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Auschwitz: A New History Paperback – January 10, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Public Affairs (January 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586483579
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586483579
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When one thinks of the labor and death camps instituted by the Nazis during World War II, the notorious concentration camp at Auschwitz comes immediately to mind. One cannot help but wonder what kind of mindset would devise such an infamy. How could Germany, a nation that was noted for its richness of culture, have devised a plan of genocide that was so far reaching and so inherently evil?

The author attempts to answer that question and succeeds in doing so brilliantly. This is a very well-written book that will appeal to those who are interested in the general human condition, as well as those interested in the holocaust itself. It is scholarly, yet, at the same time, immensely readable. This is because the author has put a very human face on the dreaded death camp of Auschwitz. The stories and experiences of more than a hundred people are integrated throughout the narrative, which delves into the historical backdrop of the Nazi political machinery and its leadership. Survivors of Auschwitz, as well as Nazi perpetrators, tell of their experiences in the hell that was known as Auschwitz, and they tell it from their own unique perspectives. The symbiosis that often existed between prisoner and prison guard is quite unsettling, as are the attendant moral and ethical issues.

The author attempts to help the reader understand how it was that the "final solution" came about. It is an unsentimental, intellectually objective, critical analysis of one of the most infamous episodes in modern history and warfare. The author carefully delineates how the Nazis developed their reprehensible strategy for global genocide, and how it came about being implemented.
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Format: Hardcover
Laurence Rees is a fine scholar and a fine writer and has the courage to present an historical summary of the one of the most horror-laden atrocities of the twentieth century - the Nazi camp called Auschwitz. Even the name conjures up loathing and nausea and near disbelief that such unimaginable mass killings, human medical experimentation, torture, and genocide could have possibly been real. But without denying any of the truths well documented since the Nuremberg Trials, Rees explores the initial beginnings of the concepts for the camp and the events that lead the Third Reich to push this Polish town site into world memory.

World War I laid the seeds for the rise of German resentment for the loss of a war they felt was turned against them. At the core, in search for a causative factor, the Jews were perceived as the evil reason for Germany's losses. Not that anti-Semitism was limited to Germany: Rees wisely shows that those feelings were fairly widespread throughout the world. Yet it took the early fanatics that included Adolph Hitler to strive to purify Germany, rid the fatherland of the useless consumers of food that robbed the Germans of their rightful needs, and repatriate lost Germans to the fatherland at any cost. Rees postulates (with excellent quotations from both Nazi perpetrators and concentration camp survivors throughout this book) that the primary goal of creating concentration camps such as Auschwitz was to provide way stations for gathering non-Germans for deportation to make room for the return of 'lebensraum' for those of pure German blood.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is not for the squeemish of today's world. Aushchwitz: A New History, is just that, New. It reveals new insights regarding the phychological reasoning as to how Auschwitz and the other death camps evolved and why. The survivor's memories conveyed in this book allows the reader understand the complete brutality of what humans can do to one another when placed in humiliating and deadly conditions. As a humanist, the brutal descriptions in the book made me ill. The fact is that only 60 years ago the Nazis set back the human condition about 2500 years. Time and time again we hear "We must never forget" about what happened during the holocaust. This book answers the reasons as to why we must never forget.
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I can't remember being more disappointed in a history book than in this one. This book is a terribly organized, rambling, stream of consciousness mush that utterly fails in its main goal: to put Auschwitz in a context (of the war, of the Holocaust, and of the Nazis).

The author is correct that the various components of the Holocaust were to some degree the Nazis' improvised solutions to self-created problems. But he seems to have been incapable of tying this together. A decision was clearly reached at some point in 1941 to exterminate the Jews, at least wherever they fell within the Nazis' dominion. But this took shape in several highly regional actions: the Einsatzgruppen were a mobile 'death squad' that acted mainly in the occupied Soviet territories, Chelmno was meant to destroy the Jews chiefly in the Warthegau, the three Operation Reinhard Camps were meant to destroy the Jews mainly in the General Government, and ultimately Auschwitz was chosen as the site to import and destroy the Jews from the rest of Europe because of its 1) access to railways, 2) its economic value as a slave labor camp kept it operating whereas this was not true of Belzec, Treblinka, etc, and 3) it had a high capacity.

But this is barely explored in the book -- that the final solution even once decided upon in 1941 didn't ever crystallize into a 'site' until around 1943 when Auschwitz seemed like the only place it could be centralized. The author unbelievably fails to note how Hoess actually traveled to Treblinka (according to his own testimony and memoirs) and chose to operate his own extermination mechanism differently. This is critical because Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and Chelmno were exclusively SS operations, self-contained, unsophisticated, etc.
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