The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Book sheds new light on Holocaust

After studying abroad this summer in London, I returned home with an insatiable appetite to know more about history. I felt as though I had never really immersed myself in it and I hated all of my history classes in high school.

While at the airport waiting for my overseas flight, I was perusing the airport bookstore and came upon the history section. Normally I would have passed by and just bought a trashy magazine (which I did), but a book called “Auschwitz,” caught my attention. The shelf exclaimed that it was the “History book of the year,” by the British book awards, among other positive remarks.

I decided, what the heck, I’ll go for it.

Once I opened the book, it was almost physically impossible for me to stop reading. I was irritated when the flight attendant asked for my beverage choice, which had never bothered me before.

Written by Laurence Rees, “Auschwitz” is a non-fiction work about the concentration camp by the same name in Germany during World War II. It chronicles the camp from its infancy to the day that the Jews were freed, and offers a unique perspective on the camp in which more than one million people died.

Rees’s underlying point of the book was to publish how the Nazis used propaganda to sway the minds of their followers in to going along with Hitler’s “Final Solution.”

Rees interweaves new testimony from camp survivors and members of the SS, including Rudolf Hoess, the commander of the camp since its birth in 1940. Until his death in 1947, Hoess believed that the reasons for exterminating the Jews were “right.” At one point, he called his time at Auschwitz “paradise.”

The interviews also include heartbreaking accounts from survivors, including one young Jew, Otto Pressburger. Pressburger was separated from his family upon arrival at the camp. His “job” was to bury the dead bodies that came out of the gas chambers. Pressburger realized that the only way he could survive was to try to block out what had happened to him-even the death of his own father.

“The longer I wanted to live, the sooner I had to forget,” he said.

Although the tone of the book is somber, I came away with fresh knowledge about the Nazis and their “Final Solution.” What I had known previously about concentration camps had come from short lectures in my high school classes, but this was more information than I could have asked for.

Even if history isn’t your thing, this book was written for people who wouldn’t normally be interested in it (trust me, I wouldn’t have understood a single thing had Rees not explained every detail).

It’s not a light read by any means, but it’s rich with specific facts and first-hand accounts, which makes it all the more interesting. I finished this book in the eight hour flight home. It is beautifully written, and I promise you’ll love it just as much as I did.

 

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