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The Anatomy of Hell


RichardJ.Evans
JULY9,2015ISSUE

BOOKSDISCUSSEDINTHISREVIEW
KL:AHistoryoftheNaziConcentrationCamps
byNikolausWachsmann
Farrar,StrausandGiroux,865pp.,$40.00
BeforeAuschwitz:JewishPrisonersinthePrewarConcentrationCamps
byKimWnschmann
HarvardUniversityPress,367pp.,$45.00
Ravensbrck:LifeandDeathinHitlersConcentrationCampforWomen
bySarahHelm
NanA.Talese/Doubleday,743pp.,$37.50
FemaleSSGuardsandWorkadayViolence:TheMajdanekConcentrationCamp,19421944
byElissaMailnder,translatedfromtheGermanbyPatriciaSzobar
MichiganStateUniversityPress,405pp.,$49.95
TheLiberationoftheCamps:TheEndoftheHolocaustandItsAftermath
byDanStone
YaleUniversityPress,277pp.,$32.50
ForgottenTrialsoftheHolocaust
byMichaelJ.BazylerandFrankM.Tuerkheimer
NYUPress,374pp.,$45.00

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JohndaCunha/NationalArchives

RavensbrckguardsDorotheaBinz,MargareteMewes,GreteBsel,VeraSalvequart(Dr.Vera,intherow
behind,whoworkedasanurse),andEugeniavonSkeneontrialattheWarCrimesCourtinHamburg,circa
December1946

Inthepopularimagination,theNaziconcentrationcampnowfeaturesmainly
asaplacewhereJewsweretakentobegassed.InarecentGermanopinion
poll,mostrespondentsassociatedthecampswiththepersecutionandmurder
ofJewsunder10percentmentionedothercategoriesofcampprisoners,such
asCommunists,criminals,orhomosexuals.ThepoweroftheHolocaustasa
concepthasallbutobliteratedotheraspectsofthecrimesoftheNazisandthe
sufferingsoftheirvictimsanddriventhehistoryofthecampsfromcultural
memory.Nocrimeinhumanhistoryoutdoesthegenocidalexterminationofsix
millionEuropeanJewsontheordersoftheleaderofGermanysselfstyled
ThirdReich.YetthemajorityoftheJewishvictimsofNazimassmurder
werenotkilledinthecampstheywereshot,starvedtodeath,orlefttodieof
diseasesthatcouldeasilyhavebeenpreventedortreatedbutwerenot.The
concentrationcampwasinnowaysynonymouswiththeHolocaust.
WhilefacilitiessuchasTreblinkaorAuschwitzBirkenau,constructedforno
otherpurposethanmassmurder,werefirstestablishedduringWorldWarII,
thehistoryoftheconcentrationcamp,asNikolausWachsmannremindsusin
hisimpressiveandauthoritativenewstudy,beginsmuchearlier.Theideaof
concentratingastatesenemiesinacampwentbackatleasttotheendofthe
nineteenthcentury,followingtheinventionofbarbedwireandthemachine
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gun,intheBoerWarandtheSpanishAmericanWar,andfoundexpressionin
theSovietsystemoflaborcampsandotherproductsoftwentiethcentury
dictatorships.ButthesecampsneitherformedthetemplatefortheNazi
concentrationcampsnorresembledtheminallrespects,eveniftheywere
similarinsome.NinetypercentofinmatessurvivedtheSovietGulag,for
example,whileinthewartimecampsoftheSS,evenforprisonerswhowere
registeredasinmatesandnotkilledimmediatelyonarrival,thesurvivalrate
waslessthanhalf.Ofsome2.3millionmen,women,andchildrenwhowere
putintoNaziconcentrationcampsbetween1933and1945,morethan1.7
millionlosttheirlives,almostamillionofthemJewskilledinAuschwitz.
Wachsmannsgripping,humane,andbeautifullywrittennarrativebeginswith
theestablishmentofthefirstoftheNazicamps,atadisusedmunitionsfactory
outsidethetownofDachau,nearMunich.Duringthefirsthalfof1933,as
Hitlergatheredthereinsofpowertohimself,makeshiftcampswere
improvisedalloverGermanytoincarcerateCommunistsandSocial
Democrats,themainpoliticalgroupswhoresistedtheNazisviolentseizureof
power.Onlygraduallywerethesecloseddown,withthereleaseofthe
prisoners,manyofwhomhadbeenbadlybeatenandtortured(eventheofficial
estimatereckonedthatoversixhundredweremurderedbytheNazis),on
promiseofrefrainingfrompoliticalengagement.By1934,asWachsmann
showedinhispreviousbook,HitlersPrisons(2004),thefunctionofpolitical
repressionhadbeentakenoverbythepolice,thecourts,andtheregularstate
prisonsandpenitentiaries.
Theremainingconcentrationcamps,whichheldfewerthanfourthousand
inmatesby1935,thenbecamethedumpinggroundsforasocials,alcoholics,
vagrants,andsocialdeviants.By1939thereweresixsuchcamps,at
Ravensbrck,Sachsenhausen,Dachau,Flossenbrg,andBuchenwaldinthe
oldReichandMauthausenintheannexedterritoryofAustria.Duringthe
war,however,astheGermaneconomyexperiencedarapidlygrowinglabor
shortage,withmillionsofmenatthefrontandmillionsofwomenstayingat
homeinobediencetotheNaziimageofwomenasmothersandhomemakers,
supportedbygeneroussubsidiestoenablethemtodoso,thecampswere
transformedintocentersofforcedlabor,buttressedbytheindustrialsubcamps
thatspreadlikeacancerthroughthebodyoftheGermanReich.

