The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them

Overview

By the spring of 1945, the Second World War was drawing to a close in Europe. Allied troops were sweeping through Nazi Germany and discovering the atrocities of SS concentration camps. The first to be reached intact was Buchenwald, in central Germany. American soldiers struggled to make sense of the shocking scenes they witnessed inside. They asked a small group of former inmates to draft a report on the camp. It was led by Eugen Kogon, a German political prisoner who had been an inmate since 1939. The Theory and...

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Overview

By the spring of 1945, the Second World War was drawing to a close in Europe. Allied troops were sweeping through Nazi Germany and discovering the atrocities of SS concentration camps. The first to be reached intact was Buchenwald, in central Germany. American soldiers struggled to make sense of the shocking scenes they witnessed inside. They asked a small group of former inmates to draft a report on the camp. It was led by Eugen Kogon, a German political prisoner who had been an inmate since 1939. The Theory and Practice of Hell is his classic account of life inside.

Unlike many other books by survivors who published immediately after the war, The Theory and Practice of Hell is more than a personal account. It is a horrific examination of life and death inside a Nazi concentration camp, a brutal world of a state within state, and a society without law. But Kogon maintains a dispassionate and critical perspective. He tries to understand how the camp works, to uncover its structure and social organization. He knew that the book would shock some readers and provide others with gruesome fascination. But he firmly believed that he had to show the camp in honest, unflinching detail.

The result is a unique historical document—a complete picture of the society, morality, and politics that fueled the systematic torture of six million human beings. For many years, The Theory and Practice of Hell remained the seminal work on the concentration camps, particularly in Germany. Reissued with an introduction by Nikolaus Waschmann, a leading Holocaust scholar and author of Hilter's Prisons, this important work now demands to be re-read.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The best of the many books on Nazi concentrations camps and the society behind them." —C. Wright Mills

"Kogon omits nothing and spares no one. His account, magnificently controlled and dispassionate . . . achieves a devastating impact." —The Nation

"A description of the closest thing to hell in human history." —Reinhold Niebuhr

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374529925
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/19/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 261,643
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Nikolaus Wachsmann is a professor of Modern German History at the University of London and the author of Hitler's Prisons: Legal Terror in Nazi Germany.

 

Dr. Eugen Kogon was a political prisoner at Buchenwald from September 1939 to April 1945. After the war, he wrote "The Theory and Practice of Hell."

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 1, 2008

    The Theory and Practice of Hell

    In 2006, I did a book report on the Holocaust, and this is the book I chose. For an eighth grader, it was great, but intensively more and more difficult to read. This blow-by-blow account of the concentration camps is very disturbing and not for the light of heart. Within this book, I found myself feeling something I had never felt before: fear for the human race. <BR/><BR/>This is a very good work to see within, not only of the Nazis' psyche, but also of the prisoners'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book is the most difficult book I have ever read. It is very graphic and disturbing. The things described here are not even things I could have ever imagined! There are times while reading this that I became physically sick. However, after reading this, all the 'problems' in my life suddenly seem petty and inconsequential compared to what these prisoners endured. After reading these stories, they are a constant reminder throughout my day that things could be so much worse!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2012

    A "must read" for the student of history.

    I am a student of military and naval history, but until I read this powerful and engrossing tale of tragedy and survival I had no idea of the inner struggle to stay alive in a concentration camp. A good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2010

    an emotional rollercoster ride

    This book brought me in and I could not put it down. I was trap in an emotional rollercoster of fear, from the begining to the end. I have never been moved so much by a book as this.
    Just a note, not one for the week of hart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing Book

    This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in history. It is an easy read, but will both shock you and tear at your heart strings. It is far more informative than any history class could offer. I could not put it down and finished it in days, it is just that good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

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