Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners: A clarification and methodological critique

James Mahoney, Michael Ellsberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners has sparked an outpouring of controversy in the international and scholarly press. Unfortunately, much of the debate over the book has been focused on a simplistic interpretation of Goldhagen's argument. In this article, we seek to move the debate in a more fruitful direction by clarifying Goldhagen's actual argument, and then critiquing this argument, not the simplified one presented in much of the literature. We suggest that key parts of Goldhagen's argument cannot be falsified by empirical evidence and thus should be regarded much more cautiously and tentatively than Goldhagen's firm conclusions suggest. Nevertheless, we commend Goldhagen for developing a methodologically explicit causal analysis of the Holocaust and encourage others to follow this example.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)422-436
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Historical Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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