Stefan asked:

Do the authors seek to normalise German atrocities against enemy civilians and battlefield killing of POWS as what inevitably happens in wartime by repeatedly bringing up U.S. military behaviour? Is the book at some level a (perhaps unconscious) attempt to exculpate the German Army and to discredit Goldhagen?

Oliver The myth of the good army bad SS is torn to shreds in this book. I wouldn't say the atrocities are normalized. Comparing US military behavior is done for context. Of course the USA did not do anything on the same scale, but it is about the individual cases, individual soldiers.

Goldhagen is indeed mentioned and the authors disagree with some core elements of his theory. It was for the individual soldiers not so much antisemitism that drove them to participate in genocidal behavior, but the opportunity to do acts that are otherwise punishable, the feeling of absolute power, getting away with killing, something you couldn't do in real life.

I for one am not a fan of Goldhagen either. Antisemitism plays a big role in some parts of this book, but in a lot / most cases described, the ethnicity or nationality of the victims seems to be irrelevant. They could have easily switched from Jews to Russians, Belgians...
Patrick Neylan No. I've no idea who Goldhagen is and the authors don't mention him or her. As Piotr says, there's some solid analysis, but the final chapter, mentioning more modern wars, is there to illustrate what behaviour might be expected of any soldiers, so that readers can get a perspective of what barbarity was and wasn't unique to the Wehrmacht, Waffen SS, Luftwaffe, etc.

I certainly didn't come away with a higher opinion of the ordinary German soldier.
Piotr I'm afraid so, to a degree. My impression is that the source is not a will to whitewash II WW-era Germans, but contemporary German pacifism. It's like they, as a nation, went from one extreme to another.

While most of the book is solid analysis of very interesting material, final chapter adds some examples of non-German cruelty to equalize things that shouldn't be equalized. Psychological and societal mechanism of being a soldier may be constant throughout history, but even from this book it's clear that the consequences of these mechanisms differ - in permissive, even encouraging Third Reich, established in already militaristic Germany - these consequences were far more dire than in any of the American wars. Ok, Wehrmacht soldiers were regular human beings acting after pressures of their surroundings. That doesn't mean there's no substantial difference between II WW, Vietnam and Iraq. And German authors should be really careful while driving bold conclusions about such matters.
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