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Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience Paperback – January 12, 1983

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Editorial Reviews

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Based on 70 hours of interviews with Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka (the largest of the extermination camps), this book bares the soul of a man who continually found ways to rationalize his role in Hitler's final soulution.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 379 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (January 12, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394710355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394710358
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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174 of 177 people found the following review helpful By Candace Scott on February 12, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book after devouring Gitta Sereny's wonderful biography on Nazi Armaments Minister, Albert Speer. This offering is superior to anything else on the Holocaust, bar none. Sereny spent many hours interviewing the Commandant of Treblinka, Franz Stangl. He reveals in dispassionate tones the horrors of this death camp: the subterfuge to confuse those arriving to the camp, the fake train station, the beautiful gardens... it's almost surreal to read this man's words. More disquieting is that Stangl appears to be rather normal, though obviously a psychopath since the concept of guilt is alien to him. He loved his wife, was a devoted father and was an attractive personality, yet he was involved in monstrous crimes.
Sereny also interviews Jews who survived Treblinka by working in the "clothes factory," and she also interviews some of the S.S. guards who presided over this horrific complex. But the heart and soul of the book is Stangl, whom she interviewed while he was in a German prison in 1972. When she asked him, "When you saw children about to be gassed, did you think of your own children?" Stangl vacantly looked away and said mutely, "I don't know."
This book should be required reading for those who deny the Holocaust or seek to make excuses for Nazi genocide. Sereny is a masterful writer and every word of this book is gripping. This is not a product to skim haphazardly, it's as engrossing as anything ever written about genocide in the 20th century. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
You will arrive at this book after Trevor-Roper, Speer, Shirer, Bullock, Churchill, Gilbert, Irving, Ambrose and all the rest; but it is not that type of history.

First of all ignore the Nazis marketing; the stark red, black and white cover with the obligatory swastika and the obligatory gothic font; also ignore the obligatory Elie Wiesel imprimatur on the back cover. They tell you nothing of what is inside.

Ms. Sereny is primarily an interviewer; in her book "Into That Darkness" she produces a biography of Franz Stangl, Kommandant of the Triblinka extermination Camp in central Poland in 1943. For most of us he and his deathcamp rank at the bottom if not define human atrocity. Ms. Sereny talks to Stangl not a journalist or reporter but as a therapist, and for Stangl this is both the first time and the last time "I never talked to anyone like this"; he dies hours afterwards.

Her picture of Stangl is of a man struggling with his own past behavior, so conflicted in his inability to reconcile his personal concessions; he has developed into two men. One in continuous battle with the other, irreconcilable in their differences, both authors of the same criminal acts from inside one mind. We see both Herr Stangls parse, compartmentalize, excuse, avoid, dodge, stonewall and counter-accuse in a twisted effort to find a logic that will allow them to inhabit that one mind.

Just that Stangl is twisted in conflict at all means that there was in him a spark of recognition of both good and evil as separate things. Moral and immoral, criminal and civil, humane and inhumane; that spark of conscience still glows enough to allow a dim and tardy discrimination.
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89 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on December 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
The genius behind the choice for this book's title revolves around what for me, as well as for many other students of the Holocaust, is the central question the phenomenon of organized mass murder inevitably raises; how could it be true that ordinary men are capable of such unspeakable horror on such an unimaginable scale, willing to become enthusiastic participants in the ritualistic murder of millions of their fellow human beings. If one is honest, he or she begins to raise some very disturbing questions about just what kind of a biological organism we are part of, ourselves included as un-indicted co-conspirators by way of the murder we hold somewhere in our own hearts.
Yet, even if you grant me the kindness of agreeing with my supposition, it still does not explain how such men as the individual profiled in this book, Herr Franz Stangl, the one-time commander of the death camp at Treblinka, could manage to swing his body out of bed every day for the decades since he was captured by the Allies and the war ended for him. His personal testimony shows once more how the subtle political use of language and the countless attempts to justify themselves through euphemistic references to the so-called "Jewish problem" seems to aid such individuals in playing a kind of psychological hide-and seek with themselves by aligning their actions with the purposes and goals of Germany during the war. And yet, quite poignantly the interview with Stangl also illustrates how vain and hopeless such efforts to blithely paper over the past really are. Somewhere in the darkness of one's own soul an individual knows all he is guilty of. Or so we would suppose.
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