Happy Friday and welcome to today’s instalment of my regular Shelf Control feature!
Shelf Control is a regular feature on my blog – a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!
If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.
Today’s book is a historical non-fiction about a topic I am morbidly obsessed with – the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. More specifically, the experiences of those who lived and suffered there. Today’s feature is a collective of over 100 interviews from those who experienced the camp first-hand. Their unique insight into the inner workings should make for compelling, if equally horrific, reading!
Auschwitz – Laurence Rees
Genre: Non-fiction / History
Publisher: Public Affairs
Publication Date: 01 Jan 2005
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the site of the largest mass murder in human history. Yet its story is not fully known. In Auschwitz, Laurence Rees reveals new insights from more than 100 original interviews with Auschwitz survivors and Nazi perpetrators who speak on the record for the first time. Their testimonies provide a portrait of the inner workings of the camp in unrivalled detail—from the techniques of mass murder, to the politics and gossip mill that turned between guards and prisoners, to the on-camp brothel in which the lines between those guards and prisoners became surprisingly blurred.
Rees examines the strategic decisions that led the Nazi leadership to prescribe Auschwitz as its primary site for the extinction of Europe’s Jews—their “Final Solution.” He concludes that many of the horrors that were perpetrated in Auschwitz were driven not just by ideological inevitability but as a “practical” response to a war in the East that had begun to go wrong for Germany. A terrible immoral pragmatism characterizes many of the decisions that determined what happened at Auschwitz. Thus the story of the camp becomes a morality tale, too, in which evil is shown to proceed in a series of deft, almost noiseless incremental steps until it produces the overwhelming horror of the industrial scale slaughter that was inflicted in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
For reasons I can’t put my finger on, I love reading about the Auschwitz camp. I’m fascinated by the subject and learning what happened to the poor individuals that ever passed through these gates.
I have read both fiction and non-fiction on the subject. If you are more interested in the fiction side of things, then I can recommend The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey. Three Sisters is on my TBR. More recently, I read The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz by Jeremy Dronfield. This is a non-fiction account of a father and son who refuse to be separated and endure together. Theirs is a unique story in that they are the only known pair to have been interred together and survive to tell their shared story.
Anyway, back to the current book of discussion! It’s the multi-perspective aspect of Auschwitz that I am excited for. I’ve read several books from same or limited perspectives in the past – see the above examples. The nature of the book featuring so many different voices and experiences should make for a rounded learning opportunity. As a result, Auschwitz promises detailed insight into the workings of the camp and what life was like there.
Auschwitz has been on my reading list since 2018. It’s definitely coming up due to be read. What better time than the year I’m continuing with a reading goal of deliberately picking up non-fiction?
Do you enjoy reading about Auschwitz-Birkenau, World War II or similar? Do you have any recommendations for further reading for me to look at?