Yesterday I kvetched about how journalists who often know very little about their subject matter natter on as if they do, and the rest of us take it is as if they do, too. Today I came across the opposite phenomenon. Haaretz carried a story about how a new, 900-page report commissioned by ex-German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has documented that during the Nazi era the ministry contributed to the Holocaust: "German foreign ministry more involved in Holocaust than previously thought".
Previously thought by whom, pray tell? The reason I'm asking is that there's an excellent book by Christopher Browning about this precise subject, Final Solution and the German Foreign Office: A Study of Referat D III of Abteilung Deutschland 1940-1943. The book is widely quoted by anyone who has published anything on the matter since its publication, it was as influential as such a book can be, and it launched Browning's illustrious career; if you ask me he's the most important scholar of the Holocaust in America.
Ah, and it was published... in 1978. I sent Chris a congratulatory e-mail this morning, about how someone has now uncovered the story he told 32 years ago; he says that a German publisher quickly had it translated just recently, to coincide with the publishing of the report that Haaretz refers to.
Sadly, I don't think this is an unusual case. Last week the Economist had a glowing review of a troubling book by Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. Now I haven't read it yet, mind you, though I hope I will, but the excitement of the reviewer seems odd to me. The thesis of the book, about how Stalin and Hitler both engaged in mass murder on enormous scales in Eastern Europe, surely that can't be news to anyone, can it?
Did I ever mention that lots of people died in the Black Death? Just saying.