A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps

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A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps. By Nikolaus Wachsmann. Hachette. Paperback $35; ebook $19.99.
Review by Tom Lewis

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NIKOLAUS Wachsmann’s A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps looks like hard work. It is. The imposing size of the book – over 850 pages in a large A5 format – means there is a lot of reading ahead.

But it’s the nature of the subject that is daunting. Here is for the first time the full organizational detail of the how and why of the notorious Final Solution whereby around six million people met their deaths in World War II.

The book goes into careful details: the lives of the kapos, those who collaborated to exterminate their own people to live on; the role of the German SS, who managed some camps but not all; the trains to the East; the use of worker prisoners until they could work no more. The detail continues until the first possibilities of survival filter through with advancing armies of the Allies. Then comes the release and new possibilities – or not – of a world shattered by the greatest conflict man has ever known.

There is a middle section of quality photographs; 240 pages of appendices, source notes, and an index. Depressing though the content is, A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps – if you can bear to read it – looks to be at a short glance to be a work comparable or better to Hitler’s Willing Executioners.

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