Memoirs of former prisoners or soldiers of Nazi camps
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I visited last week Terezin concentration camp near Prague and I will visit Auschwitz this weekend, so I'm becoming really interested in this area though not a nice one.
I'm looking for biographies or autobiographies about the history of prisoners but also of nazi members. I simply can't understand how people behave with such cruelty with other human beings, so I would like to read more about this. But I want good books, not books for tourists.
I found one really interesting about the scape of three prisoners from Terezin but it's only in Czech: "Útěk z Malé pevnosti Terezín" (Escape from the Small Fortress Terezín).
Could you help me finding good books on this subject?
Thank you in advance!!
Now I have to choose!! Any recommendations? :)
Do you know any book written by Nazis working in the camps?
Robert Jay Lifton's The Nazi Doctors has some biographical details of the doctors, though the book as a whole is devoted to bigger issues.
Yitzshak Arad's Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka : the Operation Reinhard death camps had interviews with death camp survivors.
I suppose it is not easy to publish/find a book explaining or almost "justifying" in any way the things that were done.
And the most important nazis died short after the war or are hidden don't wanting to be in the spotlight, so difficult area.
The family stories of top Nazi members is related in My Father's Keeper: Children of Nazi Leaders-An Intimate History of Damage and Denial
A sociological study of knowledge and complicity of the everyday German citizen was compiled in What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany
(edited to fix minor typo!)
Thank you to all of you! A lot of interesting books and references here!
I think I'll try to avoid the medical experiments. I saw a documentary about them a few years ago and I still have nightmares about it.
"Hitler's Children" sounds really interesting and just the kind of thing I'm looking for and also "My Father's Keeper: Children of Nazi Leaders-An Intimate History of Damage and Denial".
If you remember any other book/film/documentary please let me know.
For the moment, I've bought "Hitler's Willing Executioners" and "Death dealer the memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz", but still digging. Maybe I'll buy also "Girls of Room 28" by Hannelore Brenner.
I found out about the history of Irena Sendler, something like a Polish Schindler, saving children from the Warsaw Ghetto.
In a webpage about her, they recommend a few other interesting books plus the Academy award winning documentary Into the Arms Of Strangers (I didn't know about the jews kids who were sent to England!):
I also saw the documentary Hitler's Children recommended by PolymathicMonkey: 4 hours about the brainwash the German children suffered. Helped a lot to understand how youngsters embrace Nazi ideology so happily.
Thank you Booksloth for the information. I'll look for that mini-series. In fact I'm from Spain but really into History, specially British (Studying now just for fun a degree in English culture, language and literature), so any suggestions are welcomed! ;)
"Based on 70 hours of interviews with Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka (the largest of the extermination camps), this book bares the soul of a man who continually found ways to rationalize his role in Hitler's final soulution."
but I have read Sereny's bio on Albert Speer which is extremely good. Based on that alone I feel safe to recommend Into That darkness...
Very interesting, so the confusion was not a bad one :)
But I'll definitely will look also for the one you mentioned. The trailer itself sent shivers down my spine.
Surprised nobody has mentioned Night by Elie Wiesel.
I will be sure to look that up. The similar title issue reminds me of The Great Escape and that other one about the Luftstalag, by Paul Brickhill. The former has little to do with this topic (actual imprisonment). The latter is one of my all-time favorite books - and movies.
This thread is also a reminder to me that The Complete Maus is on my mountainous TBR
I should add I may be odd or hypersensitive in my reactions to some things--I was also made profoundly uncomfortable by even the premise of Benigni's La vita è bella, so much so I could not and will not ever see it. I also disliked intensely Schindler's list--the Hollywoodisation of the Holocaust, with an epically insane baddie and a gloriously heroic goodie (both, let it be noted en passant, preternaturally good-looking men, as after all cannot be helped, in LA.)
It's not, necessarily, that I think certain themes may only be treated with solemnity and awed whispers, rather, that some ways of telling some stories undermine the best intentions in telling those stories.
These three examples I brought up are "undermined" in what they were meant to or ought to convey--in my opinion, which I know is a minority opinion. Most people seem to have been "appropriately" horrified or seem to think they've learned enough about those events from these movies and comics.
As always, thank you for all the recommendations.
These are the books I finally read about the subject until now:
- First one was Death Dealer BIO by Rudolph Höss. I really think this one is a must. It's amazing how coldly he speaks about everything that happenend, just talking about murders (and their details) the same way he could be speaking about harvest or keeping the account of a shop. Sometimes even he realizes suddenly he's speaking about people. In any other era he would have been an amazing minister for finance. He does his job without thinking what he's really asked to do.
- Later I went for Hitler's Willing Executioners by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. I have to admit this one was more boring to read and I didn't finished it. I should give it another try.
- The third one was "Wytrzymalem wiec jestem" (But I survived) by Polish former prisoner Tadeusz Sobolewicz. This book happened to be around my parents house in a dreaful Spanish translation by it was great to read a Polish-non-jewish vision of the holocaust. Tadeusz was a political prisoner so his connections and experiences inside the concentration-camps were sometimes different from the Jewish experiences we're used to read. Political prisioners were the "powerful" prisoners inside the camp (if any prisoner can be refered as that) so sometimes they have more chances to receive help or find friends. Also Tadeusz was moved from one camp to another. This give his history a wider picture than usual BIOs of former prisoners
- Fourth I read Maus by Art Spiegelman. As somebody said in another post, I found it disturbing and I didn't really like it.
