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4.6 out of 5 stars144
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 21 April 2006
I was surprised just how readable this book was. The subject matter is, of necessity, distressing, but the author has produced a book that is well-written & actually quite difficult to put down.
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on 18 January 2005
I guess both an interest in WWII and a curiosity about human behaviour drove me to purchase this book. It is without a doubt a gripping read and each time you think the story couldn't get any worse another horror prevails. There were however times that I just had to put the book down for fear of dropping into a state of intense depression. The stories, especially those of the children are bound to stir deep emotions in any reader, especially those with children of their own. Perhaps the most curious of the conclusions you can draw from the book is just how powerful propaganda can be at brain washing the masses. It is evident that the holocaust was not engineered by one lunatic, but by hundreds of them all working under their own autonomous remit. Some of the SS that were interviewed still show no remorse today, I really struggle to see how the interviewer managed to retain their composure when researching the material. I cautiously recommend this, but if you are an emotional person or suffer from depression I would give it a miss.
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on 11 January 2010
One of the people interviewed in this book says (and I paraphrase), that until you are tested in extreme circumstances you never really know yourself and what you're capable of. No one can argue about the extreme situation caused by World War II and the suffering of the 'undesirable' people in Hitler's Third Reich (though some might try).
This is a riveting read, very accessible and to the point, giving a solid account of the beginning of the so called deathcamps, of which Auschwitz incidently wasn't originally intended to be. I'm obviously stating the obvious by saying that this is a harrowing book to read and I was driven to tears on more than one occasion, but we really shouldn't shy away from what happened in what is still living memory for some. Auschwitz, The Nazis & The Final Solution should be mandatory reading for all.
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on 20 January 2009
A very insightful book on the most infamous death camp of the Third Reich. From this study, one can see why Laurence Rees, both journalist and historian, has such a distinguished reputation.

This study of Auschwitz is based on original field research by the author, mainly through specially conducted interviews with about 100 people including former Nazis and camp survivors but also other interviews with former Nazi party members and many other individuals from several occupied countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The nature of Rees's research ensures that this book provides a unique contribution to the understanding of Auschwitz and The Holocaust.

Suffice it to say that this book should be on the reading list of everyone studying the history of Nazi Germany and The Holocaust.
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on 8 November 2005
For me the name Auschwitz conjures up images of torture, human suffering and horror quicker than any other word in the dictionary. It is probably the most famous 'facility' of the Second World War and this book gives an indept look at how Auschwitz came about and its part in 'The Final Solution'. Beginning in 1942, the camp became the site of the greatest mass murder in the history of humanity and the most disturbing aspect of the entire book is the attitude of those in charge who never showed any remorse for their actions.
This is a book which should be read by everyone in the hope that such a travesty should never happen again.
I gave the book 4 stars because I found the editing of the book infuriating.....some sentences were repeated, some finished mid-sentence. Not many.....but enough to annoy me! Don't let this stop you buying it though!
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on 27 May 2009
This book is a fantastic read, not only is it incredibly informative on the events of Auschwitz but it also has alot off information on WW2. The book itself is very well written and flows superbly making it very easy to take in. Laurence Rees in my opinion is one of the best historical authors I have ever read, and his knowledge is so vast and precise that it makes the book very interesting. The book also explores deep into the camp and there was so much I didn't know about Auschwitz until reading this book. I would deffinatly buy this book.
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on 9 January 2005
I bought this book last week and once I started reading it I found I couldn't put it down. It is the most authoratitive and moving account of a part of history that I know happened but had not much in depth of knowledge as to how and why. I would strongly recommend this book to everyone - I am going to get my teenage children to read it. It is beautifully written by Rees, whose television work I greatly admire, and goes some way to explaining man's inhumanity to man.
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on 6 April 2007
This book is the best book i have ever read. It really opens your eyes to what did happen to what we were told happened. It's unbelievable the way the jews were treated not just the german jews but the jews of the world. The world wars really interest me because I love the fact that there was so many people willing to fight for our country and our countries independence so this book was a must have for me. Once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. It's a gripping, informative and honest account of what torture and misery thse innocent people were put through. I would recommend this book to anyone in fact mine is being past around to those who want to read it. I would like to congratulate Laurence Rees for a fantastic eye opening book that really pyts a lump in your throat and at the same time makes you feel disgusted at the behavior that (hopefully) nobody would get away with in todays modern times.
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on 21 October 2015
This is an engrossing and, of course, horrifying book about an obscene period in human history. Its contents have been more than adequately covered by many other reviewers, so I'll just add a couple of observations.
Firstly, I was a little disappointed to find so little on the quotidian reality of life for camp inmates, which is what I really wanted to find out about. Things like - what did they eat? What were their accommodation arrangements - did they all sleep huddled together on wooden shelves with no blankets? Did they have blankets at all? Were their huts wooden, or did they live in concrete blockhouses? What were the latrine arrangements? What hours did they work?
Secondly, the author is a little cavalier in some of his statements; he says, somewhere near the beginning, that the 27 million people killed as a result of Hitler's war was the greatest figure of its type in history. No it wasn't - at least 53 million, and possibly as many as over 70 million, people were killed in the Tai Ping rebellion in 19th-century China; and what about the countless millions who died under Stalin's reign of terror (estimates vary, but I believe the latest figures countenance a possible 50 or 60 million - not a war in the traditional inter-state meaning, but a war on his own people nevertheless).
Thirdly, he uses the word "Schizophrenic" a lot and, like most people who do the same, clearly doesn't know what it actually means. Nothing annoys me more than people who try to make themselves appear clever by using big words they don't understand, and using them incorrectly.
Still, for all that, it remains a fine work, well worth reading for anyone wishing to know (almost) anything about this terrible story, and who can put up with a couple of peas under the mattress.
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If you are looking for an easy to read, largely non-technical history of the Holocaust, then this is the book for you. It is not an academic work which deals with the analysis of documents and the often tedious work of peicing together of all the myriad bits of information that collectively attests to the terrible genocide in Eastern Europe during the Second World War.

The thing that made the book so interesting was the eye witness testimony and the candid views of former prisoners and prison guards. While the sheer scale of the suffering is not conveyed, the individual stories are themselves quite heart rending and disturbing.

The events are in many ways inconceivable. Germany was and saw itself as a civilised nation not dissimilar to Britain. However, somehow the vein of anti-Semitism in its society (in common with many other societies) took on a more concrete form in Nazi Germany and over time its actions became more extreme.

It is disturbing because such anti-Semitism is incompatible with civilised way of thinking. I think that this is why actions in the Holocaust were couched euphemistically. I think that this is why gas chambers were eventually used rather than mass shootings. I think that this is why much of the dirty work was undertaken by Kapos and Sonderkommandos rather than the SS directly. I think that this is why Zyklon B was delivered in ambulances and selections of prisoners for work or immediate liquidation were undertaken by doctors. In a sick way, it is possible to admire the gruesome efficiency of the process.

I found it disturbing too to consider that SS officers were so imbued with Nazi propoganda that they could not see Jewish children as innocent human beings but as carriers of dirty Jewish blood.

Inevitably, the book does cover Holocaust revisionists (deniers or apologists) but has little time for them.

It is an excellent introduction to this tragic event in history.
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