic ...more
Jan Peczkis
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
The Polokaust and the Holocaust Were Intertwined in Nazi Ideology and Practice

This book mixes theory and history. It covers the development of Nazi ideology, details about the Einsatzgruppen operations in the wake of Operation Barbarossa, the unfolding Polokaust and Holocaust, biographical details of top Nazis, etc. It contains many photos.


Long before the Nazis came to power in Germany, various Germans thought of dispossessing the Slavic peoples for purpo
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Richard Lee Rhodes is an American journalist, historian, and author of both fiction and non-fiction (which he prefers to call "verity"), including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), and most recently, Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race (2007). He has been awarded grants from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation a ...more
“Protocols of the Elders of Zion, supposedly a transcription of a secret Jewish council’s plans to subvert legitimate governments and take over the world, were sold internationally in the 1920s and 1930s; Henry Ford took the forgery as literally as Adolf Hitler did.” 2 likes
“Violence is an instrumentality, not a psychopathology or a character disorder. Violence is a means to an end—domination and control—one of many possible means. Since its essence is injury, its efficacy in the long term is marginal, but its short-term advantages are obvious.” 2 likes
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