Order of Terror: The Concentration Camp / Edition 1

Order of Terror: The Concentration Camp / Edition 1

by Wolfgang Sofsky
Pub. Date:
Princeton University Press


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Order of Terror: The Concentration Camp / Edition 1

During the twelve years from 1933 until 1945, the concentration camp operated as a terror society. In this pioneering book, the renowned German sociologist Wolfgang Sofsky looks at the concentration camp from the inside as a laboratory of cruelty and a system of absolute power built on extreme violence, starvation, "terror labor," and the business-like extermination of human beings.

Based on historical documents and the reports of survivors, the book details how the resistance of prisoners was broken down. Arbitrary terror and routine violence destroyed personal identity and social solidarity, disrupted the very ideas of time and space, perverted human work into torture, and unleashed innumerable atrocities. As a result, daily life was reduced to a permanent struggle for survival, even as the meaning of self-preservation was extinguished. Sofsky takes us from the searing, unforgettable image of the Muselmann--Auschwitz jargon for the "walking dead"--to chronicles of epidemics, terror punishments, selections, and torture.

The society of the camp was dominated by the S.S. and a system of graduated and forced collaboration which turned selected victims into accomplices of terror. Sofsky shows that the S.S. was not a rigid bureaucracy, but a system with ample room for autonomy. The S.S. demanded individual initiative of its members. Consequently, although they were not required to torment or murder prisoners, officers and guards often exploited their freedom to do so--in passing or on a whim, with cause, or without.

The order of terror described by Sofsky culminated in the organized murder of millions of European Jews and Gypsies in the death-factories of Auschwitz and Treblinka. By the end of this book, Sofsky shows that the German concentration camp system cannot be seen as a temporary lapse into barbarism. Instead, it must be conceived as a product of modern civilization, where institutionalized, state-run human cruelty became possible with or without the mobilizing feelings of hatred.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900691006856
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 05/17/1999
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Wolfgang Sofsky is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Göttingen. The Order of Terror was awarded the prestigious 1993 Geschwister-Scholl Prize. The book has also been published in France and Italy. Sofsky is the author of four other books in German about power, organization, and the anthropology of violence. William Templer is a widely published translator of German and Hebrew and teaches on the staff of Preslavsky University, Shumen, Bulgaria.

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures


Pt. I Introduction

1 Entry

2 Absolute Power

3 On the History of the Concentration Camps

Pt. II Space and Time

4 Zones and Camp Plans

5 Boundary and Gate

6 The Block

7 Camp Time

8 Prisoner's Time

Pt. III Social Structures

9 The SS Personnel

10 Classes and Classifications

11 Self-Management and the Gradation of Power

12 The Aristocracy

13 Mass, Exchange, Dissociation

Pt. IV Work

14 Work and Slavery

15 The Beneficiaries

16 Work Situations

Pt. V Violence and Death

17 The Muselmann

18 Epidemics

19 Terror Punishment

20 Violent Excesses

21 Selection

22 The Death Factory


Selected Glossary and Abbreviations

Abbreviations Used in Notes and Bibliography



What People are Saying About This

Ralf Dahrendorf

Wolfgang Sofsky dares the near impossible: he gives us a rational description of the concentration camp without losing sight of the human suffering, which the use of terror brought with it. . . . Sofsky exposes the potential of immorality that modern times carries within itself, and how the ordinary can transform itself into terror.

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