He explains why the only hope of survival was a job indoors, and reports that the best jobs were in the warehouses where Jews were compelled to sort and catalogue the stolen possessions of their murdered brethren. Scrupulous and honest, this book is utterly without illusions. The nearest thing it has to an uplifting story is the successful effort by Danes to save their country's Jews.
Even this ends on a sad note in Rees's hands. Why, he wonders, could similar feats not have been accomplished all across Europe? The answer emerges in the final pages, as Rees recounts stories of Auschwitz survivors returning to their homes months and years and even decades later, only to be greeted with fresh bigotry and new violence. More lives were not saved because human beings found it more convenient to hate.
The potted bigotry and ludicrous rantings of tyrants spoke more deeply to them than the exhortations of saints. It is folly to believe that hatred could be so widespread and so easily activated in yet be toothless today. Neighbors hacked neighbors to death in Rwanda; mountains of skulls rose in Cambodia; entire classes of people were worked and starved to death in China; even Hitler's brand of bigotry is common currency in much of the world. Convert currency.
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Lest we forget
Laurence Rees. Publisher: PublicAffairs , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title Auschwitz-Birkenau is the site of the largest mass murder in human history. From The Washington Post : Most of us would rather not think about Auschwitz, but that is how the next Auschwitz will happen.
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Close Report a review At Kobo, we try to ensure that published reviews do not contain rude or profane language, spoilers, or any of our reviewer's personal information. The non-Jews were made up of 70, Poles, 20, Roma and 10, Russians. The Einsatzgruppen squads murdered Jews just behind the front line in the USSR and they did this by the crudest of methods, they lined the people up, men, women and children, and shot them, and threw them in ditches or pits. This was horrible work, it was day in and day out. It quickly destroyed the morale of the soldiers.
They couldn't take it. There had to be a better way. And there was. The Aktion T4 euthenasia programme for the eradication of "incurables" in Germany had started in September and had already concluded that gassing these victims was more efficient than administering lethal injections. By the end of about 70, "incurables" had been killed at six different centres.
It was logical to try a few gassing experiments on prisoners in concentration camps and it did seem to work pretty well once they found something better than carbon monoxide which took too long to kill people. The SS liked the gassing concept because it insulated the SS soldier from the actual killing, that was the main point. Germans did not have to put up with all the screaming and misery or have to look at the dead bodies. All that was the job of the Sonderkommando, which were recruited from the camp inmates.
Let the Jews kill themselves. Let the Jews pull out their own gold teeth. Let the Jews incinerate themselves. So three extermination camps were constructed, and these are amazingly unfamous — Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. They were specifically for killing, they did not use any prisoners for slave labour, they were located far away from population centres, way out in the Polish countryside.
And they were small.
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They really should be more famous, because they were extremely efficient. Belzec — operated from March 42 to June People killed there : approximately , Sobibor — operated march 42 to October People killed there : between , and , Treblinka — operated between July 42 and August The land was ploughed, and turned back into farmland, a family was found to live there and tell anyone who asked that they had been there for generations.
It was as if the Nazis knew they had committed a crime and they were hiding it. In the same way they always wreathed their official documents about the final solution in euphemism and opaque bureaucracy. In exactly the same way that a psychopath like Ted Bundy or Peter Sutcliffe would carefully cover up their murders. Neither the Nazis, Ted Bundy or Peter Sutcliffe believed for a moment that what they had done was wrong.
Not at all. In the Nazis case, even other Germans might think it was wrong. Because they just hadn't had enough time to come to the understanding of this awful necessity, as Himmler might have put it. Even Hitler had to get to a point where he realised, after years of fulminating about smashing the Jews, crushing them, destroying them, that he could actually physically kill them all. He'd been trying to get them to disappear for years — ship them all to Madagascar was one ridiculous idea — but that hadn't meant actually killing them until That also proved to be distressing for all concerned.
So they realised that treating the arrivals with cool efficiency, even courtesy, made the whole process so much easier. They also discovered that it was no problem to separate the men from the women but it was counter-productive to try to separate the women from their children. At Treblinka they rigged up a fake jolly country railway station complete with welcoming band playing popular marches and light classical pieces, nothing too heavy. Easy does it. There was a hierarchy of prisoners. At the bottom were the Jews considered unfit for work. They were killed. In the middle were the Jews, Russians and Poles who were considered fit for being worked to death.
