How Mankind Committed the Ultimate Infamy - a New History By Laurence Rees (327 Pages)Publisher: Public Affairs, 2005
Published for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz - a devastating and surprising account of the most infamous death camp the world has ever known.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the site of the largest mass murder in human history. Yet its story is not fully known. In Auschwitz, Laurence Rees reveals new insights from more than 100 original interviews with Auschwitz survivors and Nazi perpetrators who speak on the record for the first time. Their testimonies provide a portrait of the inner workings of the camp in unrivaled detail-from the techniques of mass murder, to the politics and gossip mill that turned between guards and prisoners, to the on-camp brothel in which the lines between those guards and prisoners became surprisingly blurred.
Rees examines the strategic decisions that led the Nazi leadership to prescribe Auschwitz as its primary site for the extinction of Europe's Jews - their "Final Solution." He concludes that many of the horrors that were perpetrated in Auschwitz were driven not just by ideological inevitability but as a "practical" response to a war in the East that had begun to go wrong for Germany. A terrible immoral pragmatism characterizes many of the decisions that determined what happened at Auschwitz. Thus the story of the camp becomes a morality tale, too, in which evil is shown to proceed in a series of deft, almost noiseless incremental steps until it produces the overwhelming horror of the industrial scale slaughter that was inflicted in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
Auschwitz is a history we cannot afford to ignore, first because history that is ignored is liable to be repeated, and second because we should never allow ourselves to be persuaded that mankind is somehow today incapable of such unspeakably cruel acts. Auschwitz is not only the story of one singular camp where more than one million people were murdered, but also a timely reminder about the indelible human potential for committing evil.