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Auschwitz: A History Paperback – August 1, 2006
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In concise and sober fashion, German historian Steinbacher traces the history of Auschwitz from a medieval trading town to the major extermination camp of the Holocaust. Like so many eastern European towns, Auschwitz for centuries had a mixed population of Germans, Poles, Jews, Ukrainians and others, who by and large managed to coexist. After the quick defeat of Poland by Germany in WWII, the Nazis first sought to establish a concentration camp for political prisoners, and Auschwitz's location on major rail lines and with access to mineral resources made it an ideal site. Quickly the camp became the setting for larger Nazi ambitions to establish German domination, which meant the exploitation of Polish labor and the elimination of Jews. The events that culminated in Auschwitz developing into a sprawling complex of human misery covering some 60 square miles are related based on extensive and up-to-date research. Steinbacher carefully depicts the alternate universe of Auschwitz, entering into the lives and the deaths of its inhabitants, including the businessmen and SS officers—who, with no apparent qualms, managed the camp—and their victims. Steinbacher, a visiting fellow for European studies at Harvard, avoids extensive analysis or morality tales; the meaning of Auschwitz is in the details, which she provides with clinical precision. B&w illus., maps. (Aug. 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Steinbacher posits that the purpose of her book is to represent the various aspects of the history of Auschwitz in their most important contexts; to draw attention, within the wider perspective of political and social history, to the historical and political space in which the crimes were committed; and to sketch the subsequent history of the camp. She believes that Auschwitz was the focus of the two main ideological ideas of the Nazi regime: it was the biggest stage for mass murder of European Jewry, and at the same time a "crystallization point of the policy of settlement and 'Germanization.'" The author traces the history of the town of Auschwitz (known as Oswiecim under Polish rule) and of the camp and its subcamps. Steinbacher discusses the Nazis' extermination policy, their first experiments in mass killings, the construction of Birkenau, the murder of non-Jews, the town and camp after liberation, and the trials of several hundred SS members after the end of World War II. A final chapter deals with the extreme right-wing apologists who have denied the mass murder of the Jews. A multitude of books have been written on the camp, yet this brief volume has much to offer both laypersons and scholars interested in its history. First published in Germany in 2004, this is a cogent, penetrating work in the study of the bestiality of Auschwitz, suitable for inclusion in all history collections. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This book answered these questions and addressed the role Oświęcim played in Polish history in general. If you have a interest in this time period and in this subject, then this book is for you. It does not get into overtly graphic details (though even a general explanation of what took place is graphic) nor does it get into details that would require you to have a strong knowledge base about WWII to follow.
You will learn enough history from this book to satisfy most of your basic questions and to understand why and how Oświęcim / Auschwitz became the location for such horrific acts.