From Exception to Exemplum: The New Approach to Nazism and the "Final Solution"

The former consensus stipulating the singularity and incomprehensibility of Nazism and the "final Solution" has been challenged in recent years from two perspectives Microhistorical works and studies of poststructuralist orientation have emphasized the normal and ordinary aspects that link Nazism and the Holocaust to the postwar period. Both approaches differ in their understanding of the concept of historical truth, but together they stress the need for close-range, contextualist methods for studying the emergence of the "Final Solution" and the development of its representation and memorialization since 1945. this paradigmatic change in the perception of Nazism from an exceptional to an exemplary event apparent in recent scholarship in the United States follows similar developments in Germany. In both countries the rejection of the concept of singularity and the use of contextualist methods developed as a result of a more general generational transformation. Younger scholars born after World War II seek to integrate Nazism within its wider historical context and use knowledge about Nazism and the "Final Solution" as a key to better understanding of the modern era and contemporary societies, a project hitherto discouraged by the notion of Nazism's exceptionality.