The Origins of Nazi Violence

A leading social scientist’s depiction of the Holocaust as the culmination of liberal European modernization

In the half-century since the appearance of Hannah Arendt’s seminal work The Origins of Totalitarianism, innumerable historians have detailed the history of the Nazi years. Now, in a brilliant synthesis of this work, Enzo Traverso situates the extermination camps as the final, terrible moment in European modernity’s industrialization of killing and dehumanization of death. Traverso upends the conventional presentation of the Holocaust as an inexplicable anomaly, navigating an excess of antecedents both technical and cultural. Deftly tracing a complex lineage—the guillotine and machine gun, the prison and assembly line, as well as widespread ideologies of racial supremacy and colonial expansion—Traverso reveals that the ideas that coalesced at Auschwitz came from Europe’s mainstream and not its margins.


“An important contribution to the debate on the origins of the Nazi crimes against humanity.”
Etudes (Paris)
“Returns ideas to their proper place, at a time when we must reconstruct the fundamental lines of a new project of liberation. . . . Particularly timely. ”
“[Enzo Traverso] offers us an absolutely original perspective. . . . [He] isolates, with rare force, the mortifying core of Nazi anti-Semitism. ”