Auschwitz, 1270 to the Present

Deborah Dwork, Author, Robert Jan Van Pelt, Author, Robert-Jan Van Pelt, With W. W. Norton & Company $35 (443p) ISBN 978-0-393-03933-7
Founded by Germans in 1270 and sold to Polish King Casimir IV in 1457, the small provincial town of Auschwitz (Oswiecim in Polish) became a pawn in power struggles between Poland, Germany, Bohemia and Hungary. When Hitler annexed this border town to the Reich in 1939 as German troops smashed Poland, the Nazis celebrated their push to reclaim the ""German East,"" a mythologized, racially pure domain once contested by medieval knights of the Teutonic Order, who ruled Prussia in the 13th century after virtually exterminating the native population and repopulating the town with Germans. The concentration camp established in Auschwitz's suburbs in 1940-designed as a transit camp for Poles being shipped west as slave laborers-was soon transformed into an extermination camp for killing Jews. Using 224 photographs and architectural plans, as well as oral histories of survivors, this careful, detached study traces the camp's evolution into a site where more than one million people were killed and through January 1945, when the remaining 60,000 prisoners underwent a forced march into Germany. Dwork is a professor of Holocaust studies at Clark University in Mass.; van Pelt a cultural history professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1996
Release date: 06/01/1996
Genre: Nonfiction
Discover what to read next