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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, unique and pivotally important survivor testimonial,
This review is from: Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz (Hardcover)I have been to Auschwitz Birkenau, have researched the overall subject exhaustively and have read dozens and dozens of books on the holocaust and related history be it Laurence Rees (see the likes of Auschwitz : The Nazis & The 'Final Solution'), Martin Gilbert (see The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy) and many other books from biographies like Nazi Hunter: The Wiesenthal File to fiction like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. It's a subject I am very drawn to and deeply passionate and evangelical about so I'd thus like to think I can tell an accurate and well written account from one that isn't and this book certainly falls into the former.
Testimony of this type - a survivor who worked in the Sonderkommando - is practically unique and truly of substantial historical importantance. Reading this book put a lot of what I have physically seen at Birkenau into much greater context than I had previously had (and thought possible, I revisited much of what I have seen in my head and saw a clearer picture) and it allowed me to gain a liberating insight into the mind, mentality and even the humanity of someone who worked in the Sonderkommando (which is something I personally had many ethical questions about in terms of how/why they participated, coped and justified). Any tiny niggling doubts about even the smallest level of collusion or collaboration by those in the Sonderkommando are entirely removed by reading this book since all of these types of issues are very frankly, very honestly, very objectively and very bravely discussed. I won't take any steam away from the book by trying to paraphrase them here as I think it is important for anyone interested in the subject to read these arguments / opinions for yourself and then ponder what you would have done in such excruciating circumstances. I certainly found myself fully supportive and profoundly moved by his account.
I cannot stress how unique this account is. There are many survivor testimonies - all harrowing - but this reaches an even greater level of insight since most survivors did not see or experience the 'business end' of the final solution. Naturally, they all suffered horrendously and they all faced the most heinous moral dilemma's themselves but none quite like this given what he saw and experienced. Most of the Sonderkommando didn't live to describe it since they were systematically eliminated by the Nazis as eye witnesses.
I'm not going to go into how well this book is written as that's kind of not the point when it comes to a subject like this (although I had no complaints) but I will say one simple thing - buy this book. Make your children and your friends read it. Then thank god that such an account exists and that the knowledge of the true extent of the horror can be passed on from a first hand source of impeccable quality.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inaccurate information,
This review is from: Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz (Hardcover)This book is well worth reading and I recommend it. However, I just want to point out that, contrary to some of the media reviews, it isn't the only book written by a survivor of the Sonderkommando; there is also the book by Filip Muller: 'Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chamber', which I also recommend. Filip also took part in the Holocaust documentary film 'Shoah' by Claude Lanzmann.
Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chamber
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique book,
This review is from: Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz (Hardcover)This book is different from other books written by the survivors of Auschwitz as it contains the recollections and experiences of an individual who worked in and survived the Sonderkommando.
Not many people have survived who worked in the gas chambers and the crematoria, therefore this book is of paramount importance as a unique historical document.
The book is as you would expect, traumatic, harrowing; simple words which cannot express the sheer revulsion the common human being experiences when reading this testimony.
The book is set out in a series of questions similar to an interview. I thought at first that this would interrupt the flow and "disjoint" the book. However, the interviewer has been very thorough and precise and has linked the questions from the subject's early experiences in Greece up to his liberation at the end of the war. This allows the book to flow without jumping from one point of time to another with recognisable unfilled gaps.
I would recommend this book to people who ready and study the Holocaust, but be prepared for an emotional and deeply disturbing read.
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling reading,
This review is from: Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkimmando of Auschwitz (Paperback)Extraordinary descriptive detail from survivor of terrible times,bravely written.A must for those who were not born then,history relived.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside the Gas Chambers,
This review is from: Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkimmando of Auschwitz (Paperback)Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz is published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It details the life of the author, Shlomo Venezia, who was born into a Jewish-Italian community in Greece.
The foreword of the book is written by Simone Veil, another survivor of Auschwitz. She states that `the force of this eye-witness account comes from the irreproachable honesty of its author' who `relates only what he himself saw, leaving nothing out'.
In Inside the Gas Chambers, Shlomo details his early life, including the death of his father when he was just eleven, and what he recalls life was like for Jewish people in Greece. The book describes how he and his family were taken to `the big prison' at Haidari in 1943 before being transported on the long and arduous journey to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The Venezias were deported in the first convoy to leave Athens, which is estimated to have been comprised of 2,500 people.
As a male, Venezia was separated from his mother and young sister immediately, and he never saw them again. At only twenty years old, he soon realised that they must have been gassed on arrival at Auschwitz. Desperate to earn a little more food to keep himself alive, he agreed to become a member of the Sonderkommando, not realising at first quite what it would entail. The Sonderkommando was a group of "special unit" inmates charged with overseeing the mass exterminations of Jews and taking on such duties as checking bodies for valuables and burning the corpses.
The book was compiled from several interviews recorded between April and May 2006. The language used in the account is deceptively simple. It has the ability to recount the horrors of the persecution of the Jews in stark and harrowing ways. Questions have been included throughout and are shown in italicised text. The writing which follows each question is told in Venezia's own words, which are as close to the Italian as the translators could manage. I personally feel that the book would read better as a constant stream of narrative. Although the questions do detail what will be answered by Venezia, the structure of the book seems a little disjointed at present. There is also a flaw in the book where his sister Marica is named `Monica' on one occasion.
Despite this, Inside the Gas Chambers is a very detailed account which is incredibly sad at times. The footnotes included help to explain some of the terms used, and pictures pertaining both to Auschwitz and to Venezia himself have been included. Inside the Gas Chambers is a great read for anyone interested in the Holocaust or the horrors of Auschwitz. The simple language makes it accessible for younger readers, and it would be a rewarding book to read alongside studying the Holocaust at school.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical truths and demonic fascism,
This review is from: Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkimmando of Auschwitz (Paperback)At a time when fascism(in its various forms such as militant nationalism, neo-nazi)is raising its head in Europe (Greece: parliamentary elections summer 2012)this book serves to remind us of how low humanity can descend once its motives are based on hatred. It is a horrifying narrative, a sadistic world where human life has no value. But it must be read so that those crimes are not repeated.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not yet read,
Was told about this book whilst on a visit to Auschwitz in July 2013. Have previously read "Schindlers Ark" which is a brilliant book, so hope this will be just as good to read. Everyone who visits the beautiful city of Krakow should visit Auschwitz and experience the peacefulness after hearing of the dreadful atrocities that happened there.
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Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkimmando of Auschwitz by Shlomo Venezia (Paperback - 28 Jan 2011)