The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust

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At last, the everyday fighting men who were the first Americans to know the full and horrifying truth about the Holocaust share their astonishing stories. Rich with powerful never-before-published details from the author’s interviews with more than 150 U.S. soldiers who liberated the Nazi death camps, The Liberators is an essential addition to the literature of World War II—and a stirring testament to Allied courage in the face of inconceivable atrocities.

Taking us from the beginnings of the liberators’ final march across Germany to V-E Day and beyond, Michael Hirsh allows us to walk in their footsteps, experiencing the journey as they themselves experienced it. But this book is more than just an in-depth account of the liberation. It reveals how profoundly these young men were affected by what they saw—the unbelievable horror and pathos they felt upon seeing “stacks of bodies like cordwood” and “skeletonlike survivors” in camp after camp. That life-altering experience has stayed with them to this very day. It’s been well over half a century since the end of World War II, and they still haven’t forgotten what the camps looked like, how they smelled, what the inmates looked like, and how it made them feel. Many of the liberators suffer from what’s now called post-traumatic stress disorder and still experience Holocaust-related nightmares. 

Here we meet the brave souls who—now in their eighties and nineties—have chosen at last to share their stories. Corporal Forrest Robinson saw masses of dead bodies at Nordhausen and was so horrified that he lost his memory for the next two weeks. Melvin Waters, a 4-F volunteer civilian ambulance driver, recalls that a woman at Bergen-Belsen “fought us like a cat because she thought we were taking her to the crematory.” Private Don Timmer used his high school German to interpret for General Dwight Eisenhower during the supreme Allied commander’s visit to Ohrdruf, the first camp liberated by the Americans. And Phyllis Lamont Law, an army nurse at Mauthausen-Gusen, recalls the shock and, ultimately, “the hope” that “you can save a few.”

From Bergen-Belsen in northern Germany to Mauthausen in Austria, The Liberators offers readers an intense and unforgettable look at the Nazi death machine through the eyes of the men and women who were our country’s witnesses to the Holocaust. The liberators’ recollections are historically important, vivid, riveting, heartbreaking, and, on rare occasions, joyous and uplifting. This book is their opportunity, perhaps for the last time, to tell the world.
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Rear Admiral Terry McKnight, USN (Ret.) served as Commander, Counter-Piracy Task Force-Gulf of Aden. He wrote the first draft of the Navy’s handbook on fighting piracy while serving as the initial commander of Combined Task Force 151, an international effort to deploy naval vessels from several nations in a manner designed to prevent piracy in the Gulf of Aden and farther out into the Indian Ocean. McKnight personally commanded operations that disrupted several hijackings in progress, and resulted in the capture of sixteen Somali pirates. That’s when he ran head-on into the bizarre U.S. policy of catch-and-release, and realized that there’s a lot more to fighting piracy than just catching some skinny youngsters armed with AK-47s and RPGs.

After his tour in the waters off the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, he retired from the Navy and began seriously researching the subject. As a result, he and his co-author, journalist Michael Hirsh, have put together a very readable book that serves as a comprehensive introductory course on the subject. Pirate Alley includes a behind-the-scenes look at the SEAL Team 6 takedown of the pirates who had kidnapped Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama. It also reveals what a young Ph.D. candidate from Duke University found during three months on the ground in Somali pirate villages.

Pirate Alley explores every aspect of Somali piracy, from how the pirates operate to how the actions of a relative handful of youthful criminals and their bosses have impacted the world economy. The book examines various answers to the question “How do you solve a problem like Somalia?” It explores the debate over the recently adopted practice of putting armed guards aboard merchant ships, and focuses on the best management practices that are changing the ways that ships are outfitted for travel through what’s known as the High Risk Area. Readers will learn that the consequence of protecting high quality targets such as container ships and crude oil carriers may be that pirates turn to crime on land, such as the kidnapping of foreigners.

The work also focuses on the worldwide economic impact of piracy, noting that despite claims that piracy is costing as much as $13 billion a year, one of the largest commercial shipping companies argues that over-reaching national and international shipping regulations have a significantly greater negative effect on the world’s economy than does piracy.