At the top were kapos and German prisoners who had specialist jobs. For these, Hoess set up a brothel in August The deniers have jumped on this bizarre fact — a death camp with a brothel? Come off it. Proves it was an okay place really. There were no gas chambers. And so on. This was a miserable discovery.
What happened was that the British government decided that the Channel islands were useless and would not be defended. These are islands between Britain and France which are part of Great Britain. A lot of Islanders decamped for the mainland but a lot didn't. The German army occupied the islands in summer without a single shot being fired. Then they rolled out their Jew-hating policies.
Now, the Nazis also hated Freemasons. A not so well-known fact. And they wanted to deport all Jews and all Freemasons.
The islanders kicked up a huge protest about the masons, because the Channel Islands is a hotbed of masonry. But they gave up the handful under ten of Jews without much of a murmer not that they could have done anything. Books, essays, letters to the editor, this has been going on a while.
It's the hectic part of a wider debate about what did the Allies know about the Holocaust and when did they know it. Rees slashes through the nonsense. But what about this damning quote from Anthony Eden during discussions in Washington in March about Hungarian Jews all of whom were later murdered in Auschwitz — he said it was important to move very cautiously about offering to take all the Jews out of a country — if we do that then the Jews of the world will be wanting us to make similar efforts in Poland and Germany.
Hitler may well take us up on any such offer and there are simply not enough ships and means of transportation to handle them. You know, I don't want to think about that. Once a couple of German companies are namechecked they don't rate any further analysis. Whereas Rees devotes 13 pages to the revolt at Sobibor and eight pages to the way that Denmark protected its Jews. Both of these interesting stories have nothing to do with Auschwitz. I wanted to know much more about the insidious, repulsive morality of the exploitation of slave labour by big German industry.
To ensure this, we must achieve two things: first, we must make the town physically uninhabitable and, secondly, we must make the people conscious of constant personal danger. The immediate aim, is therefore, twofold, namely, to produce i destruction and ii fear of death Oscar Groening, ex-SS, who worked at Auschwitz and was interviewed for this book, commented: We saw how bombs were dropped on Germany, and women and children died in firestorms.
We saw this and said "This is a war that is being led in this way by both sides". Rees spends a few frantic paragraphs explaining that there was no moral equivalent at all between the nazis gassing women and children and the Allies bombing and burning women and children. It's a false comparison. But he still says the comparison is "emotionally disturbing" — one reason being that so many raised objections to the carpet bombing of German towns and cities at the time - including Churchill!
The bombing campaign killed a minimum of , German civilians. And the comparison works — the bombers were distanced completely from the horror they unleashed, as the SS guards were insulated from the gassings by the use of Jews to do all the disgusting work for them. Well, no.
GERANIUMS As I mentioned, the SS found that shepherding the Jews to the gas chambers worked much better than brutality, and one nice touch, I think you'll agree, was that someone had the idea of putting windowboxes full of geraniums outside the crematoriums. There weren't any flowers anywhere else in Auschwitz, but here, where the Jews were killed, there were lots of windowboxes full of geraniums. View all 21 comments. My favorite quote I now live by came from this book I think twice about my woes when I think of his response Feb 06, Ammara Abid rated it it was amazing.
I don't know what else to say, I'm too dumbfounded to speak. Today you go, tomorrow I will go. You become indifferent. A human being can get used to anything. Jun 10, Shaun rated it it was amazing Shelves: read-in , non-fiction. When it comes to complex topics like the Holocaust, I think it's helpful to read from a number of sources. And often, the best books are those that offer us something new, either by presenting a piece of the puzzle that was missing or perhaps adding additional perspective that affords us a new way of looking at an old piece, allowing us to better place it.
I'm not sure I can do a book like this justice in a review other than to say it was an excellent compliment to other readings I've done to thi When it comes to complex topics like the Holocaust, I think it's helpful to read from a number of sources. I'm not sure I can do a book like this justice in a review other than to say it was an excellent compliment to other readings I've done to this point.
However, I can share some ideas either introduced or reinforced for me in the reading. First and foremost, the forces that drove the Holocaust aren't so different from the forces that caused other atrocities throughout the world's history and the Germans aren't the only ones who have something to apologize for. Hitler and his henchmen were likely a product of their environment. The Germans weren't alone in their anti-semantic policies and the Holocaust couldn't have taken place on the same scale without the complicity of other nations and tens of thousands of individuals who either cooperated with the lunacy willingly or through coercion or turned their heads the other way.
