568 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 2 illus., bibl., index
2004 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
Hermann Langbein was allowed to know and see extraordinary things forbidden to other Auschwitz inmates. Interned at Auschwitz in 1942 and classified as a non-Jewish political prisoner, he was assigned as clerk to the chief SS physician of the extermination camp complex, which gave him access to documents, conversations, and actions that would have remained unknown to history were it not for his witness and his subsequent research. Also a member of the Auschwitz resistance, Langbein sometimes found himself in a position to influence events, though at his peril.
People in Auschwitz is very different from other works on the most infamous of Nazi annihilation centers. Langbein's account is a scrupulously scholarly achievement intertwining his own experiences with quotations from other inmates, SS guards and administrators, civilian industry and military personnel, and official documents. Whether his recounting deals with captors or inmates, Langbein analyzes the events and their context objectively, in an unemotional style, rendering a narrative that is unique in the history of the Holocaust. This monumental book helps us comprehend what has so tenaciously challenged understanding.
"The preparation of this classic for the English-speaking world makes one of the most important and powerful survivor accounts of Auschwitz accessible to the West, and introduces general readers to the mind and experience of a crucially placed and astonishingly observant witness to the Holocaust. In the first-person literature created by survivors and victims in the ghettos and concentration camps, People in Auschwitz ranks as an historical document with works like The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow, and the memoirs of Buchenwald survivor Eugen Kogon, The Theory and Practice of Hell. Langbein's epic, at long last, also serves as a moral antidote and historical counterweight to the memoirs of the notorious Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoess, first published nearly fifty years ago."
--Charles W. Sydnor Jr., author of Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death's Head Division, 1933-1945
"This is a scrupulously scholarly achievement and will become a classic of Holocaust history."
--Jewish Book World
"First published in German more than 30 years ago, this modestly titled memoir provides a unique account of the Third Reich's most notorious death camp. . . . in weaving together these uncomfortable truths with the most comprehensive analysis of any survivor memoir, Langbein's People in Auschwitz represents an indispensable addition to English-language literature on the Holocaust."
--German Studies Review
"Hermann Langbein, then a communist activist, was a leading member of the underground movement in Auschwitz concentration camp, and an acute observer of the situation there. His memoir is one of the foundation stones of research on Auschwitz, an indispensable contribution to the complex and fearsome reality of the camp."
--Yehuda Bauer, director of the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem
"Monumental. . . . Free of self-pity, sentimentality and cliché. . . . Always painstaking about the truth, outlining the reality of Auschwitz . . . So precisely to investigate . . . the problem of the "Auschwitz Universe" . . . and to think it through required extraordinary strength of character, [and] relentless industry."
"For generations of historians this work . . . will be a mine of discovery."
--Die Zukunft (Vienna)
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