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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.
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*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.