Theconditionsunderwhichtheworkerswereheldweresomurderousthatfor
manyofthemtheNaziscoinedthetermexterminationthroughlabor,while
Auschwitzinparticularacquiredtheuniquedualfunctionofprovidingalabor
forceandexterminatingalmostamillionJewsbroughtfromotherpartsof
Europe.Bytheendofthewarthereweremorethan700,000forcedlaborers
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heldinthisvastnetworkofcampsandsubcampsinrapidlydeteriorating
conditionshalfofthemdidnotsurvivethewar.
HowmanyoftheprisonerswereactuallyJewish?Formostoftheperiodofthe
campsexistence,uptothefinalphaseofthewar,Wachsmannreckonsthat
Jewsmadeupnomorethan10percentoftheinmatepopulation.Kim
Wnschmann,inherexcellentmonographonthesubject,completedaspartof
alargescaleresearchprojectunderWachsmannsoveralldirection,reckons
thatofthe150,000to200,000Germansincarceratedinthecampsin1933,
duringtheNaziseizureofpower,around5,000to10,000wereJewish,or5
percentofthecamppopulationuptothemiddleof1938.Theselowfigures
shouldnotsurpriseus.Jews,asdefinedbytheirreligion,madeuplessthanone
percentoftheGermanpopulationasawholein1933.Despitethesmall
numbers,ontheotherhand,Jewswereclearlyoverrepresentedinthecamps
fromtheverybeginning.
MostoftheJewsimprisonedinthecamps,asWnschmannshows,were
middleagedbusinessmenandprofessionals.Theywerethereforawidevariety
ofreasons.Initially,in19331934,mostofthemwereleftwingactivists,
politiciansandpoliticaljournalists,orbusinessmendenouncedbyrivalsand
competitorsforsupposedlycorruptorcriminalpractices.Lateron,afterthe
NurembergRaceLawswerepassedin1935,theywerejoinedbymenarrested
forconsortingwithnonJewishwomen.SomeJewshadbeenimprisonedfor
homosexualityandtakentothecampsonreleasefromprison.Then,asthe
campsfunctionchangedinthemid1930stohousetheasocial,theregimes
relentlessassaultontheJewseconomicpositionanditscontinueddriveto
forceJewsoutofbusinessandprofessionallifebroughtagrowingnumberof
themintothecampsforbeingworkshyorengagingindesperateactsof
pettycrimeinordertostayalive.
FollowingtheNaziAnschlussofAustriainMarch1938,thereweremass
arrestsofJews,aboveallinVienna,alongwithknownopponentsoftheNazis
andsupportersofAustrianindependence.Mostofthesepeopleweresentto
Dachau,where2,000ofthe3,500Austrianswhoarrivedinthecampwere
classifiedasJewish.Shortlyafterward,inJune1938,aspecialReichWork
ShyAction,inwhichvagrants,deviants,andpettycriminalswereroundedup
onHimmlersordersacrossthenewlyenlargedGermanReichandsenttothe
camps,broughtthousandsmoreJewsintothecamps.Thirteenpercentofthe
6,224mentakentoSachsenhauseninthecourseofthisaction,19percentof
thosetakentoDachau,andnofewerthan53percentofthoseputin
BuchenwaldwereJews:altogether2,259Jewswereaddedtotheoverallcamp
populationinJune1938.
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TheninNovember1938Hitlerorderedthearrestof30,000Jewishmeninthe
courseofthenationwidepogromsarcasticallydubbedbyBerlinersthe
Reichskristallnacht,orReichNightofGlassShards,fromthesplintersthat
layonthestreetsofGermanystownsandcitiesaftertheNazisshatteredthe
windowsof7,500JewishshopsonNovember910,aswellasburningdown
overonethousandsynagoguesacrosstheland.Thiswasthefirstoccasionin
whichanorderhadgoneouttoarrestJewssolelybecausetheywereJews.One
prisoneralreadyinBuchenwaldnotedthattheinmateswereinastateof
bewildermentas
Jewswerebroughtin.Jews,Jews,Jews,bythedozen,bythecarload,by
thehundredandbythethousand.Inallstagesoflifewounded,sick,
crippled,withbrokenlimbs,missingeyes,fracturedskulls,halfdead,and
dead.
Asthisreportindicated,thenewinmatesweresubjectedtoextraordinary
degreesofviolenceandbrutalitybytheSS.Thecampswerenotpreparedfor
theirarrival,andevenwithoutrepeatedbeatingsandtorturetheconditions
underwhichtheywereheldweredire.

