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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read
For anyone interested in the WW2 Holocaust and the events involved in it , this book is a very large insight.
Apart from the main interview comments from the Camp Kommandant, in charge of both Treblinka and Sobibor Extermination Camps there are eye witness accounts from Train signalmen, to auxiliries attached to the network of the camps, to actual guards and...
Published on 6 July 2011 by TomValley

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, but a disappointing deviation towards the end
I wholly agree with the reviewer who says that the book would have been better if Ms Sereny had not gone into details about the role of the Catholic church. Not because that topic is not deserving of attention, but because the attention she gives it detracts from her primary subject matter and her consideration of it is, in any event, too brief to do that topic justice...
Published on 15 Sep 2010 by Ekisenge


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read, 6 July 2011
This review is from: Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (Paperback)
For anyone interested in the WW2 Holocaust and the events involved in it , this book is a very large insight.
Apart from the main interview comments from the Camp Kommandant, in charge of both Treblinka and Sobibor Extermination Camps there are eye witness accounts from Train signalmen, to auxiliries attached to the network of the camps, to actual guards and
workers in the camps to survivors testimonies.
One can build up a picture of how helpless the victims really where in a system designed and planned to the slightest degree to get them speedily "up the chimney".
Remember these were not Concentration Camps like Auschwitz, where there was a slight chance one could be selected to work and had a very slight chance of survival -- these were Death camps --NO selection , everybofdy went into the gas chambers.
The Jewish workers here , under a 1,000, were long term workers who were to be exterminated at the end of the process. When all the Jews were dead.
From false station , to false Railway clock, to lovely tree lined passages, and flowers the Station lured the West European Jews into false ideas of a resettlement camp , needing to "shower" to start their new lives..To the other extreme for Eastern Jews , brutalised off the trains by whips, rifle butts (which often broke with the blows)and vivious dogs , on the run from the train to the gas chambers through barbed wire lioned narrow corridors.
The long wait naked in the freezing cold assembly areas when the gas chambers had a problem with the previous batch ahead of you, and you knew what was in store by this time. The most compelling book to put you actually there, in 1942, in a Poland Death Camp...From both the victims and the overseers (and their wives and Family )and the bystanders caught up seeing the misery of the Holocaust in its full grisly severity...You will not put the book down as each chapter unfurls.
An amazing coincidence is that Franz Stangl, the Kommandant found guilty in a court of Law of conspiracy in the deaths of 900,000 people, died just 19 hours after completing his interviews with the Author. The world was that close to missing out on the Testimony / words of this central character in the Holocaust.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Human Evil laid bare, 6 Oct 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (Paperback)
Sereny's contribution to the history of the holocaust is deeply disturbing, strangely unjudgemental and goes a long way to helping the reader understand how a human being like Stangl, with a relatively unremarkable background could take part in the most terrible crime in recent history. A harrowing and terrible is the revelation that Stangl had a lot in common with any of us. Would we be capable of the same thing if we were in his shoes? Ask yourself the old question: Is man inherently evil? Read it.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly unmissable!!!, 30 Mar 2006
This review is from: Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (Paperback)
Gitta Sereny does a fantastic job here of transcribing her interviews with one of the key Nazi figures of Operation Reinhard. Franz Stangl held management positions in not one, but two of the three Nazi death camps, where all prisoners were killed within 24 hours of arrival, with the exception of a small number who were kept alive to maintain the camp (also destined for death when all the Jews had been killed, if they lasted that long!) Please remember here that thousands and thousands of men, women and children were murdered in these camps.
