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The Druggist of Auschwitz: A Documentary Novel Paperback – January 31, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Like the novels of W.G. Sebald . . . [The Druggist of Auschwitz] will fill you with despair and rage and terrible shame at the infinite ingenuity of human cruelty. By steeling himself not to flinch before the hideous reality of the Holocaust, Schlesak has created a beautiful book.” ―David Laskin, The Seattle Times
“That Dieter Schlesak could write this novel in what Adam calls the executioner's language serves as some small triumph. That he could look at all of this with a clear eye and help the reader to do the same is a major triumph.” ―Alan Cheuse, NPR
“A great book that hits you like a fist . . . An unforgettable tapestry of evil . . . [The Druggist of Auschwitz] shows that, as Melville said, the truth is more unthinkable than fiction.” ―Claudio Magris, Corriere della Sera (Italy)
“Written in a fluid style with little intervening commentary…The Druggist of Auschwitz is nothing less than a minimally guided tour of hell on earth.” ―Booklist
“Retracing the story of Dr. Capesius, in which appear other infamous figures--such as Josef Mengele, the ‘Angel of Death'; Fritz Klein, the ‘Assassin for Good'; and the camp commandant, Rudolf Höß--Schlesak reconstructs the terrifying history of Auschwitz: the trauma of arrival, the torture of the prisoners, the horror of the gassings and cremations. Schlesak writes with a dry style, almost with the distance of a reporter, giving us a powerful testimony on the banality of evil. The Druggist of Auschwitz is a book which confirms that sometimes the truth is more unimaginable than the most horrible fantasy.” ―Gaetano Vallini, L'Osservatore Romano (Vatican City)
“Dieter Schlesak not only has created a shattering work of great literary power and authenticity . . . but also sheds light on the relationship between perpetrators and their victims.” ―Claus Stephani, David: Jüdische Kulturzeitschrift (Austria)
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Top Customer Reviews
Schlesak, however, finally succeeds here in creating a monumental analysis of Auschwitz, almost paralyzing in the completeness of its horror on every possible level, by using a "collective narrator," a character he calls "Adam Salmen." Adam as narrator is a Sondercommando of the Jewish "Special Action Squad" under the Germans, a man whose agonizing job it is to report on the deaths in the gas chambers and the tallies of the cremation ovens. On his own time, however, he keeps notes in tiny handwriting on equally tiny scrolls which he hides as a permanent record of what he has seen. The Nazi point of view is represented primarily by Viktor Capesius, formerly a pharmacist in Sighisoara, someone author Schlesak knew personally and with whom he had many interviews after the war. Members of his own family were also sources--especially Roland Albert, his mother's favorite brother, who worked as a guard at Auschwitz.
Real transcripts from several Nazi war crimes trials are used for background and detail here, especially the third trial, in Frankfurt from December, 1963 - August, 1965, which convicted many of the lesser officials mentioned in this book.Read more ›
Author Dieter Schlesak uses the druggist Capesius as the central vehicle for exploring the horrors of Auschwitz.Read more ›
They're not alone. When pressed, those on trial will admit that okay, maybe they did do something wrong, but being publicly denounced as Nazis is doing nothing for them or their families' reputation. One war criminal complains that he's only allowed Coke from the vending machine. If you can imagine.
Juxtaposed with such concerns are countless examples of the horrors of day-to-day life in the concentration camps. Some of those interned managed to keep written records, which survived. Unsurprisingly, there are discrepancies between what those interned recall and what the Nazis in charge do. There are small acts of heroism recorded, but most of the recollections are unrelentingly grim. (If you're like me, you may have to put the book down just to process the horrors.)
A few Nazis were disturbed by the goings-on (one committed suicide in a gas chamber); the rest did as they were told. The stories about what the Nazis did for entertainment can be more horrifying than the ones about their intentional brutalities. Their actions had a direct effect on the youngest and most vulnerable. One witness recalls seeing interned children play "Selection," imitating their jailers and culling the weak from the healthy.
This book would get five stars if it was presented as nonfiction - it's outstanding as investigative journalism. As a novel, it didn't quite work for me, although given the subject matter, I'm uncomfortable pointing out why (too unvarying in tone; lack of character development, etc., all of which can`t help but sound tasteless). Either way though, it's worth reading.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Reading this book now. Very difficult to put down!!!! Well written, really grips you.Published 5 months ago by Gina Allensworth
To read some of the actual words of survivors and
to read the real words of their tormentors for choice of a better word
was a good read. Read more
Interesting book about a Jewish doctor sent to Auschwitz and his post-war trial about his experiences and doings there. Read morePublished on April 2, 2013 by Maria T. Sindram
I am really at sixes and sevens about what to say about this well-written, but perplexing work. "The Druggist of Auschwitz" has the author interviewing a man from his home town,... Read morePublished on September 20, 2011 by Jean E. Pouliot
An earlier reviewer of this book, Mary Whipple,correctly notes in her excellent review that "stars are not appropriate for this book". Read morePublished on August 21, 2011 by Jill Meyer
The 1st paragraph did me in. I read about 20 more pages and had to stop. I read for enjoyment and occasionally for enlightenment. Read morePublished on July 24, 2011 by Floyd Hendry