Raul Hilberg, 81, Historian Who Wrote of the Holocaust as a Bureaucracy, Dies

Published: August 7, 2007

Raul Hilberg, a Jewish émigré from Nazi-occupied Vienna who helped begin the field of Holocaust studies with his long and minutely detailed 1961 study of the massacre of European Jews, died Saturday in Williston, Vt. He was 81.

The cause was lung cancer, said Jeffrey R. Wakefield, a spokesman for the University of Vermont, where Mr. Hilberg had taught for 35 years.

In his landmark work, “The Destruction of the European Jews,” Mr. Hilberg said the Holocaust had been the result of a huge bureaucratic machine with thousands of participants, not the fulfillment of a preconceived plan or a single order by Hitler.

As uncountable separate instructions were passed on, formally and informally, to a range of actors that included train schedulers and gas chamber architects, responsibility became ever more diluted, he argued, even as the machinery of death churned inexorably