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BOOKS . . . HITLER'S WILLING EXECUTIONERS: Based in part on German archives that have been neglected or ignored by other scholars, 'Hitler's Willing Executioners' contends that ordinary Germans were not passive and helpless witnesses to the Holocaust. Instead, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen argues that the perpetrators of the Final Solution were ordinary men and women, workers, merchants and so on, who ravaged the ghettos, brutally supervised the death camps and enthusiastically carried out Hitler's plan to destroy world Jewry. Goldhagen's indictment focuses on the citizenry's complicity in three specific "institutions of mass killing": Germany's police battalions; the so-called work camps in which Jews were incarcerated; and the death marches from those camps by prison guards and their charges near the end of the war. "Hitler's Willing Executioners' is bound to be severely criticized -- at least in Germany -- since it confronts the postwar alibi that average citizens of the Third Reich either did not know about the Holocaust or disapproved of it," says TIME's John Elson. "Some historians may also question whether anti-Semitism, while prevalent in pre-Hitler Germany, was as viciously eliminationist as the author argues." Elson notes that the 19th century English writer Lord Acton believed that historians should be hanging judges, exercising their right to condemn the sins of the past. "By this stern standard, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has done his job with a pen in one hand, a noose in the other."