Why We Watched: How Anti-Semitism in the Allied Nations Allowed Hitler to Exterminate European Jewry

W.W. Norton & Company  2008


One would think that by now, so many years after the Holocaust, there can be little left to add to our understanding of the horrific acts that led to the extermination of European Jewry. Not so. Theodore Hamerow, in his book Why We Watched takes the information we already have and examines it from a new and original angle. 

Numerous studies have been conducted on the roles of bystanders during the Holocaust. These works looked at the various European countries involved in the extermination process in order to determine how much information they really had and the impact that information had on the ways they chose to act or not to act. 

Hamerow’s study provides a new twist. The author sets the stage before the Holocaust and suggests that because of the type of anti-Semitism that existed in these countries there is no conceivable chance that large numbers of ordinary citizens would have intervened to save the lives of European Jews as individuals or as a group. Hamerow’s thesis implies that the Jews of Europe never had a chance—not because of the power of Hitler, but because of the pre-Hitler make-up of the countries these Jews once called home.

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