MostoftheJewsarrestedin1938werereleasedbeforethewar,agood
numberafterbribingthecampauthoritiesorsellingtheirpropertiesand
businessestolocalauthoritiesatknockdownprices.Thosearrestedin
Novemberwerethefirsttobesetfree,buttheirheadswereshaved
immediatelybeforetheirreleasesothattheywouldbestigmatizedinpublicas
formerinmates.Theintentionoftheregimewasthattheyshouldemigrate,and
manyhadtosignofficialexitdocumentstodosobeforegainingtheirfreedom.
BytheoutbreakofWorldWarIIinSeptember1939,halftheJewish
populationofGermanyhadgone,leavingmostlytheelderlybehind.The
Jewishpopulationofthecampssubsidedonceagaintonotmuchmorethanits
pre1938level.OntheeveofthewarthetotalnumberofJewsintheSS
concentrationcampsamountedtoabout1,500outof21,400.
MostoftheJewswhowereimprisonedinNazicampsbeforetheoutbreakof
warthussurvived.Butevenif,atleastuptotheNovemberaction,theywere
broughtinforreasonsotherthanthefactthattheywereJewish,thesewere
oftenpretexts,andoncetheyhadbeenadmittedtothecampstheywere
invariablysingledoutforespeciallyviolentandbrutaltreatment.Thefirstfour
inmatesofDachautobemurderedwereallclaimedbytheNazistobe
Communists,buttheywerealso,notcoincidentally,Jewsfromevery
truckloadofnewprisonersin1933theSSselectedJewsforbeatingand
torture,andinothercampstheyweretreatedwithaspecial,sadisticsavagery.
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Fromthelate1930sonward,Jewishinmatesweremadetowearaspecial
badgesinglingthemoutasJewish,inadditiontoorinsteadofthecolored
trianglesidentifyingthemaspolitical,criminal,orasocial.Thismadetheir
persecutioneveneasierthanbefore.
Thenfrom1941onward,astheNazisprogramofmassexterminationofJews
begantounfold,Jewishinmateswereremovedandtakentoextermination
centers,wheretheywerekilledalongwithJewsbroughtfromeverypartof
EuropeoverwhichtheNazishadcontrol.Bythetimethewarended,theNazi
needforworkerswhocouldcontributetothewareconomywasbringing
increasingnumbersofJewsintothecampsystemratherthanthegaschambers
overwhelmingly,adultmenratherthanwomen,theold,ortheveryyoung,
whomtheSSdidnotconsidercapableofwork.Evenatthisstage,however,
Wachsmannestimatesthatonlyathirdofthecamppopulationconsistedof
Jews.
Mostofthecampswereformen,butinthelate1930sanewcampwasopened
forwomen,atRavensbrck,justoverfiftymilesnorthofBerlin.Inher
substantialnewbook,SarahHelm,ajournalist,recountsthehistoryofthe
campfromstarttofinish,alongwiththemanystoriesofitsinmates.Although
thisisnotanacademicwork,itisbasedonthoroughandwiderangingresearch
inarchivesintwelvecountries,onacomprehensiveknowledgeoftheexisting
literature,andoninterviewswithsurvivors.Itmakesforabsorbingandoften
horrifying,moving,andsometimes,whenactsofresistancearedescribed,
inspirationalreading.LikeWachsmann,Helmrejectsthecommonviewthat
theinmatesallpassivelyacceptedtheirfate.

