Masters of Death

The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust
Narrated by: Neil Hellegers
Length: 14 hrs and 6 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (101 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In Masters of Death, Richard Rhodes gives full weight, for the first time, to the Einsatzgruppen's role in the Holocaust. These "special task forces", organized by Heinrich Himmler to follow the German army as it advanced into Eastern Poland and Russia, were the agents of the first phase of the Final Solution. They murdered more than one and a half million men, women, and children between 1941 and 1943, often by shooting them into killing pits, as at Babi Yar. These massive crimes have been generally overlooked or underestimated by Holocaust historians, who have focused on the gas chambers.

In this painstaking account, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes profiles the eastern campaign's architects as well as its "ordinary" soldiers and policemen and helps us understand how such men were conditioned to carry out mass murder. Marshaling a vast array of documents and the testimony of perpetrators and survivors, this book is an essential contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust and World War II.

©2002 Richard Rhodes (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Rhodes, a Pulitzer winner for The Making of the Atomic Bomb, has pulled together a mountain of research on the mass murders of Jews perpetrated by the Einsatzgruppen...Rhodes holds the mirror up." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Masters of Death

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good book...but...

Apart from the frequent digressions into the psychological musings of a friend of the author, I found this to be a decent explanation of the subject. I heard several bits and pieces of historical accounts here that I had not run across before and that pleases me very much. There were several pieces of this that I feel were not possible to substantiate, although with this subject that is to be expected however. But it leaves me with more questions at the story’s conclusion. Regarding Himmler’s secret room furnished with furniture made from the bones of Jewish victims, this is the first account I had heard of this, and as far as I know, nothing of this kind has ever been found to substantiate the story. Several such sideline stories are told here and unfortunately I feel that rather than adding to the story, these unsubstantiated claims take away from the true solemness and unabashedly truthful nature of this crime. This is also the first time I had heard the story about the 90 children the Einsatzgruppen left to their own devices in a school house while they tried to figure out where and when to murder them. Heartbreaking story, truly. That is just my opinion though, you should listen for yourself.

2 people found this helpful

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People at their worst!

A time in our past to horrific to be fiction and not enough was done to stop it!

2 people found this helpful

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SS-EINSATZGRUPPEN Holocaust

This book is very interesting . Great book on the Einsatzgruppen. It gives you in depth information, and interesting insight into the mass Murder carried out by the various divisions.

1 person found this helpful

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fascinating read

well delivered, interesting and sad piece of human history. worth the time and darkness one will learn from this book

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most brutal thing I've ever heard

gruesome details on an important part of history that must not be forgotten. so gnarly.

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I know more now

Very interesting book ,I thought I new everything about ww2.I now know a little More.

2 people found this helpful

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Difficult To Endure But Necessary Reading

This was my second read-through, as I owned the hard-back years ago. Given the re-rise of white supremacy in America, I felt it was necessary to take another trip back in time as a reminder of what can happen if we do not stop it dead in it's tracks.

Richard Rhodes IS the master historian and the master story-teller. And it must have taken great intestinal fortitude to research and write about the most vile period in human history. But not as much intestinal fortitude as the people who were subjected to the final solution.

Perhaps if society valued works such as these more than they valued The Apprentice and Duck Dynasty we wouldn't be forced to confront this evil once again.

The plus side to reading Masters Of Death is that reader will come away with a deeper understanding of HOW it happens. The downside, as in a case such as myself, is that the reader may also come away with deep resentment. Hatred isn't healthy no matter how it manifests itself. When it comes to The Third Reich, however, it's a hatred I can live with.

"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."-Samuel Johnson

5 people found this helpful

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Breathless, Emotional Narration Spoils All

This is not a work of fiction. This is an informal rendition of a horrifying chapter of world history. The content is emotional enough, it doesn't need the urgent, outraged tone Neil Hellegers adopts from the first sentence which spoiled the experience for me.

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Grim and Necessary

Rhodes can flat out tell a story well, a talent essential for a history involving mass shootings and mass graves. He details the relationship of Himmler to Heydrich to Hitler in clear fashion and describes the evolution of the Holocaust, breaking it down into its component parts so the reader understands how it unfolded. The narrator, howver, was a bad choice. He treats it like a radio drama broadcast. Not a good idea.

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Never forgetting

Terrible and painful experience to re-listen to this WWII nazi onslaught on unarmed men women and children, but this is also what states do, what many of us can do, how we do what we are told by our society. Holocausts still take place today and states let it happen. We are still a heartbeat away from medieval societies...