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A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust Hardcover – 20 Sep 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (20 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199603308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199603305
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 3 x 15.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 397,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


A milestone in Holocaust historiography. (Christopher Browning, New York Review of Books)

absorbing ... a precise and moving account (Jane Caplan, Times Literary Supplement)

The readers of this book will obtain a new and different perspective on the Holocaust as its central figure serves as an example of the vast number of Nazis in administrative positions who made the process of systematic killing possible by their dedicated and diligent commitment to a murderous regime. (Gerhard L. Weinberg, History Book Club)

About the Author

Mary Fulbrook is Professor of German History at University College London. She has written widely on modern German history, including A Concise History of Germany; A History of Germany 1918-2000: The Divided Nation; German National Identity after the Holocaust; Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside theGDR; and The People's State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker. Her most recent book is Dissonant Lives: Generations and Violence through the German Dictatorships. A fellow of the British Academy, she is former Chair of the German History Society and a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Foundation for the former Concentration Camps at Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora.

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
This is a subtle, devastatingly honest and very humane book that takes an oblique look at the Holocaust - not so much the perpetrators of genocide, but the thousands of `facilitators', civilian administrators, who were complicit with Nazi ideology while giving themselves the psychological get-out clause that they were 'decent' people, that they didn't know the full story of what was happening and so were never guilty of mass murder.

Fulbrook focuses on Udo Klausa, the chief administrator of Bedzin, a small town twenty-five miles from Auschwitz, and explores the way in which he strives in his memoirs to distance himself from the Final Solution, even while being responsible for the rounding up, ghettoization, and transportation of all the Jews from his town.

The book is given an added weight since the author knew Klausa who was married to her godmother. Fulbrook isn't so concerned with pointing the finger (though she can't help but make moral judgements) but with understanding the psychological processes, the preconditions which allowed the Holocaust to happen, and it's this which makes the book so important, such a living exploration of things which matter today.

This is, inevitably, a disturbing, distressing book and one which it's impossible to read without getting choked up and emotional. But despite the author's own emotions (which do, rightly, break through into the text), this is essentially a cool and rational exploration of the kind of myths which allowed `ordinary, decent' Germans to separate themselves from the `real Nazis'.

As a professional academic historian, Fulbrook is almost apologetic for allowing her own moral and ethical judgements to have space in this book but that's precisely what makes this so powerful.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Oct 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I agree with the gist of the previous reviews. This is a fine book that should be read by anyone wishing to understand how ordinary Germans willingly helped or by their inaction contributed to the extermination of Jews and other groups.

My only caveat is that the involvement of ordinary Germans in the deliberate genocide of Jews (for genocide it was) has been well documented for decades. The superb books by, for example, Ian Kershaw, Michael Burleigh, Mary Felbrook, Robert Gellately and Max Hastings have graphically detailed the involvement of 'good' Germans.

The attempts after 1945 by many Germans to deny knowing anything about the extermination camps were always going to be revealed as lies. If true, who drove the trains full of victims for the gas chambers, who were the bureaucrats who did the paper work, who took part in reserve police battalions like the notorious 101, some 500 policemen of which slaughtered men, women, children and babies while laughing and drinking? We might also ask who were the doctors that murdered thousands from 1939 as part of the infamous T-4 Euthanasia unit? Who manufactured and transported the gas for the chambers of death? The answer to these and many other questions is ordinary Germans, men and women. Thousands more turned a blind eye to murder. For all too many Germans, Hitler's policies provided the long awaited opportunity to attack Jews, to confiscate their property and expropriate their businesses.

The truth is that German society as a whole did not oppose the Nazi's vicious anti-Jewish policies. At best there was passive complicity, policies were never questioned save by a very few. Many,on the other hand, from 1933 onwards expressed glee in witnessing Jewish degradation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Siriam TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Dec 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
How did the Final Solution really operate and function beneath the main characters (Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann) about whom several books have been written alongside the even greater number of general histories on this WWII tragedy, which rarely dip down to the local levels in great detail?

This book tries to answer that by examining a middle level German born and raised civilian administrator posted close to Auschwitz, whom the author knew after the war for many years and whose family she has had close contact with since his death. This resulted in her having access to personal insights and written documents which many such researchers would never have.

What we learn alongside the many other books on the development of the Holocaust post the invasion of Poland is ultimately not very surprising. German local government officials by career training and cognisant of Nazi anti Jewish policies from their own domestic experience, proved malleable and pragmatic in implementing the State's wishes in their new roles in the invaded territories. The pursuit of career and compliance with policies and orders that they rarely questioned or even less felt the need to contradict, delivered a well functioning infrastructure. The importance of this to the extermination of Jewish people by concentrating locally and then delivering them for extermination in the concentration camps is the main value of the book's analysis.

The book is clearly very thoroughly researched (with over 50 of its 420 pages being Footnotes and Index) and in written style reads like an academic thesis, which I must admit made it a heard read for me.
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