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FriedrichFranzBauer/Bundesarchiv

HeinrichHimmlerwithapoliticalprisonerintheDachauworkshopsduringanofficialinspectionofthis
modelcamp,May8,1936

RavensbrckwasopenedinMay1939tohousearoundonethousandwomen
prisonerstransferredfromotherfacilities,principallyanearliercampfor
womenprisonersatLichtenburg.ItheldfemaleCommunistsandother
opponentsoftheNazis,aswellasprostitutes,racedefilers,asocials,petty
criminals,andGypsies.Onaverage,about10percentofthecampsprisoners
wereJewish.Afterthewarbegan,thenumberofinmatesclimbedsteadily,
reachingmorethanseventhousandby1941asnewarrivalsfromPolandand
thenotherconqueredcountrieswerebroughtin.Bytheendofthewar,withthe
expansionofwarproductionandtheopeningofsubcamps,thetotalreached
some45,000.Therewasalsoasmallersubcampformaleprisoners.
Initially,conditionsatRavensbrckwerebetterthanatthemenscampsin
general,withworkinareaslikesewingand,later,warcomponentsproduction,
ratherthanheavylabor,andbetterhygieneandgenerallylessharshconditions.
Aselsewhere,however,thesituationbegantodeteriorateduringthewar.
Evacuations,includingthereleaseofaround7,500prisonersnegotiatedbythe
SwedishdiplomatCountFolkeBernadotte,meantthattherewereonlysome
threethousandsickandemaciatedwomenleftinthecampwhentheRedArmy
arrivedattheveryendofApril1945.Thepitiablestateoftheinmates,whose
shavenheadsandemaciatedfigureshadrobbedthem,asHelmnotes,ofall
tracesoffemininity,didnotpreventthesoldiersfromrapingalargenumberof
them.
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Overtheentireperiodofthecampsexistence,Ravensbrckheldsome
130,000women,ofwhomitisthoughtthatatleast30,000diedorwere
deliberatelymurdered.Thewomencamefrommanydifferentcountries.They
included40,000Poles,18,000Russians,8,000French,1,000Dutch,andmuch
smallernumbersfrommanyothernationalities.Someinmateswereselected
formedicalexperimentation:theirbonesweresmashedortheircalvescutopen
andinjectedwithgangrenousmaterial,gasbacteria,orstaphyolcoccibefore
beinginjectedwithsulphonamides,aprecursorofantibiotics,toseeifthe
treatmentworked.Towardtheendofthewar,RudolfHss,theformer
commandantofAuschwitz,arrivedwithacrewfromhisoldcamptosetupa
mobilegaschamber,inwhichanunknownnumberofinmateswereputto
death.
Helmdoesnotconfineherselftodiscussingtheterribleexperiencesofthe
prisoners,butalsohasinterestingthingstosayabouttheguardsandcamp
officials.Many,shenotes,wereyoungandinexperiencedandnotparticularly
pleasedtohavebeendraftedtherebytheNaziwomensorganizationstowhich
theybelonged.Later,duringthewar,thebusinessesthattookprisonersas
forcedlaborershadtosupplytheirownguards,whoquicklybecameabyword
forcorruption,sexuallicense,andbrutality.

