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A riveting examination in words and photos of Auschwitz, from its roots as a violent market town to the concentration camps built during World War II, provides a compelling conclusion on the evolution of a deadly killing site.
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Significant new research that examines both the relevant prewar history of Auschwitz and the blueprints of the death camp's daily functions. Dwork (Holocaust Studies and Modern Jewish History/Clark Univ.) and van Pelt (Cultural History/Univ. of Waterloo, Ontario) present both the historical, cultural, and architectural plans of the Nazis for Auschwitz. The entire surrounding region of Upper Silesia had been long targeted to be wrested from Poland and returned to Germany, whose claims extended back to the conquests of 13th-century Teutonic knights. The area referred to as ``the German East'' by Josef Goebbels was to become a rural paradise for redirected Germans, while the local Poles were to be expelled, exploited for slave labor, and ultimately exterminated. Even more damning than Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's controversial new study, Hitler's Willing Executioners, this book makes clear that thousands of transportation workers, accountants, Farben employees, engineers, architects, and builders were as conscious of the lethal goals of Auschwitz as Himmler or Hitler. In the slower-paced cremations of murder victims in 1940, for example, the camp utilized ``an efficient and technologically advanced doubled-muffle . . . coke-heated furnace from Topf and Sons for 9,000 marks'' with ``the capacity to incinerate seventy bodies in twenty-four hours.'' With ``one wash barrack per 7,800 inmates and one latrine hut per 7,000,'' it is argued that degradation and disease were not incidental, but that ``the design was, in fact, lethal.'' The pride of the gathered architects of Auschwitz-Birkenau is successfully captured in a group photo, as is the sincerity of a Polish nun in 1990 comparing the campgrounds to the sanctity of Golgotha. If the amalgam of insightful historical analysis and exhaustive pictorial and financial documentation is challenging for students of this period, just think of the difficult reading facing Holocaust deniers. Scores of van Pelt's photos and enhanced plans and blueprints supplement the lengthy notes in this peerless work of documentation and research that sheds new light on this century's darkest address. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Founded by Germans in 1270 and sold to Polish King Casimir IV in 1457, the small provincial town of Auschwitz (Oswiecim in Polish) became a pawn in power struggles between Poland, Germany, Bohemia and Hungary. When Hitler annexed this border town to the Reich in 1939 as German troops smashed Poland, the Nazis celebrated their push to reclaim the "German East," a mythologized, racially pure domain once contested by medieval knights of the Teutonic Order, who ruled Prussia in the 13th century after virtually exterminating the native population and repopulating the town with Germans. The concentration camp established in Auschwitz's suburbs in 1940-designed as a transit camp for Poles being shipped west as slave laborers-was soon transformed into an extermination camp for killing Jews. Using 224 photographs and architectural plans, as well as oral histories of survivors, this careful, detached study traces the camp's evolution into a site where more than one million people were killed and through January 1945, when the remaining 60,000 prisoners underwent a forced march into Germany. Dwork is a professor of Holocaust studies at Clark University in Mass.; van Pelt a cultural history professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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