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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An account by somebody who witnessed everything first hand., 16 May 2008
This review is from: Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chamber (Paperback)
There have been countless books written about Hitlers Final solution mostly by historians and occasionally by eyewitness survivors.

You can read account after account of conditions in the final months leading to the Russians eventual entry into the camp but few books will be as informative as this one written by camp Sonderkommando Filip Muller whose actual job was to operate the crematoria and dispose of the thousands of corpses.

During the latter half of 1944 an incredible 10,000+ were liquidated on a daily basis.

This may appear too far fetched to comprehend at first but when you realise that those in command from Hitler right down to Himmlers eventual realisation that the war was turning against them a dramatic escelation in gassing took place until mass shootings were the norm and corpses were burnt round the clock in open pits.

Likewise the Actionsquads of specially appointed soldiers and Nazi collaborators travelled throughout Eastern Europe murdering countless thousands of villagers as they went.

It's estimated alone that these actionsquads accounted for nearly one million civilians be it Jews,Gypsys or other undesirables.

You see The Final Solution was part of a wider picture in the occupied Nazi territories with the many Concentration and Death camps responsible for nearly four million victims.

Each of the several crematoria at the Berkenhau camp could accommodate up to 200 prisoners at a time often more were crammed tight into the underground chambers.With ten ovens at each crematoria working continuously night and day its not difficult to comprehend the sheer scale of the murder.

Filip was there as all this was going on and later as the mass of bodies became too overwhelming to cope with it was the Sonderkommandos duty to remove the rotting corpses for disposal in the ovens.

There are certain passages that will really make one think momentarily on the question of mans inhumanity towards his fellow man.

The arrival and first trial of mass gassings where under extream brutality men women and children were forced to undress knowingly they were facing certain death.

Possibly the most heart rending extracts are to be found on page 48 where Filip having discovered the arrival of his father at the camp has to cremate his body after his death from tythus.Fellow workmen working alongside him at the blazing ovens recite a prayer.

The book really brings the true barbarity of camp life to the reader.

The inhumanity of certain Kapos or team leaders given trusted duties by the SS who were extreamly sadistic beating fellow prisoners to death due to anger against what the SS were doing to their fellow countrymen.

These Kapos during daily rolecall would take their power of life and death to excess,often turning on prisoners for no reason other than their forgetting to wear their camp hat.Prisoners would often steal items of clothing just to stay alive.

Whilst reading the first two chapters one clearly realises these are the genuine testimony of somebody who lived on a daily basis where systematic murder was common place.Unless you witnessed at first hand you couldnot make up such testimony as these.

As i have already said you can write about this highly documented period in history but unless you were physically there in person to witness these events no amount of research will reveal the actual truth.

This is why Filip Mullers book is so important,as less than a handfull of Sonderkommandos at Auschwitz actually lived to bear witness to their testimony.

Every few months new Sonderkommandos were appointed whilst those working at the cremetoria were gassed with other prisoners so that the truth of Genocide was never allowed to escape.

Filips survival is the more amazing in that he survived and bared witness to the atrocities.

Unless you were actually there in person you cannot envisage the horrors and brutality of camp guards and SS officers.Muller recounts day to day life within the confines of Auschwitz-Berkenhau like only a fellow prisoner could relate.

His matter of fact account of unimaginable horrors makes compelling if not unpleasant reading.

He has not withheld any of the material that will disgust or distress us,everything has been accounted for right up to his amazing survival.

As a Sonderkommando he was to some extent safe as his services were of great importance to the camps efficient running.Without him and other workers the mass murder couldnot have taken place at such a large scale.

He also recounts the teribble training he had to endure to become a Sonderkommando.

Prisoners were not just chosen at random and sent to work at the ovens,they had to undergo extensive training to carry out this work.

A training that Filip goes to lengths at explaining at the begining of this gripping book.

A book that is extreamly well written by somebody who actually knows what went on within the camp.

Few books can bring home the true meaning of genocide as can this one.

If you are looking for great detail on events and life within Hitlers largest death camp then this book will not disappoint.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Jun 2008 20:54:59 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 Jun 2008 20:55:30 BDT
K.Smith says:
thank you for the good review, im definitely going to buy this book now. if you haven't already read it, another great survivor's story of Auschwitz is 'Five Chimneys' and well worth a read.
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