The Shoah, it seems, has come to be read for portents and interpretation as much as for history itself. Yet one reason that the small scholarly details matter is that they provide an arsenal for whatever argument you want to make about the present. If you believe that the mass extermination of the Jews was already implicit in the orders given for the June, 1941 invasion of Russia, then you are likely to see it as proceeding according to a long-standing fixed plan of Hitler’s; if you believe that the Final Solution, properly so called, was a panicky, confused improvisation arrived at in December, 1941, after the German failure at Moscow and the Russian counterattack, then you will probably see it as a response made by a mostly disordered and dysfunctional evil. If June, you are likely to believe that bad people do what they say they will; if December, you believe that the worst things happen when bad people get cornered by their own bad behavior. How you feel about things as seemingly remote as Iranian deals and Putin’s aggressions is shaped by—or shapes—your judgment of the historical micro-details.
Adam Gopnik, “Blood and Soil”, The New Yorker (21 September 2015), 101.