There are any number of interesting books on the Holocaust/Shoah—memoirs and diaries, detailed histories, biographies, etc. But Mordechai Schreiber’s volume, Explaining the Holocaust: How and Why It Happened, is a substantive examination of what led up to it, who was involved, and how we can reflect on the enormity of this evil. It is written with both style and grace.
What he offers is a well written, thoughtful, and important analysis of the Holocaust. He tells compelling stories—of the Nazi leaders, Jewish leaders, Righteous Gentiles, resistance movements, rescue missions, and failed leadership. One of the most jarring elements of his narrative is the complacency of foreign governments (the US, the UK, Canada, etc.) concerning the plight of European Jews.
He recounts some amazing stories about low-level foreign diplomats who made huge impacts in rescuing Jews from danger, including Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese vice-consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, who issued visa for several thousand Jews. Aristides de Sousa Mendes was the Portugese consul general in Bordeaux, France, who issued more than 1,500 visas to Jews and personally helped refugees escape from France to Spain.
While being raised in Israel as a secular Jew, Schreiber eventually went to seminary and became a rabbi. He lost many family members in the death camps. His cousin, Mordechai Paldiel, who wrote the foreword, was is the former director of the Righteous Gentiles section of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem.
This important work will be available in just a couple of weeks. I heartily recommend it.