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date: 25 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter outlines some of the Holocaust’s fundamental causes and characteristics, and its parallels and contrasts with other genocides. It begins by reminding readers of the profound questioning and uncertainty about human progress that emerged in the wake of the experience of National Socialism and the Holocaust, as a result of which our relationship to the modern world has changed. It notes the continuing difficulty historians, social scientists, and others face in applying general models or frameworks to explain the Holocaust, despite a growing consensus that it is neither uniquely mysterious nor a unique event. It then identifies a series of causal moments—crisis, ideology and specifically anti-Semitism, participation, total war, imperialism, and collaboration—that provide entry points to understanding the Holocaust, and at the same time illustrate the ways it mirrors and diverges from other genocides and mega-murders. It concludes with one of the Holocaust’s most distinctive features—the scale and sophistication of victim chronicles of the event.

Keywords: Holocaust, genocide, imperialism, crisis, ideology, anti-Semitism, National Socialism, nationalism, total war

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