Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz / Edition 1

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"Shlomo Venezia was born into the Jewish-Italian community of Thessaloniki, Greece. Early in World War II, occupying Italian authorities provided a measure of protection for his family, but when the Germans took control, the Venezias were deported to Auschwitz. His mother and sister disappeared on arrival, and he learned, at first with disbelief, that they almost certainly had been gassed. Given the chance to earn a little extra bread, he agreed to become a member of the Sonderkommando, without realizing what that entailed. He soon found himself one of the group of "special unit" inmates compelled by the Germans to serve as auxiliaries to the extermination: they directed the victims into the gas chambers, removed the bodies, "mined" the cadavers for valuables, transported the remains to the crematoria and burned the corpses. They bought each day of their own lives with these compromises and more." Dispassionately, he details the grim round of daily tasks, evokes the terror inspired by the sadistic SS-man in charge of the crematoria, and recounts some of the prisoners' attempts to escape and to resist. It is usual to imagine that none of those who went into the gas chambers at Auschwitz ever emerged to tell their tale. Most Sonderkommando members, too, were systematically killed by the SS. But fate allowed Shlomo Venezia to survive, and the horrific privilege to bear witness. This is his story.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Few of those assigned to the infamous Sonderkommando of Auschwitz, the unit that disposed of the bodies of gassed prisoners, survived to tell their story. Here is the translated text of a series of interviews with Venezia, a Greek Jew deported to the death camp in 1944. He provides graphic details of the organization of mass murder and his hope not to lose all his humanity in such as environment. Two additional contributed essays provide further important historical context.
—Frederic Krome

From the Publisher
"'A unique participant's account of everyday death and life,' the jacket says. That sense of existential inversion is what comes across most strongly in this book, more strongly than even Levi's greatest work can convey."
The Australian

"Venezia reports soberly and seemingly without emotion - and yet the book becomes breathtaking in its forcefulness."
Holocaust and Genocide Studies

"Venezia's experiences during the war is at once both fascinating and disturbing. His description of prewar Salonika and his complicated ethnic/national background certainly help illuminate our picture of the multicultural societies of Europe that the Second World War nearly completely eliminated. He also captures the violence and brutality of Auschwitz in a very readable fashion. His descriptions of the inhumanity of the camp will remain with me for quite some time."
H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online

"A deeply sincere, unadorned description of Venezia's journey through hell ... There are few, if any, better descriptions of the impact of massive psychic trauma on the human soul."
Jewish Book World

"Venezia comes across as a very reliable witness. His language is clear, and he certainly does not idealize the members of the 'Sonderkommando' or his own role in the extermination process. It is a detailed and heartbreaking story, told in very restrained language."
Journal of Contemporary History

"A harrowingly matter-of-fact account."
Boston Globe

"Most Sonderkommando members were systematically killed by the SS. But fate allowed Shlomo Venezia to survive, and the horrific privilege to bear witness."
History Wire

"Shlomo Venezia's unnervingly dispassionate personal record demands to be heard. Interviewer Beatrice Prasquier's brusque questions, answered with painful truthfulness, bring home the lifelong scars this Greek Italian Jew must carry from the ever-present memories of the numberless innocents he helped lead to their grotesque slaughter."
Morning Star

"What is remarkable is on the one hand the lack of anger, the simple language dealing with events that are unforgettable and beyond reality, and on the other hand the fact of Venezia's daily life ever since ... He has never, in his mind, lived outside the camp."
Atsmi Uvsari

"I read many accounts of former deportees, and each time they take me back to life in the camp. But the story told by Shlomo Venezia is especially overwhelming because it is the only complete eye-witness account that we have from a survivor of the Sonderkommandos."
Simone Veil

"This holocaust survivor's testimony, like all others, will be read with fear and trembling."
Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745643830
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 2/9/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 858,984
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Shlomo Venezia was a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Simone Veil Veil, Simone

Note Beatrice Prasquier Prasquier, Beatrice

1 Life in Greece before the Deportation 1

2 The First Month in Auschwitz-Birkenau 34

3 Sonderkommando: Initiation 55

4 Sonderkommando: The Work Continues 93

5 The Revolt of the Sonderkommando and the Dismantling of the Crematoria 113

6 Mauthausen, Melk, and Ebensee 131

Historical Notes 157

The Shoah, Auschwitz, and the Sonderkommando Marcello Pezzetti Pezzetti, Marcello 159

Italy in Greece: A Short History of a Major Failure Umberto Gentiloni Gentiloni, Umberto 189

About David Olere Jean Mouttapa Mouttapa, Jean 197

Selected Bibliography 199

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A birds eye view on the perseverance and dilemmas of the people in the sonderkommando.

    Imagine that you were Shlomo, a prisoner in a concentration camp. Every day you are forced at gunpoint to assist hundreds of people into the gas chambers. After the people are herded into the gas chambers you drop the poisonous Zyklon B which causes everyone in the chamber to die within fifteen minutes. After you take anything of value off them you have to pull them over to the crematorium oven. When the dead bodies are put into the oven you see the smoke and smell the incinerated flesh. These experiences never will leave your mind and you will relive many of the encounters again in your mind. Shlomo Venezia put it well in his book "What was destroyed in you by that extreme experience? Life. Since then I've never had a normal life. everything takes me back to the camp.nobody ever really gets out of the Crematorium"
    Shlomo Venezia is just one of many people that were involuntarily put to work gassing and burning the victims of Hitler's regime. His book is an outstanding way to help people to better understand what actually happened in the inside of the camp where only a few people could venture. Elie Wiesel, a fellow concentration camp survivor said "This Holocaust survivor's testimony like all others will be read with fear and trembling." This book really makes you think about your life and what could have happened to you. What would you do if you were forced to kill then dispose of thousands of human beings?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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