Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust” as Want to Read:
Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  186 ratings  ·  37 reviews

A provocative and insightful analysis that sheds new light on one of the most puzzling and historically unsettling conundrums

Why the Germans? Why the Jews? Countless historians have grappled with these questions, but few have come up with answers as original and insightful as those of maverick German historian Götz Aly. Tracing the prehistory of the Holocaust from the

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by Metropolitan Books (first published August 5th 2011)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Why the Germans? Why the Jews?, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Why the Germans? Why the Jews?

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  186 ratings  ·  37 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Why the Germans? Why the Jews?: Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
The Jewish people in Germany were relatively emancipated compared to their co-religionists in eastern Europe. Why did Germany become the site of genocidal Nazis. The author untangles the threads of the social dysfunction which led to the Holocaust. Antisemitism was fed partially by the success of Jewish community which had done so well in integrating with the culture after emancipation. Many Jews had made remarkable strides in social mobility being over-represented in the professional classes ...more
This is a very interesting and compelling history of German-Jewish relations up to 1933, particularly in the 19th century. Historian Gotz Aly tries to figure out why Germany of all countries, one of the most tolerant places for Jewish people in Europe, perpetrated the Holocaust, and why the relationship between German gentiles and German Jews soured so quickly and so badly. The book begins slowly, as Aly goes way back before the Nazi era, but I think it was necessary to cover a long time period ...more
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I came across this book by the recommendation of Professor Robert Weiner, with whom I had become acquainted from his superb (and highly recommended) course for The Teaching Company's "Great Courses" entitled, "The Long 19th Century," a marvelous history of Europe from the French Revolution through the conclusion of World War I.

When I wrote him by email to congratulate him on this course, he kindly responded and we have exchanged a few emails since then. He recommended this book to me as one of
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good literature mostly always finds its way from the US into Europe; but the other way around does not seem to be the norm, not always at least. This book got many and good reviews in Europe, including press coverage. But for some reason it has gone unnoticed in the US, and it will be published only in April 2014. I read the Spanish language version, and I found it to be a good piece of historical analysis into the reasons behind the Holocaust. But just that, a good work, not great. The sources ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Critically acclaimed this easy to read account explained by the title answered many questions I've always had and never understood. Why did the German culture and people allow the Holocaust? The author puts forth the theory that it was envy and a lack of a coherent cultural identity that created the perfect petri dish in which the ideology of Naziism could flourish. He reviews the early 19th century up to and including the impact of WWI on the German people to create an excellent understanding ...more
Edward Sullivan
A persuasively written, insightful, thoughtful, and provocative examination of German anti-Semitism preceding the Holocaust.
Shane Schirmer
Jul 18, 2019 rated it liked it
A fascinating take on what lead to the rise of the Third Reich. Mr. Aly brings not only serious research, but also personal family history to his answer to the title's question. He takes probing looks at German society dating back to the mid 1800s in his quest to find what lead a nation's attempt to eradicate an entire race.
David Nichols
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
As its title suggests, Goetz Aly's latest book constitutes an inquiry – more an extended essay than a deeply-researched monograph – into the origins of the Holocaust. He argues that modern German anti-Semitism emerged from the disruptive economic changes of the nineteenth century, which tended disproportionately to benefit Jews and bewilder Christians. The Industrial Revolution and the growth of large cities threatened the “relatively lethargic German majority” (16), who preferred the cozier ...more
Peter Moy
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Blame the French.

Who caused The Jewish World War II Holocaust. The German author of this book author blames the French! Sorry, that is stretching his arguments a lot. If fact, he make the case the Germans started down road to this event because Napoleon's army benefiting from the fruits of the industrial revolution humiliated the various disunified German states. This forced the Germans to rapidly industrialise to match France and England. To quote the author:

"The Industrial Revolution and the
Jul 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Diane, Scott, Jan F., Bill, Paul M., Nick
Recommended to Doreen by: saw it at the library?
I read about WWII, Nazism, the Holocaust, Russian History, Survivors' stories, etc., because non-fiction intrigues me. And, this book has been one of the most intriguing, yet! In this book, the importance of education and the role of economics, as contributing factors to the Holocaust, are researched and explained.

From the late 19th century and early decades of the 20th century, Germany had the greatest degree of assimilation by Jews. Jews had social mobility and held high positions in
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
'Another event structurally similar to the Holocaust could still occur. Those who want to reduce the danger of its happening should work to understand the complex human preconditions of the Holocaust. And they should not kid themselves into thinking that anti-Semites of the past were completely different from who we are today.'

A warning from the author that draws from lessons of one of the greatest of tragedies that the modern world witnessed. A stunning account of how we the common people are
This book is one of the fastest reads of any, and one of the best. It real fast in spite of having a lot of new information.

The book, by a non-Jewish German author, is about the perplexing question of why the allegedly cultured Germans would be the most vicious in perpetrating the Shoah.

The book teaches that a toxic combination of envy, the unsettled nature of German national identity compared to the very subtle nature of Jewish identity, and relative German underachievement were collectively
Susan Grodsky
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think the author is right and that Anne Frank was wrong. The world contains many people who really are not good at heart.

