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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary to live.
One of the most profound books I have read, as a consequence I feel unable to write anything but a couple of comments.
This book is unafraid of the truth - however awful the outcome. It demonstrates the need to understand the 'failings' of the human condition. Sereny has the ability to show that morally repugnant behaviour can stem from people like you and me - this...
Published on 30 May 2001 by simon.pass@bbc.co.uk

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but flawed
I found this fascinating and the access to people that Gitta Sereny had because of her own experiences was unique. However, I found her tendency to over-personalise and her susceptibility to excessive appreciation of people's intelligence or beauty grated, intruding upon and diminishing her judgement. Given the subject matter, this was a particularly disturbing failing.
Published on 22 Nov. 2012 by Xenocleia


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary to live., 30 May 2001
One of the most profound books I have read, as a consequence I feel unable to write anything but a couple of comments.
This book is unafraid of the truth - however awful the outcome. It demonstrates the need to understand the 'failings' of the human condition. Sereny has the ability to show that morally repugnant behaviour can stem from people like you and me - this is because she is able to get inside the skin of these offenders, to expose their ordinariness and their monstrosity. This isn't just about war.
Superbly written, clear and eloquent.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling. Addresses the 'Why' of behaviour., 18 Oct. 2000
By 
This book is enlightening in many ways. She expresses facts objectively but in a manner that is inevitably thought provoking. Sereny tries to understand the 'Why?' of behaviour, not just the 'What?', both in terms of individuals, groups and nations. She argues that to try and understand is not to condone nor forgive. Occasionally difficult to ascertain the period when she is writing the particular essays - despite headings (perhaps it's just me). At times riveting - I've just ordered her other books concerning this period. This book reiterates some of her philosophy and mode of writing that is apparent in her book 'Cries Unheard'- sensitivity without sensationalism. The first sentence in her Introduction 'How does one describe, not one's circumstances or what one did at any particular time of one's life, but what one was?' is a clear indicator of what the reader is asked to consider throughout the book. I found it interesting that whilst there are many references to 'guilt', there are few to remorse. She concludes the work with some thoughts for readers to consider as we live in a time where racism is clearly on the rise in parts of Europe. Without attempting to understand the 'Why?', we are in danger of similar horrors occurring in Europe (as they have in other parts of Asia and Africa).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sereny:The German Trauma, 25 Jun. 2003
The German Trauma may seem slightly disjointed in comparison with Gita Sereny's previous works, however, this should not demand criticism. For the book reveals a life's work, and a highly dedicated approach towards understanding one of the most complex area's in modern history: the Third Reich. Anyone intending to read Sereny should start here, an extremely stimulating overview that raises significant questions essential to those studying the Nazi period. Although, anyone looking for in depth analysis on certain personalities (i.e. Speer/Stangl)should read her earlier works. Overall, I could not put the book down!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding our past, 14 Feb. 2010
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Anthony Maggs (England) - See all my reviews
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I must acknowledge the debt we all have to Ms Serenyi who has had the courage to explore the darkest emotions and drives of the human spirit. Her work as a whole (and this book in particular) have helped me understand in some small way not only what drove a whole people of immense culture to the depths of depravity but also to understand how these drives affect us all. It is necessary to see how we are all caught up in this. Ms Serenyi is one of a group of people (Girard, Alison etc) who have tried to penetrate the roots of human violence. It seems that we have a long way to go to learn the lessons from their work. I commend this book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping and disturbing anthology., 22 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
In this collection of writings published over some three decades and linked by a commentary written in the year 2000, the author returns to themes dominated her masterful "Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth". Here however the focus is on an entire nation rather than a single man, and is illuminated by references to her own life and development since the early 1930s. Like its predecessor, this book faces the most disturbing issues head-on and avoids easy judgements and conclusions. The manifold evils of Nazism have been fully documented elsewhere, but in this book, concisely and terribly, they are distilled in terms of their absolute degradation of the human spirit. The historical and cultural trends that led to Germany being the scene of this malignancy are given due weight but the indictment is a wider one, of the dark side of humanity, irrespective of nationality or creed. The sections describing encounters with specific Nazi criminals are quietly horrific, especially so in the case of Franz Stangel, commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp. In a series of conversations, partly reported verbatim here, one originally-decent man's step-by-step descent to the limits of evil is described in terms that so mundane that the reader's final reaction can only be "There but for the Grace of God ........" The re-unification of Germany places a new perspective on the admirable efforts of the German people to come to terms with their past and the successes and failures are frankly and fairly dealt with here. Throughout the book the writer's own experiences provide a fascinating narrative link and indeed one would have liked to have learned even more of her pre-war education in Mittel-Europa, her life in Occupied France and her post-war service in UNRRA. The details provided whet the appetite for a full autobiography of these years. A pleasing aspect of the work is the writer's generosity of spirit - for she not only celebrates the heroism and goodness of so many she came in contact with, and whose names are now otherwise forgotten, but seeks understanding and humanity in even the furthest fallen. The fine book ends with a challenge to "the myth that we are living in transparent societies" and there is a chilling reminder of the indifference of our own age to genocide in Rwanda and the Balkans that runs in parallel with what Miss Sereny describes as ""dreams ruled almost entirely by money and the desire for goods displayed in the fantasy world of the screen".
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5.0 out of 5 stars penetratingly insightful but with a caring understanding of the dilemmas faced by those involved in those events, 18 Jan. 2014
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Austin Reid (Bo'ness Scotland) - See all my reviews
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Gitta Sereny is a most accomplished writer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the actions and personalities of the third Reich. She has a penetrating insight in to the motivations and the minds of those involved, and spends time gently unravelling their lives and their self delusions to try to show how they came to act as they did. The issues of understanding, of how one hides the truth from oneself are all addressed, and analysed meticulously but with a humanity and care for the person caught in the most tragic and terrible of human dilemmas. She has written a number of long books about individuals. This book captures the best elements. Her insight and humanity are profound and moving.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must, 5 Oct. 2014
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John Hazel (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The German Trauma: Experiences and Reflections 1938-1999 (Allen Lane History) (Kindle Edition)
Ms Sereny is an excellent writer and in this book deals with matters of enormous importance arising from the appalling death camps and reign of terror inflicted on Europe by the Nazis and their collaborators, with an especially successful account of the attitudes of those who participated, German, Austrian and Eastern European. Her book, consisting of essays written at various times after the war, and dependent on the expert research of a person in a particularly privileged position to carry it out, with her perfect command of the relevant languages and excellent contacts, is unmissable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I recommend everyone reads it, 23 Sept. 2014
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MH Wellesley-Wesley "Trinette" (St. Barths) - See all my reviews
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An extraordinary book. I recommend everyone reads it.
One drawback is the small print.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent set of essays, 5 Feb. 2015
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Excellent set of essays spanning several decades. Really learnt lots from it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but flawed, 22 Nov. 2012
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I found this fascinating and the access to people that Gitta Sereny had because of her own experiences was unique. However, I found her tendency to over-personalise and her susceptibility to excessive appreciation of people's intelligence or beauty grated, intruding upon and diminishing her judgement. Given the subject matter, this was a particularly disturbing failing.
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