Franz Stangl was commended on his efficient work in the camps and that is what makes these interviews so compelling. Here is a unique opportunity to look into the mind of a true Nazi, initially a very ordinary, non-descript man, and his recollection and feelings on his 'work' during WWII.
The book is completely un-biased, leaving the reader to decide whether or not this man was evil, easily led or otherwise! The author does not shy away from difficult or painful questions, (such as how Stangl felt about the killing of children and babies). This book must be read. There are very interviews from the men in key positions in the death camps, and whether or not you believe all of Stangl's explanations, it does give you a compellable insight into the psyche of a Nazi.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and disturbing: could this have been you?, 2 April 2003
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This review is from: Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (Paperback)
An ordinary family man ends up at the head of Treblinka and co-responsible for over a million dead Jews.
Sereny is keen to emphasise the role the euthanasia programme for disabled people played as a stepping stone, anaestheticising Stangl and others to the idea of killing as a sensible way to get round "problem people", and adds an angle I for one had never considered before.
Once in the extermination system (first disabled people, then Jews) Stangl's obsession with efficiency allows him to feel that all he is doing is a job like any other and just doing it without fuss. And yet at critical moments, he allows himself to block off from himself what he was doing: he must have changed from talking about the people who enter the gas chambers to "the cargo" at some point. Certainly, throughout, he could not even tell his wife he was involved in the killing: he is just "organising the camp construction."
His wife too does not escape the author's gaze and Sereny concludes that she could have stepped in to stop her husband acting as he did.
And yet, and yet... neither of them are portrayed as cruel. They were both loving parents, by all accounts, and Stangl on one level clearly did not want to have got where he did. He just never found the courage to say, "no" and walk away, let alone actively resist it. And also, there seems to have been something in him that was proud of his status, his position.
In another context, these sins would have been nothing significant. In the context of living in Austria, Germany and Poland under the Nazis, giving into these might also lead to the monstrosities they did.
Throughout reading the book, I found it difficult to associate the cruelty with the calm, measured man she interviews.
Whilst Stangl's crimes are at the heart of the book, there are excursus on other angles too.
For example, there are fascinating accounts of living at Treblinka by the work Jews, who watched the trains coming in, hoping they would be from Holland, where there would be rich pickings in what they brought with them, rather than from Poland, where the Jews were much poorer.
The brutalisation of humanity was almost total.
The second half of the book concentrates on Stangl's escape to South America via Syria with the help of the Catholic Church, and their acquiescence in knowingly assisting Nazis is established clearly by Sereny, although this section of the book could have been trimmed, I would have thought.
But this isn't the core of the book. The core of the book shows how an ordinary man came to commit mass murder. And it's powerfully, thoughtfully written. If you want measured, reasoned and humane judgement, I can't think of anyone better than Sereny.
One curiosity: having also read the Speer book, all Sereny's interviewees tend to be described as "handsome" or "pretty", whatever their age, whoever they are. Why is she so obsessed with looks? Most writers just won't comment on it. She invariably does. But that's just a minor point.
This is an important book, written in Sereny's typically fluent prose. Her judgement is so lucid, and so clearly explained, that the whole is utterly compelling.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chilling study of the Nazi mind, 28 Mar 2010
This review is from: Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (Paperback)
I found the title and author of this book whilst reading Escape From Sobibor (an excellent book by Richard Rashke).