InhercarefullyresearchedmonographonMajdanekinthesecondhalfofthe
war,ElissaMailnderputsthebehaviorandmotivationoftwentyeightfemale
guardsunderclosescrutiny.Sheusesmemoirs,filmedinterviews,andpostwar
trialandotherrecordstoshowhowtheexperienceofalmostunlimitedpower
overtheinmatesbroughtthemtoidentifycloselywiththeregime,whose
propagandaandpressuretodeliverresultsstrengthenedthewomens
allegiancetoNaziideology.
Thecoercivehierarchyofthecampalsobroughttheguardswithinashorttime
tobeginmaltreatingtheprisonersontheirowninitiative.Mostofthewomen
werefromalowermiddleclassbackgroundmanyofthemwerenurses.Using
comparativematerialfromRavensbrck,Mailnderarguesthatrefinedcruelty,
oftenseenasfeminineinthepopularimagination,gavesomeofthemost
sadisticguardsanauraofglamour,whilecrudeandbrutalviolence,seenas
masculine,causedinmatestoregardthosewhoinflicteditasuglyand
unattractive.InbothRavensbrckandMajdanek,sheconcludes,female
violencewasregardedassomethingexceptional.Inpostwartrials,suchasthat
ofIrmaGrese,theBeautifulBeast,violentfemaleguardswereseenas
denatured,unfeminine,andunnaturalbeings,objectsofpeculiarandoften
prurientfascinationfortheinternationalpress.However,thedistinction
betweencrueltyandviolenceisnotalwayseasytodraw,andoverall,
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Mailndersthesisislessthanentirelyconvincing.
Thehorrorsofthecampsshockedinternationalopinionwhentheywere
uncoveredtotheirfullextentastheAlliedforcesenteredthemattheendofthe
war.AstheprolificHolocausthistorianDanStoneshowsinhisnewbook,The
LiberationoftheCamps,RedArmysoldierswereappalledatthediscoveryof
theemaciated,liceriddenbodiesofthesurvivorsandthepilesofcorpsesthat
litteredthegroundsofthecamps.Theiroutragefueledthesavageryoftheir
treatmentoftheGermanpopulationtheyencounteredandwassubsequently
usedtojustifytheorgyofrapeandmurderinwhichtheyindulged.IntheWest,
themostthatAlliedtroopsdidwastoforceGermancivilianstovisitthecamps
andseetheresultsofNazismforthemselves,andinsomecasesforcethemto
burythedeadandassistwithcleanupoperations.
AsStonenotesinhisengrossingandilluminatingbookthefirstfulland
comparativestudyofthesubjectthefactthattheexterminationcampswere
locatedintheEastforalongtimeskewedpublicperceptionsintheWest.
WhentheSovietsliberatedthemajordeathcamps,theyfoundrelativelyfew
inmatesleft,eitherbecausetheyweredeadorbecausetheyhadalreadybeen
evacuatedbytheNazis.Thusthegreatmajorityofsurvivorswereincamps
liberatedbytheWesternAllies,anditwastheirstoriesthatcreatedtheimage
bywhichthecampswerelongafterknown.TheSovietregimedidnot
encourageitstroopstotalkopenlyaboutwhattheyfound,anditpresented
NaziatrocitiesascrimesagainstthecitizensofEasternEurope,notspecifically
againstJews.Intheimmediatepostwaryearstheexterminationcampsandthe
genocideagainsttheJewsweregenerallypushedtothemarginofpublic
consciousness.
StoneusefullypointsoutthatliberationwasnotalwaysamatterofAllied
troopsarrivingatcampgatestobegreetedbycheeringinmatestherewere
manymoreprosaicencounters,particularlyawayfromthemaincenters,when
prisonerssimplywalkedaway,whileinsomeplacesGermanprisonerswere
rearrestedbysuspiciousAlliedsoldiersontheirarrival.Liberationwasalsoa
gradualprocess,assurvivorsreadjustedtonormallife,weretransferredto
displacedpersonscamps,ordecidedwhattodowiththerestoftheirlives.
ManywereunabletorecoverdespitetheeffortsofAlliedmedicalpersonnel.
Othersfeltguiltandshameathavingsurvived,orbeganadesperatesearchfor
missingrelativeswhoinalllikelihoodhadperished.

