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Auschwitz : The Nazis & The 'Final Solution' Paperback – Import, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This pathbreaking work reveals the "destructive dynamism" of the Nazis' most notorious death camp. Rees, creative director of history programs for the BBC, consistently offers new insights, drawn from more than 100 interviews with survivors and Nazi perpetrators. He gives a vivid portrait of the behind-the-scenes workings of the camp: for instance, of how a sympathetic guard could mean the difference between life and death for inmates, and the opening of a brothel to satisfy the "needs" of sadistic camp guards. But this is more than an anecdotal account of Nazi brutality. Rees also examines, and takes a stand on, controversial issues: he argues, for instance, that bombing the camp's train tracks wouldn't have saved many Jews. Nor does he overlook stories of individual acts of kindness or the Danes' rescue of their Jewish community. Rees (The Nazis: A Warning from History) gives a complete history of the camp—how it was turned over time from a concentration camp into a death factory where 10,000 people were killed in a single day. Indeed, his argument for incrementalism at Auschwitz mirrors his larger claim that the "Final Solution" came about in an ad hoc fashion, as top Nazi officials struggled for a way to implement their virulent anti-Semitism. Some scholars have made this argument, and others reject it, but the depth and wealth of detail Rees provides make this treatment highly compelling. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. FYI: This book is the companion to a documentary that PBS will air in three two-hour segments, on January 19, January 26 and February 2.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
*Starred Review* Many books have been written about the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where the first prisoners arrived on June 14, 1940; the camp was liberated in January 1945. The camp was never conceived as a place to kill Jews, nor was it solely concerned with the Final Solution, although one million Jews were murdered there. Rees insists making a study of Auschwitz offers the chance to understand how human beings behaved in some of the most extreme conditions in history. He interviewed 100 former Nazi perpetrators and survivors from the camp and drew on hundreds of interviews conducted for his previous research on the Third Reich, many with former members of the Nazi Party. This book is the culmination of 15 years of writing books and producing television programs about the Nazis. Rees maintains that through their crimes, the Nazis brought into the world an awareness of what educated, technologically advanced human beings can do "as long as they possess a cold heart. Once allowed into the world, knowledge of what they did must not be unlearned. It lies there--ugly, inert, waiting to be rediscovered by each new generation." With a 16-page black-and-white photo insert, this is a significant contribution to our understanding of the intricacies of Nazi racial and ethnic policy that resulted in this ultimate abomination. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Almost indescribable, but not quite. We should be very thankful that author Laurence Rees was up to the task of describing it. This book on Auschwitz, the most notorious of camps run by the Nazis, is a phenomenal piece of non-fiction about one of the worst places to have ever existed, and is as compellingly readable as it is informative.
Rees places Auschwitz in context, describing step by step how it came to occupy such an important role in the Nazi’s quest to rid Europe of Jews. Although Rees makes so many good points that any review cannot even touch upon most of them, allow me to focus on two.
The first, that although Nazis wanted Jews out of Europe, they did not initially intend to exterminate them. Relocation was the preferred method, which became untenable when the war with the Soviet Union went disastrously wrong. The space into which the Jews were to be relocated simply did not open up as planned, requiring more radical methods to reach the desired goal.
Even then, when killing Jews became the goal, logistics got in the way. It just was not that easy killing large numbers of people, and even harder when a specific goal was to distance the Nazi killers themselves from their actions in order to lessen the psychological damage they suffered. Rees takes us through each innovation, often obtained through trial and error, which finally allowed the killings to take on such assembly-line efficiency, with Auschwitz playing an integral part of a much larger whole.
Second, Rees points out the distinction, unknown to many in the general population, between a concentration camp and a death camp. The former were work camps, with very high fatality rates due to hunger, disease, cold and industrial accidents, but in which people were not summarily executed. Death camps, by contrast, were specifically constructed to exterminate large numbers of people. Auschwitz had the distinction of being the only camp that blended the two, producing one of the more horrifying aspects of the camp: the initial selection, either to work or, for most, to the chimney. How Auschwitz developed in such a way reflects much about the Nazi mindset towards Jews and other undesirables, which Rees reports in intense and captivating detail.
Needless to say, the people behind the camp, from its commandant Rudolf Hoss to his superior, Heinrich Himmler, architect of the Holocaust are all given the limelight to some degree or another. To say the least, they do not look good under scrutiny. It is for that reason that scrutiny is needed, and again, Rees does the job well. In all, I strongly recommend this book.
If you want a gut wrenching peak into hell on earth, read this book. In fact, don't miss it.
I am a retired college history instructor and I wanted to see Auschwitz with my own eyes.
As soon as I came home I immediately started reading Laurence Rees's book on Auschwitz.
This is the best book I have ever read on Auschwitz. Spellbinding!
Rees puts you in Auschwitz. You are there! The personal stories of the victims and their perpetrators touch your soul. It is as you know them personally.
Well written. Hard to put down. Excellent history of the camp.
A must read.