American author Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's 1996 work, Hitler's Willing Executioners, is one of the most controversial history books of modern times. While most historians have sought to explain the horror of the Holocaust by focusing on Nazi leaders and their ideologies, Goldhagen set out to investigate whether ordinary Germans enthusiastically embraced their goals. His conclusion: "eliminationist anti-Semitism" - a genocidal hatred of Jews unique to Germany - caused the Holocaust.
Hitler's Willing Executioners topped best-seller lists in Britain, Germany, and America and won prestigious awards. But historians almost universally disagreed with Goldhagen's arguments, which ran counter to those of Christopher Browning in his 1992 book, Ordinary Men. Browning examined members of a police unit who carried out acts of genocide and found that regular people acted out of fear and as a result of peer pressure. A ferocious historical dispute raged between partisans of the two authors. This Goldhagen Controversy, as it became known, proved to be one of the most significant debates of the 1990s.
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