b i o g r a p h y & m e m o i r encouraged the search for less arduous forms of mass murder, leading to the development of gas vans and death camps.
After the USA entered the war, Hitler and Himmler had no use for Jews as hostages. It was now time to punish them for initiating a global war that the Nazis could only explain in terms of a gigantic Jewish conspiracy. The regime lurched from local genocides in Poland and Russia to a continental campaign of extermination. However, even Longerich cannot give an entirely coherent account of how this happened, using ‘probably’ and ‘it can be definitely assumed’ to cover gaps in the paper trail.
He is on firmer ground explaining Himmler’s response to the adverse turn in the war. Himmler now retooled the SS as the defender of Europe against the Asiatic horde. Racial groups once considered beneath contempt were invited to join this desperate rearguard, even Bosnian Muslims. Conversely, the terror machine went into overdrive throughout the occupied countries. The predictable outcome meant that some of his most loyal subordinates now began to falter, while governments once keen to be rid of Jews became uncooperative.
Ultimately, Himmler himself was willing to trade Jews for material or diplomatic advantage. In the death throes of the Third Reich, he used Jewish channels to reach the Western allies in the vain hope of securing a peace deal. Such was the logic of his fantasy about Jewish power.
With Himmler’s suicide in British custody in May 1945 Longerich finally runs out of steam. Where Katrin Himmler’s book on the Himmler brothers explores the intimate consequences of her greatuncle’s inhumanity, Longerich doesn’t tell us what happened to his miserable wife, their daughter Gudrun, or his ‘second family’. But who can blame him? He could have saved himself some labour by cutting detail on the development of the SS and the police, as well as the portraits of the SS leadership, but it is otherwise hard to see how this magnificent work could have been better crafted. Praise must also go to Jeremy Noakes and Lesley Sharpe for their lucent translation, a no less epic achievement. To order this book for £20, see the Literary Review Bookshop on page 49
r o b e r t i r w i n
Eastward Bound Orientalist Jones: Sir William Jones, Poet, Lawyer, and Linguist, 1746–1794
By Michael J Franklin (Oxford University Press 396pp £35)
In 1783 on a ship bound for Calcutta, as ‘India lay before us, and Persia on our left, whilst a breeze from Arabia blew nearly on our stern’, Sir William Jones reflected on the intellectual prospects offered by the study of Asia. For him it had:
ever been esteemed the nurse of sciences, the inventress of delightful and useful arts, the scene of glorious actions, fertile in the productions of human genius, abounding in natural wonders, and infinitely diversified in the forms of religion and government, in the laws, customs, and languages, as well as in the features and complexions of men.
The speech based on his shipboard thoughts, which he subsequently delivered and published, led the following year to the formation of the Asiatick Society of Bengal, ‘a Society for enquiring into the History, civil and natural, the Antiquities, Arts, Sciences and Literature of Asia’. His discourse on the aims of the society he envisaged deserves to be regarded as the founding charter of Orientalism, an ‘inspired and inspiring research programme of subcontinental proportions’.
Jones was one of the earliest Europeans to study and master Sanskrit. But even before he had set out to India he had a reputation as an Orientalist. A terrifyingly precocious schoolboy, he studied Arabic and then set himself to retranslating Antoine Galland’s French translation of The Thousand and One Nights back into Arabic. Later, aged just twenty-five, he produced A Grammar of the Persian Language that was destined to be used by officials of the East India Company in their dealings with various Indian courts. He became known as ‘Oriental Jones’ and his erudition made him a celebrity. However, there were very few career openings for Orientalists in Britain, and for some years he supported himself by tutoring and then by working as a barrister and circuit judge in Wales. He came to know everyone in the social and intellectual elite, including Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Sheridan, Edward Gibbon, Adam Smith, John Wilkes, William Beckford, Johan Zoffany, Sir Joseph Banks, William Wilberforce and Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire. The narrative of Michael Franklin’s Orientalist Jones is crowded with eighteenth-century luminaries. Jones supported the Americans in their struggle for independence. He denounced what were effectively kidnappings by naval press gangs and campaigned against slavery in Britain. He went into print to oppose the overweening power of the crown. Yet he was a complex man and, despite his outspoken radicalism, he depended on the support of Whig grandees to get the preferment that he desired. While he thought it right that the Americans should have their independence, he saw nothing wrong in the British carving out a new empire in India; later in Calcutta he would be waited on by slaves.
In 1783 he was appointed judge in the Supreme Court of Bengal. Like Warren
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