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The Holocaust by Laurence Rees is the best single-volume account of the atrocity ever written

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The gates of Auschwitz
The gates of Auschwitz Credit: PA

The Holocaust – the Nazis’ murder of up to six million Jews – is widely acknowledged to be the “most infamous crime in history”. It and its architect, Adolf Hitler, have been the subject of countless books by celebrated academics, among them Sir Ian Kershaw, Saul Friedländer and the late David Cesarani. What makes Laurence Rees’s brilliant new history unique, however, is that it is the first to synthesize the latest scholarly research with powerful and original first-hand testimony and an analysis of how and why the Nazi state took the decision to exterminate the Jews.

The key to understanding Hitler’s virulent anti-Semitism, says Rees, is not his autobiography Mein Kampf, in which he claims he hated the Jews long before the First World War; but rather a letter he wrote in September 1919 to a fellow soldier, identifying the Jews as a “racial tuberculosis among nations” and one that needed...

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