It's time to bring back the One Pissed Off Veteran Book of the Month, and to start off the New Year, may I present Auschwitz: A New History by Laurence Rees.
At this point in our history, 70 years after the end of World War II, you'd think we already knew everything about the Holocaust and its ultimate symbol of man's inhumanity, the death camps at Auschwitz-Berkenau. But you'd be wrong.
This book is based on years of interviews with not only survivors of the camps but also former guards and Russian "liberators". Rees also spent a lot of time in the archives of the former Soviet Union after its fall and managed to dig out some fascinating previously-unknown facts.
For example, when the Russian soldiers liberated the camps, the inmates were, in many respects, little better off -- sure, they were not going to be gassed, but they were going to die of starvation, exposure and physical abuse at the hands of their Russian "liberators". Many of the inmates, Jewish and Russian, were taken to Russia and immediately sent into the gulag. Those Jews who were not sent to Siberia ultimately tried to go home, only to find that there was no home to go to. Their village neighbors in Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany, etc., had moved into their houses and taken over their businesses. Even former "friends" gave them the cold shoulder -- No Jews Wanted Here. The deep strain of Anti-Semitism that had enveloped Europe for centuries was still alive, even after the Nazis were defeated.
There are a lot more surprising and little-known details surrounding Auschwitz, including the shockingly eye-opening interviews with former guards, many of whom still felt no remorse at what they had done. They truly believed that they were helping to rid the world of a pestilent scourge that was, at best, only half-human.
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