Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp

Yisrael Gutman, Author, Franciszek Piper, Editor, Raul Hillberg, Editor Indiana University Press $49.95 (638p) ISBN 978-0-253-32684-3
In original essays, some 20 scholars from the U.S., Israel and Europe contribute to a comprehensive portrait of the largest and most lethal of the Nazi death camps. If the book lacks the drive of a narrative history, it nonetheless serves as a vital contribution to Holocaust studies and a bulwark against forgetting. Several essays are notable. Franciszek Piper describes how Auschwitz exploited prisoners as laborers before exterminating them, and Robert-Jan Van Pelt discusses how Auschwitz was the focus of ``a Faustian project to create a German paradise amid Polish perdition.'' Aleksander Lasik writes on camp commandant Rudolf Hoss, a dutiful functionary who neither evaded responsibility nor was troubled by conscience. Hermann Langbein, a former prisoner himself, recounts prisoner efforts at resistance, ranging from smuggling medicine supplied by the Polish underground to the only major rebellion in the camp's history, the blowing up of a crematorium, which ``cannot be exactly recounted.'' David Wyman argues that the U.S. military evaded bombing the camp because they considered rescuing Jews to be an ``extraneous problem'' and an ``unwanted burden.'' Newly authoritative information is included in several essays, including one by Jean-Claude Pressac, a French investigator and former Holocaust denier, on the construction of the gas chambers and crematoria, and another by Piper that assesses the number of victims as at least 1.1 million, 90% of them Jews. Gutman directs the Research Center at Yad Vashem in Israel; Berenbaum directs the Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Illustrations not seen by PW. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Paperback - 656 pages - 978-0-253-20884-2
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