Yehuda Bauer (Hebrew: יהודה באואר; born 1926) is a Czechoslovak-born Israeli historian and scholar of the Holocaust. He is a professor of Holocaust Studies at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
As a native citizen of Prague, Czechoslovakia, Bauer was fluent at an early age in Czech, Slovak and German, later learning Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French and Polish. His father had strong Zionist convictions and during the 1930s tried to raise money to get his family to the British Mandate of Palestine. On March 15, 1939, the family migrated to Palestine, managing to get past Nazi officials on a train which slipped them over the border into Poland, from which they moved, via Romania, to Palestine.
Bauer attended high school in Haifa and at sixteen, inspired by his history teacher, Rachel Krulik, decided to dedicate himself to studying history. Upon completing high school, he joined the Palmach. He attended Cardiff University in Wales on a British scholarship, interrupting his studies to fight in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, after which he completed his degree.
Bauer returned to Israel to join Kibbutz Shoval and began his graduate work in history at Hebrew University. He received his doctorate in 1960 for a thesis on the British Mandate of Palestine. The following year, he began teaching at the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University.
He served on the central committee of Mapam, then the junior partner party of Israel's ruling Mapai (Israel Labour Party), and was a visiting professor at Brandeis University, Yale University, Richard Stockton College, and Clark University. He was the founding editor of the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and served on the editorial board of the Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust, published by Yad Vashem in 1990.
Awards and honours
In recent years, Bauer has received recognition for his work in the field of Holocaust studies and the prevention of genocide.
- In 1998, he was awarded the Israel Prize, for "history of the Jewish people", primarily in connection with his Holocaust studies.
- In 2001, he was elected a Member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
- In 2008, he received the Yakir Yerushalayim (Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) award from the city of Jerusalem.
In addition, he currently serves as academic adviser to Yad Vashem, academic adviser to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research, and senior adviser to the Swedish Government on the International Forum on Genocide Prevention.
Bauer is a respected authority on the subjects of the Holocaust, antisemitism—a word he insists be written unhyphenated—and the Jewish resistance movement during the Holocaust, and has argued for a wider definition of the term. In Bauer's view, resistance to the Nazis comprised not only physical opposition, but any activity that gave the Jewish people dignity and humanity in the most humiliating and inhumane conditions. Furthermore, Bauer has disputed the popular view that most Jews went to their deaths passively—"like sheep to the slaughter." He argues that, given the conditions in which the Jews of Eastern Europe had to live under and endure, what is surprising is not how little resistance there was, but rather how much.
With regard to the functionalism versus intentionalism question, Bauer started out as an Intentionalist, but is now the leading proponent of a synthesis of the two schools. Bauer argues that on the basis of Heinrich Himmler's memorandum of May 25, 1940 to Adolf Hitler regarding the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question"—in which Himmler states his rejection of "the Bolshevik method of physical annihilation of a people out of inner conviction as un-German and impossible," and goes on to recommend the Madagascar Plan as the desired "territorial solution" of the "Jewish Question"—proves that there was no master plan for genocide going back to the days when Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. However, Bauer takes issue with Functionalist historians, such as Hans Mommsen, who argue that the lead in the Holocaust was taken entirely by lower level officials with little involvement by the leadership in Berlin.
Bauer believes that Hitler was the key figure in causing the Holocaust, and that at some point in the later half of 1941, he gave a series of orders for the genocide of the entire Jewish people. Bauer has pointed to the discovery of an entry in Himmler’s notebook from December 18, 1941 where Himmler wrote down the question "What to do with the Jews of Russia?". According to the same notebook, Hitler’s response to the question was "Exterminate them as partisans." In Bauer’s view, this is as close as historians will ever get to a definitive order from Hitler ordering the Holocaust. Bauer believes that, at about the same time, Hitler gave further verbal orders for the Holocaust, but that unfortunately for historians, nobody bothered to write them down.
Bauer has often criticized what he considers to be deleterious trends in writing about the Holocaust. He has often taken exception to those who argue that the Holocaust was just another genocide. Though he agrees that there have been other genocides in history that have targeted groups other than Jews, he argues that the Holocaust was the worst single case of genocide in history, in which every member of a nation was selected for annihilation, and that it therefore holds a special place in human history. These views have caused clashes between Bauer and the American historian Henry Friedlander who argues that Romani and the disabled were just as much victims of the Holocaust as Jews were. However, Bauer has said that the Romani were subject to genocide (just not "the Holocaust) and has supported the demands of Romani for reparations from Germany.
