Auschwitz: The Story of a Nazi Death Camp

Auschwitz: The Story of a Nazi Death Camp

by Clive A. Lawton, Clive A. Lawton
Through startling first-person narratives, a rare collection of photographs, and expert storytelling, a renowned authority traces the history of Auschwitz from World War II to the present day.

"In less than ten minutes all the fit men had been selected. . . .
Of the more than 500 others, not one was living two days later."
- Primo Levi,


Through startling first-person narratives, a rare collection of photographs, and expert storytelling, a renowned authority traces the history of Auschwitz from World War II to the present day.

"In less than ten minutes all the fit men had been selected. . . .
Of the more than 500 others, not one was living two days later."
- Primo Levi, Auschwitz survivor
"When they told us to undress, they made us feel like animals.
The men were walking around and laughing and looking at us.
I wanted the ground to open up and for me to be swallowed by it."
- Lily Malnick, Auschwitz survivor
"By the time they took us back to the barracks at night we could barely crawl. But we needed to show that we could still walk,
that we were strong enough to give one more day."
- Fritzie Fritshall, Auschwitz survivor

Between March 1942 and January 1945, at least 1.5 million people were systematically murdered at Auschwitz. Some were sent to their death immediately upon arrival, some were sentenced to the slower, living death of slave labor, and some were the victims of gruesome medical experiments. In the middle of Europe and in the middle of the twentieth century, ordinary people, living ordinary lives, helped to do this. How did it happen?

In this extraordinary resource for young readers, Clive A. Lawton provides a look at those who helped transform an abandoned army barracks into the notorious Nazi death camp known as Auschwitz, and of the countless men, women, and children who lost their lives there. Included are many photographs from what may be the only surviving photo album from Auschwitz, an album found, in a strange twist of fate, by a prisoner escaping from another camp - who discovered within the album’s pages the faces of loved ones who had perished at Auschwitz.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-The organization, format, and style of this book are well suited to its audience. Two-page chapters consist of succinctly written summaries of topics; boxed statistics or survivors' accounts are often included, as are maps and captioned photographs, arranged in a collagelike fashion. The material is treated chronologically, from the identification of Oswiecim as a rather pleasant-looking, pre-war Polish town to its transformation by the Germans into the death camp Auschwitz. Chapters discuss Nazi anti-Semitism; the planning, building, and organization of the camp; prisoner transport; the selection process; disposal of bodies; slave labor; medical experiments; and more-a true "guided tour of Hell" to use Francine Prose's phrase. Final chapters cover liberation, Holocaust denial, and the controversies surrounding Auschwitz today. Color and graphic design are used to highlight and show contrast and, as importantly, to mute some of the more horrendous photographed scenes. Students who are not ready for longer or more in-depth books about the Holocaust will learn much about it from this excellent account.-Linda R. Silver, Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The name of Auschwitz has become synonymous with the Holocaust and so it is fitting that an entire volume be devoted to describing what happened there. Scrupulously documented, this is short, but packs a lot of information. For this subject, a picture really is worth a thousand words and Lawton carefully lays out the evidence as if with an eye towards the deniers, about which a chapter is included. He uses only the most conservative estimates for the number of people killed at Auschwitz and explains how it is that estimates can be made when the bodies of the victims were burned to smoke and ash and the Germans took such pains to destroy the evidence. Each two-page spread has its own chapter heading, among them "The Transports," "The Gas Chambers," and "Burning the Bodies." A well laid-out combination of text, archival photographs, maps, diagrams of the camp, and survivor testimony provides a many-faceted perspective. Lawton succeeds in conveying the single-minded, machine-like efficiency with which the Germans approached the "final solution" for the "Jewish problem." Disturbing photographs are included-as they must be if the truth is to be told-of piles of dead bodies, a skeletal girl who was a victim of medical experimentation, naked, emaciated men whose private parts are hidden by text, and an inmate who threw himself against the electric fence, a suicide. The jacket-cover text notes that ordinary people helped carry out the evil perpetrated at Auschwitz and asks: "How did it happen?" While Auschwitz doesn't answer the question of how this could happen, it certainly captures the horror of what did happen. Gut-wrenching, this will be invaluable to anyone seeking to educate children andyoung adults. (Nonfiction. 12+)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Watts Nonfiction Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
8.75(w) x 11.40(h) x 0.45(d)
Age Range:
10 Years

