KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps

Nikolaus Wachsmann. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $40 (880p) ISBN 978-0-374-11825-9
“The concentration camps embodied the spirit of Nazism like no other institution in the Third Reich,” writes Wachsmann (Hitler’s Prisons)—at least 2.3 million people passed through them; at least 1.7 million died in them—and yet there exists no comprehensive analysis of the camp system, its principles and dynamics, or the forces and people that shaped it. Wachsmann, of Birkbeck College, University of London, fills that gap brilliantly. Working from a mass of documentary evidence—some of which was only made available in the last quarter century—and with a corresponding body of first-person accounts, he establishes the camps, referred to as KL (from the German konzentrationslager), at the center of the Nazi terror system. Wachsmann demonstrates that “the main constant of the KL was change,” and the system’s protean, responsive nature sustained and exemplified the Reich. He clears up many popular misconceptions about the camps. Whatever was needed, be it mass killing or sustaining the war effort by slave labor, the KL served to extend the Reich’s lifespan. “The closer [the] men, women, and children were to freedom [as the war dragged on], the more likely they were to die in the concentration camps.” Wachsmann’s exhaustive study will be seen as the authoritative work on the subject. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/16/2015
Release date: 04/14/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 880 pages - 978-1-4299-4372-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-62231-745-5
Paperback - 880 pages - 978-0-374-53592-6
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