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Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review: Auschwitz by Laurence Rees

Auschwitz: A New History by Laurence Rees
AKA: Auschwitz: The Nazis and the “Final Solution”
E-Book, Kindle, 368 pages
January 2, 2005

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Purchased for Masters Class
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the site of the largest mass murder in human history. Yet its story is not fully known. In Auschwitz, Laurence Rees reveals new insights from more than 100 original interviews with Auschwitz survivors and Nazi perpetrators who speak on the record for the first time. Their testimonies provide a portrait of the inner workings of the camp in unrivalled detail—from the techniques of mass murder, to the politics and gossip mill that turned between guards and prisoners, to the on-camp brothel in which the lines between those guards and prisoners became surprisingly blurred.
Rees examines the strategic decisions that led the Nazi leadership to prescribe Auschwitz as its primary site for the extinction of Europe's Jews—their "Final Solution." He concludes that many of the horrors that were perpetrated in Auschwitz were driven not just by ideological inevitability but as a "practical" response to a war in the East that had begun to go wrong for Germany. A terrible immoral pragmatism characterizes many of the decisions that determined what happened at Auschwitz. Thus the story of the camp becomes a morality tale, too, in which evil is shown to proceed in a series of deft, almost noiseless incremental steps until it produces the overwhelming horror of the industrial scale slaughter that was inflicted in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
This is a very different take on the oft written account of the Holocaust and Nazi movement. The events that transpired over the course of the war are viewed from the perspective of the camp at Auschwitz and how it grew, transformed, and evolved based on the plans and needs of the party. It was a reflection of the greater movement. One of the things that I appreciated about this book was that so much of it is based on interviews that the author personally conducted with people who lived through the Holocaust. There are quotes and narrative segments interspersed with the discussion from the author that lend an “on the ground” feel to the text. While it isn’t a narrative text, it certainly flows differently than your standard non-fiction. This book would not serve well as a standalone text if the reader did not already have at least a basic understanding of these events of World War II, however I think that it serves as a great supplemental text for those looking to expand their experience and understanding.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

A well-made, 6-part BBC documentary was made based on this book, and is a fascinating film, if you would rather watch than read:

Also by Laurence Rees:

Hitler’s Charisma: Leading Millions into the Abyss

Horror in the East: Japan and the Atrocities of World War 2

World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West

Find Laurence Rees: Website


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