Read an Excerpt

"We were forced into line and herded into a cattle wagon, packed in like sardines. As the train progressed, it grew hotter. We could not sit down as it was too cramped, and we were all hungry. An old woman collapsed, and within minutes was dead. When at last we got out, there was a long concrete ramp leading from the station into the camp, along which streamed an endless line of people. As I got closer I realized that they were separating people into two rows. The left-hand row was full of children and old people, and I knew I must avoid that one at all costs." - Arek Hersh

B y the end of 1941 Auschwitz was set up to receive prisoners, mainly Jews, from all over Nazi-controlled Europe. Exploiting the excellent rail network, the Nazis ensured that Jews in many different countries were rounded up and transported there. Most often they were sent in cattle trucks or sealed freight cars, with as many as 100-150 people crammed into each one.

The first transports to arrive were from Poland and all of these Jews were immediately killed. In March 1942, transports arrived from Slovakia and France. The first transports from Holland came in July, and further transports in 1942 came mainly from Belgium, Yugoslavia, Norway, and Germany.

In 1943 transports also arrived from Greece, Italy, Latvia, and Austria, while in 1944 most arriving prisoners came from the large Jewish community in Hungary, the last to be liquidated.

Occasionally, Jews were brought from other communities, too, and many non-Jews were also sent to Auschwitz, including at least 60,000 non-Jewish Poles, 119,000 Gypsies, and 12,000 Soviet prisoners of war.

On arrival the vast majority of prisoners went straight to the gas chambers. For example, on one day, from an arrival of 1,710 deportees from Holland, 1,594 were immediately gassed, and only 116 were sent to the barracks.

A uschwitz was never designed to accommodate all the prisoners sent there. What's more, there was no desire to keep most of the prisoners alive. In particular Auschwitz II was specifically developed to kill the maximum number of Jews as quickly as possible.

However, the Nazis recognized that it could be profitable to use some of the prisoners as slave labor for at least a period of time. Therefore, as soon as the transports arrived, prisoners were made to stand in line and a selection process took place.

Those who were judged capable of hard work - on average about 20 percent of the arrivals - were told to go to the right side. The remainder - the old, the infirm, children with their mothers, and any apparently weaker people - were sent to the left and immediately taken to the gas chambers and killed.

No attempt was made to record this instantly condemned 80 percent. We can only estimate the number of people who were immediately killed by referring to the fact that so many are known to have been sent to Auschwitz who were never seen alive again. Usual estimates range from 1.5 million to 4 million people murdered at Auschwitz.

"When we arrived, they did not interrogate everybody, only a few. And on the basis of the replies, they pointed in two different directions. Someone dared to ask for his luggage: they replied, 'luggage afterward.' Someone else did not want to leave his wife: they said, 'together again afterward.' Mothers did not want to leave their children: they said, 'Good, good, stay with child.' They behaved calmly, like people doing normal jobs. In less than 10 minutes all the fit men had been selected. From our convoy, 96 men and 29 women entered Auschwitz I and Auschwitz III. Of the more than 500 others, not one was living two days later." - Primo Levi

AUSCHWITZ: THE STORY OF A NAZI DEATH CAMP by Clive A. Lawton. Copyright (c) 2002 by Clive A. Lawton. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Meet the Author

Clive A. Lawton is an educator, broad-caster, and writer. He has helped pioneer Holocaust studies for schoolchildren in several countries and has served as the vice-chairman of the Anne Frank Educa-tional Trust. He is also the author of THE STORY OF THE HOLOCAUST, about which BOOKLIST said, "Young readers will come away with a better understanding of the relationship between the events and the devastation."

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