Stonesapproach,however,carrieswithitsomeproblems.Thesubtitleofhis
book,TheEndoftheHolocaustandItsAftermath,raisesthequestionofthe
extenttowhichthecampsingeneralcanbesubsumedundertheHolocaust
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asaconcept.HeisawareofcourseofthefactthatJewsonlyformedaminority
amongtheinmatesofthecamps,butinpracticeheisconstantlyconflatingthe
twocategories,referringtoJewishcampinmatesasifthesewereallthere
were.Stonetellsusthattherewasacollapseinthedistinctionbetweenthe
murderoftheJewsandthefunctionoftheconcentrationcampsbecauseJews
evacuatedfromcampsintheEastindeathmarchesendedupinthecampsin
westernandcentralGermanythatwereliberatedbytheAllies,butevenhere
therewasamajorityofnonJewsinthecamps,asWachsmannand
Wnschmannbothpointout.
ThegenocideoftheJewswasdirectedagainstaworldenemywhomthe
Nazisattemptedtoexterminatewhereveritsmemberscouldbelocatedbut
theirkillingwasonlyonepart,ifauniqueone,ofafarwiderprogramofmass
murder.TheofficialGeneralPlanfortheEast,forexample,envisagedthe
deliberatekillingofupto45millionSlavsinEasternEurope,toclearthe
wayforGermansettlement.Stonemisrecognizesacruciallyimportantaspect
ofthislandscapeofmassmurderwhenheclaimsthatoverthecourseofthe
warsome3millionSovietPOWsdiedinSScaptivity.Infact(asthesource
hecitesforthisclaimmakesquiteclear)theseunfortunatesoldierswerekilled
notbytheSSbutbytheregularGermanarmy,thusfrustratingHimmlersplan
tousethemasslavelabor.ItwasnotjusttheSSthatcommittedmassmurder
inthenameoftheGermanpeopleduringthewar,andnotjustJewswhowere
killed.
OneofthemostinterestingandoriginalfeaturesofStonesbookisthathe
dealsnotonlywiththeexperienceoftheliberators,butalsotakesinthe
perspectiveoftheinmatesandthecamppersonnel.Manyofthelatter,ashe
notes,wereshotbyhorrifiedAlliedtroopsastheyuncoveredtheterrible
realitiesofthecampsintheirfinaldaysandweeks.Somewerebeatentodeath
byenragedprisonersandmanywerearrestedandputontrialfortheircrimes.
MostpeopleknowthatthesurvivingleadersoftheThirdReichwere
prosecutedatNurembergbeforeaninternationalmilitarytribunalin1945
1946,andthatasubstantialnumberofthem,includingtheheadofthe
LuftwaffeandthesecondmanintheThirdReich,HermannGring,the
formerforeignministerJoachimvonRibbentrop,andHansFrank,theNazi
rulerofPoland,werefoundguiltyandcondemnedtodeath.
Lesswellknownarethetwelvespecializedtrialsthatfollowed,ofseniorNazi
judges,industrialists,doctors,andothers.Andhardlyanytracehasremainedin
thepublicmemoryofthelargenumberoftrialsheld,mostlyfrom1946to
1949,ofthelowerlevelfunctionariesoftheregime,includingthepersonnelof
theconcentrationandexterminationcamps.TheBritishaloneheld358trialsin
theirzoneofoccupiedGermany,resultingintheconvictionof1,085people,
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240ofwhomwerecondemnedtodeath,withtwohundredactuallyexecuted.
Americanmilitarytribunalsconductedalengthyseriesof489trialsatthe
formerconcentrationcampinDachau,mostofwhichconcernedoffensesthat
hadnodirectconnectionwitheventsatthecampitself.Altogether,these
Americantrialswentonforthreeyears,andresultedintheconvictionof1,416
lowergradeservantsoftheThirdReich.Morethantwothousandwar
criminalsweretriedintheFrenchZone,whiletheconventionthatoffenders
shouldbetriedinthecountrieswheretheyhadheldofficeundertheNazi
regimeresultedinafurtherseriesoftrialsincountriesformerlyoccupiedby
theGermans,includingItaly,Norway,andPoland,whereovertwothousand
Germanswereextraditedandindictedbetween1945and1949,includingthe
formercommandantofAuschwitz,RudolfHss.

