Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Interview with author Jonathan Maxwell
Jonathan Maxwell is a Georgia-based writer and public speaker. He is the author of Murderous Intellectuals: German Elites and the Nazi SS, which received the 2011 Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice Award in the Category of Best Non-fiction Book. In addition, the online publication Author Exposure rated the work as being one of the “20 Most Memorable Debut Books of 2010.” Jonathan holds a BA in English, along with a psychology minor and a paralegal certificate.
Jonathan, please tell us about your current release.
Murderous Intellectuals: German Elites and the Nazi SS examines why so many well-educated professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, scientists, and the like, willingly joined the Nazi SS, the notorious group that spearheaded the Holocaust.
What inspired you to write this book?
In part, I wrote the book to correct some of the misconceptions that people have about the Nazis. Many persons believe that this organization was full of street brawlers and misfits who lived on the fringes of society. To a considerable degree, this was true; Adolf Hitler himself exemplified the “social failure as Nazi” stereotype. However, the organization was also full of intellectuals. Such figures included:
·Johannes Stark. Stark was a German physicist who won a Nobel Prize for his work. He also became a fervent Nazi. He helped to rid German universities of liberal professors. He sent many of these educators to the concentration camps, where many died.
·Philipp Lenard. Lenard was another German physicist who garnered a Nobel Prize. Like Stark, he was a devoted Nazi, and he wrote much anti-Semitic literature.
·Otto Ohlendorf. This man was a death-squad commander who operated in the Ukraine. He and his men shot down about 100,000 Jews over a period of about six months. Obviously, Ohlendorf was a dangerous, fanatical criminal. He was also superbly educated: he held doctorates both in law and in economics.
·Oskar Dirlewanger. Dirlewanger was another death-squad commander. He operated in the former Yugoslavia. He openly encouraged his men to commit atrocities such as plunder, rape, and the murders of civilians. Like Ohlendorf, he was a dangerous felon. He was well-educated as well, possessing a doctorate in political science.
·Josef Mengele is the most famous SS doctor who performed experiments on people within the concentration and death camps. He came from a respected upper class family and held doctorates in medicine and anthropology. By no means was he the only one, though. There were at least 200 doctors who engaged in such inhumane practices, and they often graduated from the best European universities. In addition, many German doctors regularly killed thousands of mentally ill or mentally retarded individuals as part of a “euthanasia program.”
·The SS was full of architects. One such architect was Paul Blobel, a death-squad commander. At a Russian ravine called Babi Yar, he and his men murdered some 35,000 Jews over a two-day period. Another architect, Albert Speer, was a slave master who was responsible for the deaths of millions of forced laborers. He came from a respected upper class family.
·The SS was also full of lawyers. One such lawyer, Ernst Kaltenbrunner founded Mauthausen, one of the most brutal of the concentration camps. Another attorney, Hans Frank, became the governor-general of Nazi occupied Poland. His tenure there was marked by mass murder, graft, plunder, and corruption.
·Robert Ley was a slave master. He possessed a doctorate in chemistry.
These individuals are not particularly exceptional: one-third of SS officers possessed at least a bachelor’s degree. The truth, then, is much more disturbing. Many of the Holocaust’s practitioners were otherwise rational, accomplished individuals. Ultimately, I hope to convey to the reader that evil can come in many forms. It can come from thugs, but it can come from professors and engineers, too. I also hope to convey to the reader that the ideas of social elites need to be questioned from time to time. Sadly, average Germans during this period did not do so. They simply assumed that such leaders and intellectuals were always right. They failed to consider the fact that evil can corrupt social elites as well.
What exciting story are you working on next?
My second book is called Piltdown Man and Other Hoaxes. It’s much different from my first book. It’s a fun work that is designed for both adults and children. It’s about scientific hoaxes through history, including those involving Bigfoot, the Yeti, lake monsters, and Atlantis. It explores why hoaxes are perpetrated, and why people keep falling for them. Piltdown Man and Other Hoaxes is controversial (people tend to have strong opinions about such subjects), but in a light-hearted way.
It's schedule for release this summer.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I finally considered myself to be a professional writer when I received my first publishing contract about three years ago. I wrote for decades, but I had always been hounded by self-doubt. During the writing of Murderous Intellectuals, I had these sad thoughts: am I just a wannabe? Am I just fooling myself? Am I a phony? I don’t suffer from self-doubt much anymore.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write full-time. That being said, my writing schedule is schizophrenic. I operate much like a painter or a sculptor. I have these periods when I get really inspired, and I’ll write thirty pages over a day or two. Then again, I have these periods when I can’t write for weeks on end. I don’t advise such a strategy; ideally, one should write every day. That never worked for me, though. I have found an effective way of dealing with it, however: simply do other writer-related tasks. You can send out queries or book proposals, you can arrange interviews, you can create and then send out press releases, and so on. To be a successful writer, you don’t have to write every day necessarily, but a writer should always stay busy doing one thing or another.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer, but I never thought that I could ever become one. My father was a truck driver. I thought that to be a writer, you had to have graduated from an ivy-league college and to have come from the upper class.
The reason why I wrote my first book is because I had been laid-off from work repeatedly. In between sending out resumes, I decided to write a manuscript. After all, I had a lot of free time on my hands, and it sounded like an interesting challenge. At the time, I simply wanted to prove to myself that I could do something like that. At no time did I ever feel like I could ever sell the book. My mother read it, and urged me to send it out to publishers. I was amazed that I received a contract. In addition, I never felt that I could do book signings or arrange interviews or public appearances. I’ve been pleasantly surprised time after time.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Readers can find my title on www.amazon.com, www.borders.com, and www.barnesandnoble.com, as well as at independent booksellers. They are also invited to contact me on Facebook and LinkedIn.