And the US Border Patrol must contain many of those people. How else to explain 2,000-plus children torn from their parents? How can "normal" people commit these crimes against humanity?
Deepa Krishnan
May 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Good book. But it's very dry. Not for everyone. The point is made and several historical figures, facts and people are quoted to reiterate that point over and over. Could have been 100 pages fewer and people would still get it.
Benjamin Carsley
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Almost Nietzschean in his analysis of German anti-Semitism (that is, the idea of Christian glorification of inferior traits, while Judaism emphasized education and occupational betterment). Very excellent use of prehistory and context. Read for a class.
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great read and perspective
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a highly convincing account of the historical evolution of German anti-Semitism to the point where an entire nation became accomplice to mass murder on a hitherto unparalleled scale. It covers the period from the end of the 18th century to the Nazi era, throwing light on the specific ways in which Germans, to whom nation statehood came late, and whose mentalities retained feudal features too long, fell behind Britain, France and Italy in adopting the capitalist, democratic and especially ...more
Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book. The author offers an explanation to the hatred of Jews in Germany, based on emotion of envy and insecurity within a particular group - an upwardly mobile lower class. He claims that the problem was not, as commonly thought, the failure of the Weimar republic, but its success. The republic created many opportunities for an upward mobility, especially through educational opportunities. Initially the Jews were in a better position to exploit such opportunities due to the ...more
Michael Arden
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it

The author posits that the rising anti-Semitism of the Germans from the 1800s to the Nazis' assumption of power in 1933 was fueled by material envy rather than racist ideology or religious animosity. Why? Because the largely agrarian, mostly illiterate German majority floundered in the rapidly modernizing world driven by the Industrial Revolution, whereas the urban, well-educated Jewish minority adapted much faster to change, often becoming highly successful and solidly middle class. To
Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: germany
I think this books is brilliant. The recap of German cultural and economic history leading up the the second world war and the final solution is clear, concise and convincing. It's documented with pages of notes. I think it is especially telling that Germany did not become a unified country until 1871. Germany came of age after the American civil war and during the time when scientific racism was at its height. It also developed during the period of laissez-faire capitalism and it came late to ...more
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've had this book for a few years now, and embarrassingly hadn't gotten to reading it until now. Aly gives a detailed and objective account on the hows and whys of the Holocaust, and the sheer amount of time and research that went into this book is incredible. Because of the amount of information presented, Aly's book reads like an essay, which may deter some readers, but rarely do history classes touch on the social aspects of Germany in the 19th century, and the majority of what Aly has found ...more
Michael Connolly
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2nd-hundred, europe
Excellent history of the growth of German prejudice against Jews during the century leading up to the Holocaust. First, the traditional prejudice against the Jews based upon their religion was replaced by envy and shame of the greater economic success of the emancipated Jews. Then the Nazis gave the German people a rationalization for their resentment of Jewish success by interjecting racial theory. The insecurity that the German people felt regarding their ethnic identity was also a factor. ...more
Wendy Greene
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An interesting book, written by a German historian, Gotz Aly. An exploration of the historical roots of anti-Semitism in Germany, this book stands out for its unflinching assessment of the German population, which aided and abetted the Nazis in their extermination of the Jews. Unusually, this historian actually recounts the actions of his own family members in the war against the Jews. One interesting note for me: the translation was outstanding.
Adrián Zimmerman
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I need more!!!! A great and clean exposition about the pre birth of one of the most disturbing episodes of mankind. We need more studies like this, not only about the Holocaust, but on the Gulags, Serbia, the pre and post colonialism in Africa and dictatorships in Latinamerica. I'll definitely read more of Aly's work.
Sherry Leffert
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I finally understand why the Germans why the Jews. Excellently written and with thorough evidence this book explains what factors led up to the holocaust and why the Jews were the victims, more than the general idea that anti-semitism was unleashed.
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
An easy read into the birth of anti-semistism in Germany in the 19th century and the lead up to WWII. the author does not touch on the war period, hence a refreshing approach to the drivers of anti-Semitism, e.g. envy.
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2014
Review here.
Dianne Miller
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very well written. Provides a good explanation of what occurred in Germany prior to World War II and the Holocaust. Would be a good supplement to any Germany history course.
Sheila Altenbernd
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received this book at a Goodreads giveaway.

I found the book to be well written, well researched, and well organized. It was very thought provoking.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it
so envy did it. convincing as groundwork, not as causal arch
« previous 1 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Henry Holt: Has anyone read "Why the Germans? Why the Jews?" by Götz Aly? 1 10 May 21, 2014 07:33AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare
  • Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump--And Democrats from Themselves
  • Winter in Madrid
  • Motherless Brooklyn
  • Doctor Faustus
  • Paris in Disguise (Alex Kovacs #5)
  • Hitler: Biographie
  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present
  • 1941: The Year Germany Lost the War
  • The Limoges Dilemma (Alex Kovacs, #4)
  • Sugar Mummies
  • Schuld
  • Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet
  • Terror: Ein Theaterstück und eine Rede
  • Regeneration (Regeneration, #1)
  • Divorce Islamic Style
  • Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio
  • The World of Yesterday
See similar books…
Götz Haydar Aly is a German journalist, historian and social scientist.
After attending the German School of Journalists, Aly studied history and political science in Berlin. As a journalist, he worked for the taz, the Berliner Zeitung and the FAZ.
Presently, from 2004 to 2005, he is a visiting professor for interdisciplinary Holocaust research at the Fritz Bauer Institut in Frankfurt am Main.
“Even in the early nineteenth century, people like Goethe had little good to say about grumbling, coarsely behaved nationalist romantics of the Arndt or Jahn variety. By contrast, Germany’s greatest author enjoyed the witty company of intelligent Jews. “As a rule they are more keenly curious and apt to contribute than any German nationalist,” Goethe wrote. “Their ability to understand things quickly and analyze them in depth, as well as their native wit, makes them a much more receptive audience than you can find among the real and true Germans with their slow and dull minds.” 3 likes
“they put their faith in their intellectual assets and attained material success with admirable speed. To speak in everyday language: they got somewhere in life.” 2 likes
More quotes…