Another trend Bauer has denounced is the representation of the Holocaust as a mystical experience outside the normal range of human understanding. He has argued against the work of some Orthodox rabbis and theologians who say that the Holocaust was the work of God and part of a mysterious master plan for the Jewish people. In Bauer’s view, those who seek to promote this line of thinking argue that God is just and good, while simultaneously bringing down the Holocaust on the Jewish people. Bauer has argued that a God who inflicts the Shoah on his Chosen People is neither good nor just. Moreover, Bauer has argued that this line of reasoning robs Adolf Hitler of his evil: if Hitler was just fulfilling God’s will regarding the Jews, then he was merely an instrument of divine wrath and did not choose to be evil.
Bauer has criticized the work of the American political scientist Daniel Goldhagen, who writes that the Holocaust was the result of the allegedly unique “eliminationist” antisemitic culture of the Germans. He has accused Goldhagen of Germanophobic racism, and of selecting only evidence favorable to his thesis. For example, Bauer has written that, according to the 1931 German census, about 50,000 German Jews were living in mixed marriages with Christians, giving Germany one of the highest rates of mixed marriages in the world at the time. In Bauer’s opinion, if the average German had been full of murderous “eliminationist" antisemitism, as Goldhagen argues, there would have been fewer mixed marriages. Goldhagen in his turn has accused Bauer of not understanding his arguments properly and of being jealous of what Goldhagen considers to be his discovery of the “key” that explains the entire Holocaust.
Conquest of Canaan
In reference to the conquest of Canaan by the ancient Israelites, which resulted in the massacre of the Amalekites and Midianites, genocide historian Adam Jones has quoted Bauer: "As a Jew, I must live with the fact that the civilization I inherited ... encompasses the call for genocide in its canon."
Possibility of genocide in Palestine-Israel
While speaking to a group of visitors to Israel in 2003, Bauer stated that "What we have here between the Israelis and the Palestinians is an armed conflict - if one side becomes stronger there is a chance of genocide." When one of the visitors asked, "Am I to understand that you think Israel could commit genocide on the Palestinian people?," Bauer answered "Yes," and added, "Just two days ago, extremist settlers passed out flyers to rid Arabs from this land. Ethnic cleansing results in mass killing." Bauer also noted opinion polls showing a high percentage of Palestinians want to get rid of Jews.
In January 2012, Bauer's article in the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs entitled "The Holocaust, America and American Jewry" precipitated a bitter debate between himself, Rafael Medoff (Wyman Institute) and Alexander J. Groth (University of California, Davis), on what the US Government and the Jews of America could and could not have done to rescue the Jews of Europe.
Concerning Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to Israel and Jordan, Bauer argued that the Pope meant well and tried to walk the tightrope between Arab-Palestinian-Muslim and Palestinian-Christian enmity to Israel and the Jews on the one hand, and the collective trauma of Jews in Israel and elsewhere regarding the Holocaust on the other.
- The initial organization of the Holocaust survivors in Bavaria, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1970
- From diplomacy to Resistance: A history of Jewish Palestine. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1970. Translated from Hebrew by Alton M. Winters.
