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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Book!!, 27 May 2010
A Kid's Review
This is a well worth read! Each time I picked this book up I lost track of time reading well into the night with complete fascination.
The memoir of this very talented lady, that, although guilty of nothing except human kindness was caught up in some of the most horrible events the world has ever known - the purges and crimes against humanity of the Stalinist Soviet Union in the 1930's and then to be betrayed and handed over as a former member of the pre- war German communist Party to the Nazi German authorities. The author writes about her experiences in both the Stalinist Forced Labour Prison Camp of "Karaganda" (Gulag) and the German Concentration Camp "Ravensbruck". The author tells a remarkable story of survival with extraordinary powers of observation as she describes her own fate and that of other prisoners in both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The author explores the behaviour of various camp officials as well as the Police and security services and makes a well informed comparison between the oppressive methods and terror of both the Stalin and Hitler regimes. This lady when she was in her twenties was a member of the young communist movement, by the time she was 40 her experiences at the hands of Stalinism made her one of its strongest criticts. Margarete Buber-Neumann, (nee Thuring) was a principle witness in the Karwtschenko and Rousset court cases in Paris in 1949 and 1950, disproving the communist denial of the existence of the Soviet Gulag. This book tells the story of a tragedy for a whole generation of people.
We can only hope that people will learn and remember and see things coming before they are ever allowed to happen again!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In case you were wondering what is said about the author's husband, 5 July 2010
By 
Just to clarify what this book tells us about Heinz Neumann, husband of the author:

You may have heard of this book in connection with Heinz Neumann, the German Comintern agent who directed the Chinese Communist Party's uprising in Canton in December 1927, and will perhaps hope that this book, by his 'wife' (the marriage was never certified, we learn), might tell of his exploits in China or elsewhere.

Unfortunately, it tells us nothing about Heinz Neumann's work in China, and in fact they had not yet met at the time of the Canton uprising. This book mentions one or two people connected with China, and Besso Lominadze, who replaced Borodin as the Comintern's political adviser to the Kuomintang, is mentioned, but not Comintern work in China.

Some anonymous Chinese appear when Buber-Neumann is handed over by the Russians to the Germans. Held at first in a jail in German-occupied Poland by the Gestapo, she leaves her cell on the first night to visit the bathroom, and quickly looks into the next cell to see who is in there. It's full of Chinese pedlars, she says, arrested by the Germans, but Buber-Neumann does not dare to ask about them, so we don't learn their fate or why they were locked up.

So this book is an entirely European story, more than confirming George Orwell's dictum that when people are not got by the Gestapo they are usually got by the G.P.U.; Buber-Neumann was got by both. The book is filled with the acute observations of someone alienated, and the sad stories of other women separated from their families, sentenced on the flimsiest evidence of political incorrectness. Buber-Neumann hopes throughout her incarcerations to be reunited with her husband, arrested in Moscow in 1937, and fears for the safety of her mother, sister and other relatives living in Germany. This would be one of the toughest of World War Two accounts, except that Stalin's and Hitler's purges began before 1939 and would have happened anyway without the world war.

This vortex of suffering throws up surprises. In both Karaganda and Ravensbruck inmates are paid for working; strictly speaking, they're not slaves. Ravensbruck women's section has an aviary, small zoo, and flowerbeds inside the entrance. As well as Jews, Gypsies, Asocials and Politicals, Ravensbruck houses German Jehovah's Witnesses, who Nazism has outlawed. They can win their freedom by renouncing some tenets of their faith, but they refuse to. Some of the most ardent communists work hard in Ravensbruck, even though they're working for the Nazi war effort. When women are sent to the gas chambers, it is other women, not men, who draw up the lists of those to be gased. Most of the European communists believe unreservedly in Stalin, refusing to believe Buber-Neumann when she tells them that Stalin has sent her and countless other communists to the Gulag. Disbelieving her, they look forward to being liberated by the Red Army.

