x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Worse Than War raises awareness of human capacity for cruelty

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Worse than War provides unflinchingly graphic portraits of humanity at its worst in the 20th century.

Worse Than War
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
Abacus
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With its unflinchingly graphic portraits of humanity at its lowest in the 20th century, Worse Than War can be considered "unreadable" solely for its author's refusal to back down from his stance on the perpetrators of genocide. Despite acknowledging their unmistakably human veneers, Goldhagen holds these in direct contrast to the brutalities committed by them in the name of their despotic regimes.

Goldhagen boldly states in the first line of his introduction that Harry Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, was "a mass murderer". Plunging straight into the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the wretchedness of humanity under thrall of hatred for its own kind is mapped out through the murders synonymous with the notorious Nazi death camps, Soviet gulags, and Khmer Rouge killing fields. Lesser known genocides such as those of the African Herero tribes by the Germans are also given their long-awaited due.

Goldhagen raises the question of what can be done. The answer, at present, amounts to hardly anything, yet the awareness raised of man's capacity for wanton cruelty is worth taking into account.