The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution"
Friedlander's study tracks the Nazi program of genocide back to 1940 with the murder of some 5000 handicapped children, euthanasia that was subsequently expanded to include disabled Jews and Gypsies. The targeting of these three groups was based on the Nazis' belief in human inequality and their determination to ``cleanse the gene pool of the German nation.'' Thus began the euthanasia program in which debate over the most efficient method of mass murder led to the construction of killing centers where crippled children were gassed and cremated. Friedlander shows that the success of the program convinced the Nazis that mass murder was technically workable, that ordinary citizens were willing to slaughter large numbers of innocent people. The killing centers became models for the extermination camps of the Final Solution. ``When all is said and done, we are still unable to grasp the reasons that seemingly normal men and women were able to commit such extraordinary crimes,'' concludes Friedlander, a history professor at Brooklyn College.