The book has a sort of happy ending. Buber-Neumann even manages to point out to the Allies one of the Gestapo from Ravensbruck when she later spots him in another town; he is arrested and executed by the Allies. But the foreword, by Nikolaus Wachsmann, tells us the last calamity: Heinz Neumann was executed in Moscow back in 1937, straight after his 15-minute trial. Buber-Neuman only learned of his fate in 1956, from the Russian Red Cross. Throughout this book she's not his wife, she's his widow.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of harrowing detail; not much ideological criticism, 17 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Under Two Dictators: Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler: With an introduction by Nikolaus Wachsmann (Paperback)
Written in 1947 by a German married mother who before the war was in the German communist party vying with the Nazis for power in Germany. When Hitler came to power she and her husband, Heinz fled to Moscow. This was an obvious choice for communists who had been working in Germany under Moscow's direction. But the Stalin purges were then in progress. In 1937 her husband was arrested by the NKVD and she was never told what happened to him. Within a year she was also arrested, for no stated reason, and sent to the Gulag by the NKVD and then after two years she was handed to the Nazis as part of the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939 (it is thought). They put her in Ravensbruch where she remained for five years, until she was suddenly freed as the Soviet army approached from the East.

Taking notes during her incarceration was impossible; it was very difficult just retaining your clothes and nic-nacs as fellow prisoners were often thieves. So, in writing this personal biography, she had an amazing recall of all her privations and the people she was enslaved with and under: many of whom are named. The Soviet concentration system was squalid, filthy, full of bed bugs, lice and fleas. Few fellow prisoners were to be trusted. The Ravensbruch system was for the first three years very tidy, highly disciplined and free of infestations but conditions deteriorated as thousands of prisoners were added and the SS became more hard-pressed. The gassings and shootings escalated to match the loadings on the camp. It is not clear why she was often given overseer duties in Ravensbruch - she offers no speculations on this - but it may have helped her to survive. She used these positions to help many other prisoners, at great risk to herself and for which she was sometimes severely punished.

It is only when MBN is suddenly released and she makes her way westwards towards the American lines, desperately keeping away from the Soviets that we get some of her thoughts about ideology. She seems to have repented of communism by this time - she knew how vile the Soviet version was - but her thinking is only revealed in her cautious conversations with people who she thinks still believe. She never gives us an analysis of communism and why it went wrong, nor of Nazism and why she did not support that. It's not a philosophical book at all. In that respect it is inferior to Grossman's or Figue's books on these turbulent times which do contain many evaluative comments. I don't think she was an intellectual. In fact the Intro says 'she recalled that what had attracted her was not Marxist theory, of which she was ignorant, but its emotional appeal: the promise that a revolution would bring heaven on earth, putting an end to poverty, exploitation and injustice'. In that respect she is the same as all people who are duped by utopian ideologies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book - fully recommended, 28 May 2010
This is well worth the read for anyone interested in modern history or even the way people comport themselves in extreme situations! Each time I picked this book up I lost track of time reading well into the night with complete fascination.
The memoir of this very talented lady, that, although guilty of nothing except human kindness was caught up in some of the most horrible events the world has ever known - the purges and crimes against humanity of the Stalinist Soviet Union in the 1930's and then to be betrayed and handed over as a former member of the pre- war German communist Party to the Nazi German authorities. The author writes about her experiences in both the Stalinist Forced Labour Prison Camp of "Karaganda" (Gulag) and the German Concentration Camp "Ravensbruck". The author tells a remarkable story of survival with extraordinary powers of observation as she describes her own fate and that of other prisoners in both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The author explores the behaviour of various camp officials as well as the Police and security services and makes a well informed comparison between the oppressive methods and terror of both the Stalin and Hitler regimes. This lady when she was in her twenties was a member of the young communist movement, by the time she was 40 her experiences at the hands of Stalinism made her one of its strongest criticts. Margarete Buber-Neumann, (nee Thuring) was a principle witness in the Karwtschenko and Rousset court cases in Paris in 1949 and 1950, disproving the communist denial of the existence of the Soviet Gulag. This book tells the story of a tragedy for a whole generation of people.
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