- Fifth I read Triumph of Hope by Ruth Elias, BIO of a former Terezin and Austchwitz concentration camps prisoner. Here you can find more info about how was to live in the Terezin Ghetto and more about Menguele's experiments. She and her baby were in the hands of the terrifying doctor for a few weeks. Also it's interesting to read about the after-liberation years. It's amazing to discover how little understanding former prisioners found after the war even from other Jewish, and how difficult was the resettlement in Israel.
I also followed an online Coursera course on The Holocaust subject. Here I leave you the list of recommended books they gave the students. Incredible interesting course if you want to know more about all that happended and why.
- Appelfeld, Aaron. Badenheim 1939, B. G. Rudolph Lectures in Judaic Studies, Syracuse U Press
- Arieti, Silvano. The Parnas
- Bauer, Yehuda. A History of the Holocaust
- Borowski, Tadeusz. This Way for the Gas, Ladies & Gentlemen
- Browning, Christopher. Ordinary Men
- Fink, Ida. A Scrap of Time
- Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz
- Kertész, Imre. Fateless
- Schwarz-Bart, André. The Last of the Just
- Tec, Nehama. Dry Tears
- Wiesel, Elie. Night
Also, a list of recommended films:
- Image Before My Eyes
- Everything Is Illuminated
- Shoah (excerpts)
- Night & Fog
- Europa, Europa
- Partisans of Vilna
- Divided We Fall
- The Wannsee Conference
- The Pianist
- Shop On Main Street
I have to say that by the time I was reading the fourth book and finishing the course, I was having bad dreams almost every night so I've decided to stop for the moment. In fact, I think I've catch a glimpse of almost all sides of the conflict so maybe it's time to let the subject go and find a merrier subject. Anyway I've learnt a lot about this incomprehensible time so close to our own lives which was what I was looking for from the very beginning.
A book I didn't see in the thread (perhaps I missed it) is The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Corrie and her family were Christians living in Holland that helped hide Jewish people and helped them escape. They were eventually captured and put into a concentration camp.
Also not a book, but a historical fiction movie about this time period that I love is Swing Kids. Apparently the German teenagers used swing music as a way to rebel, because swing was not only American, but often the artists were Jewish or African American. It is the story of four teenage friends (boys) and their journey from naivete to understanding what was going and how they each reacted to it. Very fascinating!
It deals with a specific unit of the 'einsatzgruppen', Reserve Police Battalion 101. Many interview and reports from this unit manned by 'older' (than usual) men. Before the Gas Chambers and explains one reason why Himmler developed the Gas Chambers. Unusually the book follows some of the (uncharged) men. I recommend it for a harrowing insight.
ETA. Oops #33, you did mention this book, but your touchstone pointed to the wrong book and thus I didn't see it in the list on the RHS :-(
If you are interested, I just read Escape from Camp 14, which is about a North Korean defector who escaped from a North Korean labor camp. It's a sad read and also a really disturbing reminder that people are hell bent on NOT learning from the past.
I'm still coming back to this subject now and then so here are my latest discoveries:
I read Nehama Tec. Dry Tears: The AutoBIO of a Polish Jewish kid in hiding. It's very interesting to know more about the relationship of a Jewish family trying to survive and the people who helped them. Usually we think about people who helped Jews as angels, all good and love, but this book shows how a lot of them did it just for money. They struggled constantly between keeping hiding Jews exposing themselves to death penalty or reporting them and be as safe as possible.
I have a pair more waiting to be read:
Victor Klemperer. I shall bear witness. The diaries 1933-1941: About a Jew married to a German woman. Church didn't allow inter-racial marriages to be dissolved so Jews married to Germans found themselves in a complex position. Klemperer had to be witness of war and death inside his own house not being allowed to go out. There is a second part of this book covering years 1941 to 1945.
And one that I'm specially eager to read is:
Bo Lidegaard. Countrymen: The Untold Story of How Denmark's Jews Escaped the Nazis: It's amazing how little is known about Danish Jews and how almost all of them survived thanks to two nations, Denmark and Sweden, that stand against Nazis rules. An almost positive account of this part of History is always welcomed.
To easy for everyone searching books about the Holocaust, there is a list here in Goodreads I haven't noticed until today. Here you have the link. I will be adding all books mentioned in this thread!: http://www.librarything.com/list/433/all/Holocaust#
Dutch diaries in translation:
- Renata Laqueur, Diary of Bergen-Belsen
- Abel Herzberg, Two Streams
- David Koker, At the Edge of the Abyss
- Klaartje de Zwarte-Walvisch
- Nico Rost, Goethe in Dachau
- Philip Mechanicus, A Prisoner Waiting for Auschwitz
- Miriam Bolle-Levie, Let Me Tell You What a Day Here Is Like