A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordi­nary Nazis and the Holocaust

  • From the Publisher
April 23, 2012
The Sile­sian town of Bedzin lies a mere twen­ty-five miles from Auschwitz; through the linked ghet­tos of Bedzin and its neigh­bour­ing town Sos­nowiec, some 85,000 Jews were sent to the gas cham­bers. The prin­ci­pal civil­ian admin­is­tra­tor of Bedzin, Udo Klausa, was respon­si­ble for imple­ment­ing Nazi poli­cies of stigma­ti­za­tion and ghet­toi­sa­tion in this area. Yet he lat­er claimed, like so many Ger­mans after the war, that he had known noth­ing about the gas cham­bers of Auschwitz. Using a wealth of per­son­al let­ters, mem­oirs, tes­ti­monies, inter­views and archival sources, Mary Ful­brook pieces togeth­er Klausa’s role in the unfold­ing degra­da­tion of the Jews. Explor­ing dif­fer­ent sides of the sto­ry, Ful­brook depicts the strug­gles for sur­vival and hero­ic attempts at resis­tance by Jews, and demon­strates the mur­der­ous con­se­quences of every­day racism, reveal­ing how the Holo­caust was facil­i­tat­ed by the actions of ordi­nary civil­ian func­tionar­ies. But this account is no ordi­nary his­tor­i­cal recon­struc­tion. For Klausa’s wife was a close school friend of Fulbrook’s own moth­er, who was a refugee from Nazi Ger­many. Ful­brook had no inkling of Klausa’s true role in the Third Reich until a few years ago, a dis­cov­ery that shocked her deeply and led direct­ly to this inescapably per­son­al pro­fes­sion­al history.

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