Fewofthesetrialsarenowwidelyremembered.ForgottenTrialsofthe
Holocaust,bythelegalscholarsMichaelJ.BazylerandFrankM.Tuerkheimer,
isthusespeciallywelcome.Someofthesetrials,ofcourse,havebeenthe
subjectofscholarlyinvestigationintheirownright,butinbringingallthetrials
togetherandcontrastingthevaryingstylesoftheirconductinthedifferent
jurisdictionsstudiedtheauthorshavedonelegalscholarsandstudentsa
service.TheEnglishcommitmenttodueprocess,forexample,contrastswith
theindifferenceoftheFrenchjudiciarytoitincaseofPierreLavalthe
AmericanconcernforevidenceintheEinsatzgruppentrialdifferedmarkedly
fromthenarrowvisionoftheGermancourtintheAuschwitzcase.
Despitethebookstitle,notallthetrialsitcoversinvolvedthemassmurderof
EuropeanJews.ThetrialofLaval,primeministerofthecollaborationistVichy
regimeinFrancefollowingtheGermandefeatoftheFrencharmiesin1940,
wasabouthisallegedplottounderminetheFrenchRepublicandhis
treasonablecollaborationwiththeenemy,notabouthispartinthedeportation
andmurderofFrenchJews,whichwasmentionedintheproceedingsbutwas
notonthechargesheet.ThetrialofSSguardsandotherpeopleinpositionsof
authorityattheDachauconcentrationcampwasabouttheirviolationofthe
lawsofwarthroughthemaltreatmentofnonGermancivilianandmilitary
prisoners.AndthetrialinHamburgofthirtyeightcamppersonnelat
Ravensbrckwasonsimilarcharges,withtheadditionofcruelandillegal
medicalexperimentationoninmates.
BazylerandTuerkheimerhavemadeagoodstart,ifarathernarrowlylegal
one,butmuchremainstobediscoveredaboutthevastarrayoftrialsthattook
placeafterthewar.Takentogether,thesebookstellusanenormousamount
aboutthecrimesoftheNazisandremindusoncemoreofthemoraldepthsto
whichtheysank.Inparticular,Wachsmannsmonumentalstudywillsurely
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becomethestandardonevolumeaccountoftheNaziconcentrationcampsfor
manyyearstocome.
TosubsumeallofthesecrimesundertheconceptoftheHolocaustisto
narrowourvisionundulyandtoconstrainourabilitytopursuesimilarcrimes
inthefuture.Asthetwolawyersremark:Itistragicthattriggersfor
prosecutionsofgenocideandothermassatrocitiesstillexist,thatthe
brutalizationofcivilianpopulationsandmassivetheft,rape,and
dismembermentofpeoplesisnotjustahistoricalvignette,butpartoftodays
news.Atleast,however,theyconclude,endingonanoteofcautious
optimism,theideasofthe1940shaveevolvedintoasystemofjusticetodeal
withsomeofthesecrimes,andthatisanimprovementoverwherewewere
seventyyearsago.

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14/8/2015

TheAnatomyofHellbyRichardJ.Evans|TheNewYorkReviewofBooks

19632015NYREV,Inc.Allrightsreserved.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/jul/09/concentrationcampsanatomyhell/?pagination=false&printpage=true

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