The idea of a superior race was not exclusive to the Germans. History is replete with examples of cultures who suffer from delusions of supremacy and seem to feel justified in efforts to segregate or "save" the world from the undesirables. I think it's also relevant that at that time in history the idea of eugenics had gained the interest and support of the scientific community. The "Final Solution" evolved and had both ideological as well as practical implications. None of us really knows that monster that lives within us. The "what ifs" are almost impossible to predict.
Beliefs dictate our morality and thus draw the only lines in the sand that matter. The collective is a powerful motivator as it influences belief and as such can exert a huge influence over the limits we set for ourselves. Killing is easier to do from both a physical and psychological distance. Ideologically, killing is easier when you can convince yourself that the person you are killing is somehow less than human, unworthy of life The human instinct for self-preservation can be more powerful than even our most deeply held convictions.
When push comes to shove, the will to survive often trumps all else. Revenge is a dish best not served. If a victim's only sense of justice comes from victimizing his perpetrator it only perpetuates the cycle. If in the process of killing the monster you have to become one, have your really won? Some passages that stood out for me: Complicity Auschwitz prisoners were even "sold" to the Bayer company, part of the I. Farben, as human guinea pigs for the testing of new drugs. One of the communications from Bayer to the Auschwitz authorities states that "The transport of women arrived in good conditions.
However, we were unable to obtain conclusive results because they died during the experiments. We would kindly request that you send us another group of women to the same number and at the same price. Yes, I thought about this. But nobody did anything.
People change under some conditions. People asked me, "What did you learn? The nice person on the street, you ask him, "Where is North Street? That same person in a different situation could be the worst sadist. Nobody knows themselves. All of us could be good people or bad people in these [different] situation. Sometimes, when somebody is really nice to me, I find myself thinking, "how will he be in Sobibor? Just as water only exists as water in a certain temperature range and is steam or ice in others, so human beings can become different people according to extremes of circumstance.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this analysis is, in my experience, that it is one shared by many perpetrators. I remember one former dedicated member of the Nazi party saying to me in an exasperated manner, after I pressed him on why so many went along with the horrors of the regimes, "The trouble with the world today is that people who have never been tested go around making judgments about people who have.
It mattered not that the man he murdered had been a fellow inmate of Auschwitz. All that was important was the language he'd been speaking. They [the Germans] killed all my family, thirty or forty people, and I killed one German. That was nothing. If I could kill a hundred of them I would be glad, because they destroyed us completely. Tavor says that they first used whatever contacts they had Once all this preparation was complete, they would drive up to a house of the suspected perpetrator and take him away for an "interrogation.
And from that moment on he no longer saw anything. He never saw his house again. I never had to drink before to make myself enthusiastic--I was always enthusiastic enough. I'm not saying that I was indifferent, but I was calm and quiet and I did my work. You can compare me perhaps even to the Germans themselves who did it, because they also did their work.
When I did it I felt very good. I mean not at the moment of the killing, but during that [overall] period of time. I can't say that I feel bad about it now. So I'm not proud and I'm not guilty about it. I don't wake up at night with bad dreams or anything. I sleep well. I eat well. I live. I think I might have attacked one of those Germans and let them kill me and get it over with I feel very connected to the people who fought here [in Israel] two thousand years ago and I was less attached to the Jew who went like sheep to the slaughter--this I couldn't understand.
It's just different. It's kind of like conducting war through a video game. View all 3 comments.
Auschwitz A New History
Jun 28, K. Absolutely rated it liked it. This historical non-fiction is pages but I spent only 3 working days which means I read only at home - late evening and early morning to finish it. I just could not put it down. It is well-reseached and contains interviews of the survivors not only the Jews from diffent countries Poland, France, Italy, Slovakia, Hungary, Belgium and Netherlands, etc but also the other groups like gypsies, Jehova's Witness, etc.
Previously, my only knowledge about Holocaust was those from watching Schindl This historical non-fiction is pages but I spent only 3 working days which means I read only at home - late evening and early morning to finish it. This book, however, Auschwitz: A New History, gives a more details on what happened not only in Auschwitz but also in the other lesser-known death camps like Birkenau, Sobibor, Belzec, Bergen-Belsen, etc.
Anne Frank was in the hiding while Victor Klemperer was working outside the concentration camp during the Holocaust.