In the book’s conclusion, McKnight contends that, in the interest of justice, nations need to beef up their ability to prosecute and imprison captured pirates. And that the United States has no choice but to continue to hew to a policy that was first stated in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution: The Congress shall have Power…to define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Bantam
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Published on
Mar 16, 2010
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780553907315
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Holocaust
History / Modern / 20th Century
Psychology / Psychopathology / Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Hitler claimed that his years as a soldier in the First World War were the most formative years of his life. However, for the six decades since his death in the ruins of Berlin, Hitler's time as a soldier on the Western Front has, remarkably, remained a blank spot. Until now, all that we knew about Hitler's life in these years and the regiment in which he served came from his own account in Mein Kampf and the equally mythical accounts of his comrades. Hitler's First War for the first time looks at what really happened to Private Hitler and the men of the Bavarian List Regiment of which he was a member. It is a radical revision of the period of Hitler's life that is said to have made him. Through the stories of the veterans of the regiment - an officer who became Hitler's personal adjutant in the 1930s but then offered himself to British intelligence, a soldier-turned-Concentration Camp Commander, Jewish veterans who fell victim to the Holocaust, or of veterans who simply returned to their lives in Bavaria - Thomas Weber presents a Private Hitler very different from the one portrayed in his own mythical account. Instead, we find a Hitler who was shunned by the frontline soldiers of his regiment as a 'rear area pig' and who was still unsure of his political ideology even at the end of the war in 1918. In looking at the post-war lives of Hitler's fellow veterans back in Bavaria, Thomas Weber also challenges the commonly accepted notion that the First World War was somehow a 'seminal catastrophe' in twentieth century German history and even questions just how deep-seated Nazi ideology really was in its home state.
The huge Auschwitz camp in Poland, the Third Reich’s most gruesome death camp, contained not only the infamous concentration camp - whose horrors are well-documented - but also a prisoner-of-war facility that housed British inmates. Situated close enough to the Jewish quarters to smell the stench of burning bodies from the crematoria, the POWs were forced to work alongside concentration camp inmates in a Nazi factory. Witnesses to daily violence, the men survived beatings, hard labour and the extreme cold of Polish winters, whilst subsisting on meagre rations. Their final ordeal was to march hundreds of miles, in the depths of winter, to secure freedom in the spring of 1945.

Based on interviews with some of the few surviving members of E715 Auschwitz, this book charts the British captives’ true story: from arriving on cattle trucks through to their eventual departure on foot. Haunted by what they had witnessed as young men, Brian Bishop, Doug Bond and Arthur Gifford-England were only able to speak about their experiences decades later, when approached during research for this book. Few people were interested in these remarkable men in post-war Britain, and they were left to cope with the trauma of their experiences with little support.

Allies in Auschwitz records an important and forgotten episode of modern history. As corroboration of the men’s testimony, the final chapter includes post-war accounts from other British POWs held in E715 Auschwitz, based on documents compiled by war crimes’ investigators for the Nuremburg Trials.

In the summer of 1943, British and American bombers launched an attack on the German city of Hamburg that was unlike anything the world had ever seen. For ten days they pounded the city with over 9,000 tons of bombs, with the intention of erasing it entirely from the map. The fires they created were so huge they burned for a month and were visible for 200 miles.

The people of Hamburg had no time to understand what had hit them. As they emerged from their ruined cellars and air raid shelters, they were confronted with a unique vision of hell: a sea of flame that stretched to the horizon, the burned-out husks of fire engines that had tried to rescue them, roads that had become flaming rivers of melted tarmac. Even the canals were on fire.

Worse still, they had to battle hurricane-force winds to escape the blaze. The only safe places were the city's parks, but to reach them survivors had to stumble through temperatures of up to 800°C and a blizzard of sparks strong enough to lift grown men off their feet.

Inferno is the culmination of several years of research and the first comprehensive account of the Hamburg firestorm to be published in almost thirty years.

Keith Lowe has interviewed eyewitnesses in Britain, Germany, and America, and gathered together hundreds of letters, diaries, firsthand accounts, and documents. His book gives the human side of an inhuman story: the long, tense buildup to the Allied attack; the unparalleled horror of the firestorm itself; and the terrible aftermath. The result is an epic story of devastation and survival, and a much-needed reminder of the human face of war.

Includes nineteen maps and thirty-one photographs, many never seen before
As correspondent for Newsweek, Michael Hirsh has traveled to every continent, reporting on American foreign policy. Now he draws on his experience to offer an original explanation of America's role in the world and the problems facing the nation today and in the future. Using colorful vignettes and up-close reporting from his coverage of the first two post-Cold War presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Hirsh argues that America has a new role never before played by any nation: it is the world's Uberpower, overseeing the global system from the air, land, sea and, increasingly, from space as well. And that means America has a unique opportunity do what no great power in history has ever done--to perpetuate indefinitely the global system it has built, to create an international community with American power at its center that is so secure it may never be challenged. Yet Americans are squandering this chance by failing to realize what is at stake. At the same time that America as a nation possesses powers it barely comprehends, Americans as individuals have vulnerabilities they never before imagined. They desperately need the international community on their side. In an era when democracy and free markets have become the prevailing ideology, Hirsh argues, one of America's biggest problems will be "ideological blowback"--facing up to the flaws and contradictions of its own ideals. Hence, for example, the biggest threat to political stability is not totalitarianism, but the tricky task of instituting democracy in the Arab world without giving Islamic fundamentalists the reigns of power. The only way for Washington to avoid accusations of hypocrisy is to allow the global institutions it has built, like the U.N., to do the hard work of promoting U.S. values.
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