People in Auschwitz

Univ of North Carolina Press
Free sample

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.

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About the author

Hermann Langbein (1912-1995) was born in Vienna. In 1938 he was a member of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, then he was interned in various French camps. Following the German conquest, he was transferred to Dachau, then to Auschwitz, where he remained for two years. There he was a leading participant in the international resistance organization in the camp. After liberation he became general secretary of the International Auschwitz Committee and later secretary of the Comite International des Camps. Among the many important works he wrote or edited are Against All Hope: Resistance in the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1938-1945 and Nazi Mass Murder: A Documentary History of the Use of Poison Gas.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Univ of North Carolina Press
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Published on
Dec 15, 2005
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Pages
568
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ISBN
9780807863633
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
History / Holocaust
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Among sources on the Holocaust, survivor testimonies are the least replaceable and most complex, reflecting both the personality of the narrator and the conditions and perceptions prevailing at the time of narration. Scholars, despite their aim to challenge memory and fill its gaps, often use testimonies uncritically or selectively-mining them to support generalizations. This book represents a departure, bringing Holocaust experts Atina Grossmann, Konrad Kwiet, Wendy Lower, Jürgen Matthäus, and Nechama Tec together to analyze the testimony of one Holocaust survivor. Born in Bratislava at the end of World War I, Helen "Zippi" Spitzer Tichauer was sent to Auschwitz in 1942. One of the few early arrivals to survive the camp and the death marches, she met her future husband in a DP camp, and they moved to New York in the 1960s. Beginning in 1946, Zippi devoted many hours to talking with a small group of scholars about her life. Her wide-ranging interviews are uniquely suited to raise questions on the meaning and use of survivor testimony. What do we know today about the workings of a death camp? How willing are we to learn from the experiences of a survivor, and how much is our perception preconditioned by standardized images? What are the mechanisms, aims, and pitfalls of storytelling? Can survivor testimonies be understood properly without guidance from those who experienced the events? This book's new, multifaceted approach toward Zippi's unique story combined with the authors' analysis of key aspects of Holocaust memory, its forms and its functions, makes it a rewarding and fascinating read.
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