Gitta Sereny was one of Europe's foremost journalists with a special interest and expertise in the Third Reich. She has written extensively for London's Daily Telegraph magazine, Sunday Times, and The independent, as well as for Die Zeit and Le Nouvel Observateur. In America, she has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, and Vanity Fair. Her books include Into Darkness: An Examination of Conscience, The Invisible Children, and Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. She had two children and two grandchildren and lived with her husband, the photographer Don Honeyman, in London. She died June 14, 2012.
Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscienceby Gitta Sereny
Based on 70 hours of interviews with Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka (the largest of the five Nazi extermination camps), this book bares the soul of a man who continually found ways to rationalize his role in Hitler's final solution.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- Random House
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I could not put this book down. Sereny begins with the understanding that the Nazis who did what horrible things they did weren't just monsters. They were human beings. She seems to want to get to the bottom of how a person like any of us -- who had a wife and family he loved -- found himself going along with it. In the course of their talks she examines not just what he did -- but how it is that he found himself in that position -- the choices that he made along the way. It is with an informed and challenging openness that she encounters Stangl, who was the Kommandant of Treblinka, the death camp where some estimates say 1,200,000 died. Her 70 hours of interviews with Stangl -- who was then in his 60s awaiting an appeal of his life sentence -- serve as a spring board for her to go even deeper, to test what he tells her is truth and what is rationalization, or justification -- because the real truth, as she says, is sometimes too hard to live with. Interviews with Stangl lead her to interview his wife, survivors of Treblinka who knew him there and were part of the prisoner uprising, colleagues of Stangl's both in the death camps and when he worked in the 'Euthanasia' program, and various members of the Church who helped the Nazis to escape Europe after the war. Her knowledge of the Third Reich, her comprehensive and exhaustive research are evident. Not only does she give Stangl the opportunity to examine his own conscience but in so doing gives us the opportunity to examine our own. By the end, one understands more deeply that what she says is true: the Holocaust wasn't the responsibility of an organization so much as it was the responsibility of individuals who made their own decisions. When it comes down to it, we are each responsible. Sereny's book is a major contribution. I'm so glad I found it. Very moving.
This book is a fascinating account of a man's ability to distance himself and rationalize away his involvement in the murder of millions. Particularly focusing on one man, Franz Stangl, former commandant of the largest Nazi death camp (Treblinka), it is composed of interviews with Stangl and Stangl's family and strung together with Sereny's compelling reflections. I love this book so much - it's one of my favorites ever - and would highly recommend it.