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Auschwitz, 1270 to the Present: A History Hardcover – June, 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Founded by Germans in 1270 and sold to Polish King Casimir IV in 1457, the small provincial town of Auschwitz (Oswiecim in Polish) became a pawn in power struggles between Poland, Germany, Bohemia and Hungary. When Hitler annexed this border town to the Reich in 1939 as German troops smashed Poland, the Nazis celebrated their push to reclaim the "German East," a mythologized, racially pure domain once contested by medieval knights of the Teutonic Order, who ruled Prussia in the 13th century after virtually exterminating the native population and repopulating the town with Germans. The concentration camp established in Auschwitz's suburbs in 1940-designed as a transit camp for Poles being shipped west as slave laborers-was soon transformed into an extermination camp for killing Jews. Using 224 photographs and architectural plans, as well as oral histories of survivors, this careful, detached study traces the camp's evolution into a site where more than one million people were killed and through January 1945, when the remaining 60,000 prisoners underwent a forced march into Germany. Dwork is a professor of Holocaust studies at Clark University in Mass.; van Pelt a cultural history professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Dwork (Children with a Star, LJ 2/15/91) and Pelt (cultural history, Univ. of Waterloo) have written a striking and unusual book. Auschwitz is infamous because it was the largest of the Nazi extermination camps, but Dwork and Pelt delve into its pre-Nazi past to show how it served as a key site for other reasons. Auschwitz (in Polish, Oswiecim), an eastern border town, became a symbol of the German myth of a bucolic medieval past full of achievement. The authors examine how a tourist town of lovely castles became a killing center, and they trace the anti-Semitic ideology that gave rise to the horrible crimes committed there. The text includes survivor testimonies, Nazi propaganda photographs, and extensive architectural blueprints of the camp complex found in the last days of the war. An epilog explains how Auschwitz came to be perceived by different peoples. Recommended for academic and public libraries with strong collections in Holocaust studies.?Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., Ill.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 443 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (June 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393039331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393039337
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 7.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,869,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By genie on June 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I commend the authors for taking on this challenge. After reading "Auschwitz" I began to understand why the Nazis chose a place inside Poland for this horrific concentration camp. It wasn't a whim, and practically an accident! How Auschwitz's plans went from building a model German town to a concentration camp is what many don't know. And how a plan to better one's country (in the minds of the Nazis) slowly developed into something so horrendous, it makes you wonder if it could happen elsewhere. It isn't a novel, so it isn't an easy read. But I found it to be compelling. I wanted to turn the page to learn "what next?"
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Format: Hardcover
I found the book very well laid out in discussing the history of the region. It helped a great deal in bringing into sharper focus the motivation the German people had to the region even though Auschwitz laid inside the Austro-Hungarian Empire prio to it being allocated to Poland after WWI.

It was useful in noting the anger Germany had in finally securing the land 'lost' per Brest-Litovsk in April 1918 only to see the reverse in November 1918.

The sole problem I had with the writers was there constantly stating 'time' without a year i.e. they would say in April (and never give the year). This was very confusing after June 1941 with the commencement of Barbarossa.

I was saddened to read a reviewer who falls into the Institute For Historical Review i.e. this never happened. Ok then what did happen to all those Jews?
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Format: Hardcover
Instead of repeating other reviewers, let's focus on undeveloped content. To begin with, it is interesting to note that the post-WWII Odra-Nysa (Oder-Neisse) boundary coincided with the east-most deployment of Germans before the year 1200 A.D. (p. 24).

"Nationalism" nowadays is often a dirty word. In actuality, there are different kinds of nationalism, only some of which are repulsive. While discussing the 19th-century German rule over western Poles, Dwork and van Pelt comment: "What had been a domain of encounter became a battlefield where the imperial and integral nationalism of the Germans faced the functional and emancipatory nationalism of the Poles." (p. 48).

Contrary to those who misrepresent the Germans as voting Hitler into power merely in order to avenge and rectify the "injustices" of Versailles, the authors recognize the fact that Hitler plainly wrote in MEIN KAMPF about his plans for a massive war for lebensraum against the Slavic east. What's more, this was not only well known to Germans in general, but enthusiastically supported by them. (pp. 82-83). (While it is technically true that Hitler didn't win an absolute majority, it begs the question why the Nationalist and Catholic deputies deliberately chose to push him over the top (p. 96), giving him totalitarian rule.)

Dwork and van Pelt realize that the Auschwitz camp was created for Poles. (p. 168, 173, 181). Its conversion into an extermination camp for Jews came much later. Nor was the latter a foregone conclusion. In fact, the Final Solution first envisioned the mass resettlement of Europe's Jews to the Lublin-area, then Madagascar, then to German-ruled Russia--the latter similar to the planned eastward mass-resettlement of Poles (Generalplan Ost).
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