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Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir Hardcover – Jun 14 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (June 14 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416590765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416590767
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 17.1 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #171,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 9 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
"He's Seen a Lot" June 23 2011
By Cary B. Barad - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In a conversational tone, this book cuts through a wide swath of recent history, covering the author's personal connnection with people and events essential to understanding human thought and survival. Thus, we get an intimate glimpse of the Vietnam war, Communist China, Patty Hearst, the Berrigans, Hiroshima, and the concentration camps of WW II. All from the perspective of a prominent psychiatric researcher with a good grasp of sociology and biology.

Yes, the author is a undoubtedly a flaming liberal, but he has no difficulty criticizing himself or of grasping and understnd the convictions of those with opposing views. My only complaint here would be with the frequent use of the concept, "Totalism," which is never really defined. This is a detriment to readers unfamiliar with Lifton's previous writings. From the context, I assume it refers to totalitarian mind control.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Haunting Memoir of the 20th Century Sept. 4 2011
By NY Steve - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Starting in the early 1950's Robert Jay Lifton has researched and written of the 20th century's most dire and morally troubling events. The events he wrote of include both as a result of what he called "totalism" and morally questionable choices such as Chinese torture and mind control of its own citizens and prisoners from the Korean war, Hiroshima victims, survivors of Nazi concentration camps, Nazi doctors who participated in concentration camp "experiments, and the My Lai Massacre.

He relates in an animated and engaging manner his friendships and interatctions with those he interviewed, his mentors, and his friends. His behind the scenes and in his thoughts revelations of his feelings towards his interviews of his subjects are fascinating. His feelings towards Konrad Lorenz and his early and neglected Nazi beginnings and professorship reveal facets of Lorenz that have been mostly expunged from any account of his life. (Very early joining of the Nazi party, nearly as soon as it was possible in Austria in 1938. Lorenz's writing on "racial cleansing" in 1940.)

The entire book is both fascinating and well written. It is also haunting. As Lifton charts his dreams while interviewing survivors of Hiroshima and investigations of Nazi concentration camps, you may find your own dreams or at least your thoughts significantly impacted.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Worth reading Sept. 29 2011
By Daniel Reicher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This volume is an excellent account and overview of the four or five major research projects that defined the author's work. The most moving project for me was the one involving interviews of Nazi physicians who were still living in Germany at the time of the study. There is also an extensive summary of his conversation with Albert Speer - the Nazi architect who was Hitler's closest confidant at one point.

I now will be reading Dr Lifton's previous work entirely devoted to this Nazi phenomeon of medical doctors being used to kill rather than heal.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Fascinating , if disturbing, book... Aug. 14 2011
By R. Sherman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A window on a century with profound changes in mankind's ability (and tendency to) inflict destruction and horror on his fellow man. And who could tell the story better than a man like Lifton, with impressive psychoanalytical insight, a sweeping sense of history and an integrative and compelling moral perspective. Hard to read, at times, due to the horrific acts of inhumanity explored. Nietzsche said (I paraphrase).. "sometimes when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back at you." Lifton looks in and describes what he sees with distilled clarity, honesty and a message which this century needs to assimilate if we are to avoid more indefensible (collective) moral depravity.
I wish our "leaders" would read this!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Review of a lifetime of psychological study July 6 2011
By Neil Scott Mcnutt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Jay Lifton has led a remarkable life and, now at age 80+, has written a book of highlights of his work, and his lifestyle. He has written over 19 books and has contributed to many others also. Of particular value to us now are his reflections about his search for understanding of psychological states of survivors of severe trauma, particularly the survivors of our bombing of Hiroshima, of Chinese "brain washing " techniques, religious cults, and the treatment of Jews during the Nazi period in Germany. He preferred the method of direct interviews of individuals, in a psychiatric style, but obviously much longer than a "50 minute hour", and taking numerous notes, to which he could refer after a long time. He deals with our transgressions all the way to those of the era of George W. Bush. He is a very good writer and delivers many important observations in a conversational style. He also has some humorous comments about many fellow authors and friends. His search into the thinking of the Nazi doctors is a major focus, but is limited to only a few survivors. This book is very thoughtful and should be a source of inspiration for our future.


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