I particularly wanted to read Into That Darkness as I felt it could help answer questions I have asked myself many many times. Just what was in the minds of the Nazi's who carried out some of the most horrific crimes beyond all comprehension. Did these murderers also have families and children themselves? What was it that drove them to such depths? Exactly what was in their minds when knowingly organising mass murder on such a massive scale?

Gitta Sereny held in depth interviews with Franz Stangl, a man who in the beginning was simply no more than a Police Officer but went on to become Camp Commandant of Sobibor and Treblinka, two of just five camps set up specifically for extermination. Sereny was the last person to interview Stangl as just nineteen hours after her she completed her last interview, he died.

Sereny first goes into the background of Stangl and takes him back to his childhood days. The evil Euthanasia programme he became involved in as a Police Officer which undoubtedly formed the foundation for the extermination camps. Later she moves on to discuss his family life in detail....his wife and children. Stangl's wife gave a great deal of help to Sereny and it becomes quite obvious that she deeply loved her husband. When Stangl was sent to organise Sobibor he told his wife he was involved in building and construction which, in part, was true. It was not until much later during a visit to see her husband that a drunk SS officer told her what was being done there.

Sereny devotes a large section of her book to the hypocrisy of the hierarchy within the Roman Catholic Church and quotes from documentation in detail, proving not only their knowledge of the Euthanasia programme, but also the mass murder of Jewish people. Many Roman Catholics have long lived in denial of this and any RC readers will find this part of the book quite uncomfortable. Sereny researched this in the finest detail possible accessing documents previously unavailable. Accept it or deny it....here is FACT from official documents.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down., 7 Jun 2007
By 
M. L. Mitchell "Lukonium" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (Paperback)
This is a very human book, examining the character of the man who, through a series of decisions and circumstances, became commandant of Treblinka and oversaw the murder of a million people. What is fascinating is that there never seemed to be any malice in him - he was simply doing his job - and he wanted to do it well. The flaws in his character that drove him to this position are all too common in many of us - and that makes this work a very powerful revelation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Through the Trapdoor, 9 Oct 2013
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (Paperback)
A book in which Gitta gets access to her Stangl and asks the question Why?

Stangl meanwhile cannot see what has happened, shut down and shut off, he puts up a huge barricade, as if it all had never happened. The camp that he ran was built as a Grimm's style fairytale facade with music greeting the newcomers and a false theatrical front to allay their fears. Meanwhile he was striding up and down on his white horse and white suit directing the proceedings. These were overseen by a thousand Jewish men and some SS prison guards with machine guns who herded the women and children along with men and the elders into the small buildings and wiped them out at around 5000 per day.

To get your mind around it is absolutely staggering, but Gitta lays into Stangl across the whole breadth of the book and what emerges is his stoic type of autism based upon self absorption, a belief in a higher cause and an inability to contemplate what actually happened under his command. Finally when the enormity hits him a very peculiar thing happens and you will have to read the book to find out what occurred. Needless to say the ending confirms many of the observations Wilhelm Reich made.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, but a disappointing deviation towards the end, 15 Sep 2010
This review is from: Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (Paperback)
I wholly agree with the reviewer who says that the book would have been better if Ms Sereny had not gone into details about the role of the Catholic church. Not because that topic is not deserving of attention, but because the attention she gives it detracts from her primary subject matter and her consideration of it is, in any event, too brief to do that topic justice. Unfortunately, as a result, one comes away somewhat disappointed by the last 1/5 of the book, with a feeling that her analysis of Franz Strangl the man is not as profound and insightful as it could have been were she to have spent that extra time on trying further to understand Strangl and his actions. Perhaps she thought it necessary. His escape from Europe and the Catholic Church's role in that was part of Strangl's story and arguably it was therefore necessary, as with every other aspect of his story, for her to seek to determine whether his account of his escape was factually accurate. After all, that is one of the key strengths of the book: Sereny analyses the key protagonists' (Franz Strangl and his wife) own versions of the story and compares it to what is historically known as a way of trying to understand their actions and culpability. Unfortunately, however, the section on the Catholic Church actually adds very little to our understanding of her subject and feels like an unnecessary deviation that kills the pace of an otherwise fantastic book. I would still strongly recommend reading the book, but expect to be dissapointed towards the latter stages of the book.
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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed but fascinating account of Franz Stangl, 26 April 2001
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This review is from: Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (Paperback)
This is without doubt an important book, being one of the few written about the holocaust which genuinely attempts to see into the minds of those who committed the terrible crimes of the period. When the Gita Sereny does this, it is a fascinating and compelling attempt at understanding the workings of man's mind who finds himself in the most unimaginable situation. The author does not attempt to symphasise or condemn him, rather she offers up his explanations for his actions, for the reader to judge for him or herself. However in the later chapters, the book degenerates into a poorly researched attempt to disect the role of the Catholic church in the holocaust, and the book loses all form or direction. If you are interested in the political machinations of the vatican during WWII I would suggest reading 'Hitler's Pope' by John Cornwell.
This book was good, but it could have been so much better, if the author had directed her attention fully at the character of Franz Stangl rather than attempting to deal with a myriad of other events, which have been far better covered by other writers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 22 Dec 2007
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This review is from: Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder (Paperback)
A very thought provoking book. Shows what can happen if you keep giving in little by little.
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Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder
Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder by Gitta Sereny (Paperback - 3 Aug 1995)
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