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Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz

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Overview

This is a unique, eye-witness account of everyday life right at the heart of the Nazi extermination machine.

Slomo Venezia was born into a poor Jewish-Italian community living in Thessaloniki, Greece. At first, the occupying Italians protected his family; but when the Germans invaded, the Venezias were deported to Auschwitz. His mother and sisters disappeared on arrival, and he learned, at first with disbelief, that they had almost certainly been gassed. Given the chance to earn...

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Overview

This is a unique, eye-witness account of everyday life right at the heart of the Nazi extermination machine.

Slomo Venezia was born into a poor Jewish-Italian community living in Thessaloniki, Greece. At first, the occupying Italians protected his family; but when the Germans invaded, the Venezias were deported to Auschwitz. His mother and sisters disappeared on arrival, and he learned, at first with disbelief, that they had almost certainly been gassed. Given the chance to earn a little extra bread, he agreed to become a ‘Sonderkommando', without realising what this entailed. He soon found himself a member of the ‘special unit' responsible for removing the corpses from the gas chambers and burning their bodies.

Dispassionately, he details the grim round of daily tasks, evokes the terror inspired by the man in charge of the crematoria, ‘Angel of Death' Otto Moll, and recounts the attempts made by some of the prisoners to escape, including the revolt of October 1944.

It is usual to imagine that none of those who went into the gas chambers at Auschwitz ever emerged to tell their tale - but, as a member of a ‘Sonderkommando', Shlomo Venezia was given this horrific privilege. He knew that, having witnessed the unspeakable, he in turn would probably be eliminated by the SS in case he ever told his tale. He survived: this is his story.

Published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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Editorial Reviews

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

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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745643847
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 5/3/2011
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 282,638
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Shlomo Venezia was a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz.

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Table of Contents

Preface (Simone Veil).

Note (Béatrice Prasquier).

Acknowledgments.

I. Life in Greece before the Deportation.

II. The First Month in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

III. Sonderkommando: Initiation.

IV. Sonderkommando: The Work Continues.

V. The Revolt of the Sonderkommando and the Dismantling of the Crematoria.

VI. Mauthausen, Melk, and Ebensee.

Historical Notes.

The Shoah, Auschwitz and the Sonderkommando (Marcello Pezzetti).

Italy in Greece: A Short History of a Major Failure (Umberto Gentiloni).

About David Olère.

Selected Bibliography.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2013

    Very sad, but informing on what went on inside the gas chambers

    Very sad, but informing on what went on inside the gas chambers (clearly). Includes pictures and information about Shlomo after everything happened. By far the best book I've read this year.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2011

    Must Read!

    I read alot about the subject of the Holocaust but this story is a much different look on it considering most people that worked in the gas chambers were killed after a point of working in that part. So you see read about a man that worked and saw everything from the people going inside the gas chambers to him having to pull them out.. very sad but also very good. I havent read anything like it with all the stories i have read before. Highly recommended this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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