There are so many books covering the German genocide program that it is easy to miss one which provides something unique, or comprehensive, or insightful, that makes it one of a small number of very valuable documents on the topics. This is a history and a guide which places it in a specific category. Much Recommended.
NAME: Auschwitz The Nazi Solution, an Illustrated History and Guide
AUTHOR: Andrew Rawson
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Final Solution, Jewish Question, genocide, mass murder, killing factory, labour camps, war production, canada, exploitation, gas chambers, brutallity, survival
DESCRIPTION: There are so many books covering the German genocide program that it is easy to miss one which provides something unique, or comprehensive, or insightful, that makes it one of a small number of very valuable documents on the topics. This is a history and a guide which places it in a specific category. Much Recommended.
Looking back, from a modern perspective, the German genocide program is beyond any easy comprehension. That it was a great tragedy for those rounded up and fed into it is perhaps not difficult to understand. What is virtually impossible, is understanding how the Germans not only allowed themselves to accept the program, but actively and enthusiastically support it. Much of the machinery of the program was destroyed, either by the retreating Nazis, or after the war. Those remaning sites and artifacts attract large numbers of visitors every year and there is a very fine line between rubber necking and making a pilgrimage to understand and to remember those who died in horrible circumstances.
Quantifying exactly what Hitler’s attitude and involvement in the creation of this terrible environment is also not easy. As an Austrian, he was brought up in a society where anti-Semitism was engrained into the culture. His hatred was not only of Jews but also of the various minority groups that were shunned by the Austrian society of the time. This was not confined to Germany, but common across Europe and dating back to the Middle Ages. Hitler himself claimed not to be anti-Semitic but a responsible German who, in Government had the need of a policy on the Jews in the same way as he required a policy on sewage, but there is no real room for doubt that he was the evil genious behind the most appalling mass killings of history.
What is open to some debate is how and where the program started, and what took it to the awful conclusion that cost millions of lives. There is also some debate about how the various parts of the program fitted together. In the early years, the Nazis targeted Jews and anyone who did not agree with them, seized their assets and threw them out of Germany. The euthenasia program was deliberately started to remove from society all those who were considered not to be ‘good’ German specimins. The mad and the deformed were moved to facilities where they could be killed and disposed of.
When WWII began, the Final Solution took shape in stages and combined a number of motives. Where German troops conquered neighbouring territories, they suddenly collected together large numbers of people who did not meet the Nazi expectations of acceptable people. In many cases, they were slaughtered in an orgy of violence, often by ordinary German soldiers, and not exclusively by the committed Nazis of the SS. They also focused hatred that was already there in the local populations and many killers in the Baltic States were local police and members of the general public.
What began to happen was that a clear set of policies emerged and the casual brutality of the early concentration camps was replaced by a cold and determined policy to squeeze every drop of benefit from the people taken into the camps and to kill the least potentially productive victims on arrival. This rapidly created three problems that Nazi brueaucrats sought to solve. The first problem was in killing very large numbers of peole in the most economical fashion, the second to dispose of the bodies, and the third was to look after the mental and physical welfare of those doing the killing.
Auschwitz became a huge and unique enviroment, comprizing of accomodation camps, factories, gas chambers and crematoria. It also included a processing system that aimed to extrtact every benefit from those who were killed, from gold fillings, spectacles, gems, clothing, hair and even soap made by boiling down bodies. What made the program even more terrible and also difficult to fully understand was that it took ordinary Germans who were turned into monsters and even enlisted some of the victims to control their fellow prisoners and to power the killing machine, putting bodies in the cremation ovens and sifting through the mountain of items considered worth keeping and using in one way or another.
Auschwitz was so much more than just a prison camp or death camp. Within its environment it contained factories run by and for some of the most respected and long-established German companies. Ordinary German busienssmen and engineers used labour from the Auschwitz camps to run the factories and to make commercial capital from this slave labour. After the war, these same companies continued on and were partly funded from the proceeds of the genocide program.
When even the most committed Nazi realized that the war was lost, a program to cover up some of the horrors of the genocide started. Auschwits was just too large and complex to remove from the earth. That has provided sites and artifacts that can be viewed today.
The author is provided a comprehensive account of how Auschwitz expanded, what it was responible for, who worked as guards and bureaucrats, how people were shipped to this location, how the guards were provided with recreation, and how its killing came to an end. He has also provided useful information for those who wish to visit the location and his able text is supported by many well-chosen images,
It is an awful story that has been told well.