- Flight and rescue: Brichah. New York: Random House, c1970
- They chose life: Jewish resistance in the Holocaust. New York: The American Jewish Committee, c1973
- Rescue operations through Vilna, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1973
- My brother's keeper: A history of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, c1974
- The Holocaust and the struggle of the Yishuv as factors in the establishment of the State of Israel. [Jerusalem]: [Yad Vashem 1976]
- Trends in Holocaust research, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1977
- The Holocaust in historical perspective. Seattle: University of Washington Press, c1978
- The Judenraete: some conclusions. [Jerusalem]: [Yad Vashem, 1979]
- The Jewish emergence from powerlessness. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, c1979
- The Holocaust as historical experience: Essays and a discussion, New York: Holmes & Meier, c1981
- American Jewry and the Holocaust. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee,. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981 ISBN 0-8143-1672-7
- Jewish foreign policy during the Holocaust. New York: 1984
- Jewish survivors in DP camps and She'erith Hapletah, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1984
- Antisemitism today: Myth and reality. Jerusalem: Hebrew University. Institute of Contemporary Jewry, 1985
- Antisemitism in Western Europe. 1988
- ed., Present-day Antisemitism: Proceedings of the Eighth International Seminar of the Study Circle on World Jewry under the auspices of the President of Israel, Chaim Herzog, Jerusalem 29–31 December 1985. Jerusalem: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, The Hebrew University, 1988
- Out of the ashes: The impact of American Jews on post-Holocaust European Jewry. Oxford: Pergamon Press, c1989
- The mission of Joel Brand. 1989
- ed., Remembering for the future: Working papers and addenda. Oxford: Pergamon Press,c1989
- Jewish reactions to the Holocaust. Tel-Aviv: MOD Books, c1989
- Résistance et passivité juive face à l'Holocauste. 1989
- Out of the Ashes. Oxford, Pergamon Press, 1989
- Antisemitism and anti-Zionism—New and old. 1990
- World War II. 1990
- Is the Holocaust explicable? 1990
- La place d'Auschwitz dans la Shoah. 1990
- The Brichah: Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1990
- The Holocaust, religion and Jewish history. 1991
- Who was responsible and when? Some well-known documents revisited. 1991
- Holocaust and genocide. Some comparisons. 1991
- The tragedy of the Slovak Jews within the framework of Nazi policy towards the Jews in general, 1992
- Vom christlichen Judenhass zum modernen Antisemitismus—Ein Erklaerungsversuch. 1992
- On the applicability of definitions—Anti-Semitism in present-day Europe. 1993
- Antisemitism as a European and world problem. 1993
- The Wannsee "Conference" and its significance for the "Final Solution". 1993
- Antisemitism in the 1990s. 1993
- The significance of the Final Solution. 1994
- Jews for sale?: Nazi-Jewish negotiations,. New Haven: Yale University Press, October 1994
- The Impact of the Holocaust. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996
- A history of the Holocaust. New York: Franklin Watts, c1982, 2001
- Rethinking the Holocaust. Haven, Yale University, 2001
- "Gypsies" in Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, eds. Anatomy of the Auschwitz death camp Bloomington: Indiana University Press, in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. c1994. ISBN 0-253-32684-2
Edited conference papers
- Menachem Z. Rosensaft and Yehuda Bauer (eds.) Antisemitism: threat to Western civilization. Jerusalem: Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1989. ISBN 965-222-126-0. (Papers based on a conference held at the New York University School of Law, 27 October 1985).
- Yehuda Bauer (ed.) The danger of Antisemitism in Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of 1989-1990. Jerusalem: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem: c1991. ISBN 965-222-242-9 (Based on a conference held October 28–29, 1990, in Jerusalem)
- Dalia Karpel 'History professor Yehuda Bauer: 'Netanyahu doesn't know history' at Haaretz 21 February 2013.
- "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1998 (in Hebrew)".
- "Recipients of Yakir Yerushalayim award (in Hebrew)". City of Jerusalem official website
- Problems of Contemporary Antisemitism. Lecture by Yehuda Bauer, 2003. Jewish Studies at UC Santa Cruz
- Bauer, Yehuda. Interview with Amos Goldberg. 18 January 1998. 22 July 2007 
- Bauer, Yehuda Rethinking the Holocaust Yale University Press, 2000, page 5
- http://www1.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%203856.pdf, pp.45-46, 55
- Bauer, Yehuda. Jews for Sale? Nazi–Jewish Negotiations 1933–1945. Yale University Press, 1994, p. 72.
- Vrba, Rudolf. I Escaped from Auschwitz, Barricade Books, 2002, p. 406.
- Adam Jones References p. 4, note 6, citing Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 41
- Halpern, Orly, "Bauer: It could happen here," Haaretz, 26 February 2003
- Maybe Roosevelt couldn't have saved the Jews from the Nazis, Haaretz
- The Pope meant well
- Marrus, Michael (1987). The Holocaust In History. Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys.
- Rosenbaum, Ron (1998). Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil. New York: Random House.
- Bio at ADL
- interview at KQED Forum January 11, 2005 (audio)
- Address to the Bundestag January 27, 1998
- 1998 Interview (PDF)
- 1993 Interview
- at Yad VaShem
- at HUJI
- Lectures at Researchchannel
- The “Final Solution” - A Bureaucratic Process or an Ideological Genocide? Excerpt from interview with Bauer