At the terrible heart of the modern age lies Auschwitz, a name that has become synonymous with evil. Here the utopian twentieth-century dream of employing science and technology to improve and protect human life was inverted from the latter part of the 1930s through the end of the Second World War, as the same systems were manipulated in the cause of efficient mass slaughter. Historian Sybille Steinbacher's powerful and eminently important book details Auschwitz's birth, growth, and horrible mutation into a dreadful city. How it came to be and how what followed was allowed to occur is a story that everyone needs to understand and remember.
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Sybille Steinbacher is assistant professor in the Faculty of Modern and Contemporary History at the Ruhr University, Bochum. During 2004-5 she was a visiting fellow for European studies at Harvard University. She lives in Germany.From Booklist:
Steinbacher posits that the purpose of her book is to represent the various aspects of the history of Auschwitz in their most important contexts; to draw attention, within the wider perspective of political and social history, to the historical and political space in which the crimes were committed; and to sketch the subsequent history of the camp. She believes that Auschwitz was the focus of the two main ideological ideas of the Nazi regime: it was the biggest stage for mass murder of European Jewry, and at the same time a "crystallization point of the policy of settlement and 'Germanization.'" The author traces the history of the town of Auschwitz (known as Oswiecim under Polish rule) and of the camp and its subcamps. Steinbacher discusses the Nazis' extermination policy, their first experiments in mass killings, the construction of Birkenau, the murder of non-Jews, the town and camp after liberation, and the trials of several hundred SS members after the end of World War II. A final chapter deals with the extreme right-wing apologists who have denied the mass murder of the Jews. A multitude of books have been written on the camp, yet this brief volume has much to offer both laypersons and scholars interested in its history. First published in Germany in 2004, this is a cogent, penetrating work in the study of the bestiality of Auschwitz, suitable for inclusion in all history collections. George Cohen
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