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Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp
     

Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp

3.4 5
by Christopher R. Browning
 

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"An important, revealing story, exceptionally well told."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

Employing the rich testimony of almost three hundred survivors of the slave-labor camps of Starachowice, Poland, Christopher R. Browning draws the experiences of the Jewish prisoners, the Nazi authorities, and the neighboring Poles together into a chilling

Overview

"An important, revealing story, exceptionally well told."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

Employing the rich testimony of almost three hundred survivors of the slave-labor camps of Starachowice, Poland, Christopher R. Browning draws the experiences of the Jewish prisoners, the Nazi authorities, and the neighboring Poles together into a chilling history of a little-known dimension of the Holocaust. Brutal and deadly in their living and work conditions, these camps represented the only chance of survival for local Jews after the ghetto liquidations of 1942. There they produced munitions for the German war effort while scrambling to survive murderous and corrupt camp regimes and desperately trying to protect children, spouses, parents, and neighbors. When the labor camps closed in the summer of 1944, the surviving Starachowice Jews still had to confront Auschwitz and then the reprisals of anti-Semitic Polish neighbors. Combining harrowing detail and insightful analysis, Browning's history is indispensable scholarship and an unforgettable story of survival.

Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
The literature of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany is so vast as to defy comprehension, yet there remain aspects of the subject that are insufficiently covered or not covered at all. Christopher Browning's fine, harrowing Remembering Survival points us in yet another little-charted direction. It is the history of a Nazi slave-labor camp at Starachowice, in central Poland, where between 1942 and 1944 thousands of Jews were forced to work…to produce munitions for the Nazi war machine…Browning is keenly sensitive to the unreliability of memory, especially memory of distant events, so as he stitches together the story of Starachowice he is especially careful to distinguish between reliable and unreliable evidence. There can be no doubt, however, of the essential truth of this story, a small one when viewed against everything else that happened in that dreadful time, but an important and revealing one, exceptionally well told in Remembering Survival.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In 1942 the liquidation of the Jewish-Polish ghetto of Wierzbnik sent 4,000 Jews to their deaths in Treblinka and enslaved another 1,600 at factory camps in the nearby town of Starachowice. Wierzbnik at its peak had 5,400 Jews, of whom 600 to 700 survived the war, and half of these left testimonies in memoirs or others forms. National Jewish Book Award–winning historian Browning (The Origins of the Final Solution) bases his study primarily on survivor testimonies from the slave-labor camps at the Starachowice factory. Willi Althoff, the first commander of factory security whose killings of Jews were theatrically staged and who killed all Jews infected with typhus, was succeeded by pragmatist Kurt Baumgarten, who preferred keeping workers alive to increase factory production and line his pockets by extorting. Nuanced survivor accounts from live interviews, memoirs and archived accounts depicts some Ukrainian guards as sadistic anti-Semites while others were lenient, well-behaved, or corruptible. As the Soviets approached, the Germans deported the slaves to Auschwitz-Birkenau before retreating. Although too specialized for the casual reader, Browning's authoritative, lucid, and subtly analyzed microhistory of a relatively obscure area of Holocaust history will be of considerable value to scholars. 10 photos, maps. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
A scholarly, nuanced micro history of a Nazi slave-labor camp. Browning (History/Univ. of North Carolina; The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942) systematically relates how the Jews of Wierzbnik became the property of the SS, slaves who were rented out as laborers in the neighboring camp of Starachowice. Despite the humiliations, physical abuse, bondage and murder, the war-supply camp was, for a while, a haven for those with work papers. Then there was the local killing Aktion one day in October 1942, and, though the destruction of Nazi human property might have been against state interest, there were many wanton shootings just for sport. A few comparatively decent overseers notwithstanding, the Jews faced the brutal police chief Walter Becker (who was acquitted of war crimes in 1972), the dangerous Ukrainian guards and the Polish partisans. Ultimately, thousands of Jews were transported by rail from Starachowice to Auschwitz-Birkenau for extermination. Browning methodically narrates the tale on a survivor-by-survivor basis. His trenchant, relentless exposition shows how the camp was truly exceptional in its evil efficiency. The text is all the more powerful because the author avoids dramatization or overwrought polemics. A coda describes the rigged postwar trial of Becker and the egregious miscarriage of justice that outraged the author and provoked his study. An important addition to Holocaust studies, evoking the small band of survivors who remembered.
Booklist
“[A] highly credible and deeply shocking account.... This is an excellent addition to the field of Holocaust studies.”
The Washington Post
There can be no doubt...of the essential truth of this story, a small one when viewed against everything else that happened in that dreadful time, but an important and revealing one, exceptionally well told in Remembering Survival.— Jonathan Yardley
Moment
“A master historian of intimate tragedy.”
Jonathan Yardley - The Washington Post
“There can be no doubt...of the essential truth of this story, a small one when viewed against everything else that happened in that dreadful time, but an important and revealing one, exceptionally well told in Remembering Survival.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393079432
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
01/10/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Christopher R. Browning is the Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina and the author of Ordinary Men, Remembering Survival and other works of Holocaust history. He lives in Chapel Hill.

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Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rotton Nazis Hate Hitler Stupid Nazis and i hate Hitler Poor Jews
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This non-fiction work explores the background and wartime experiences of a large group of Jews enslaved by the Nazis in factories in their hometown (Starachowice/Wierzbnick) located in central Poland. The factories were essential to the German war effort. The Jews were housed in slave-labor camps built to purpose, also in/near their town. The Jews of the town, with backgrounds running from the secular to the orthodox, at the outset of the occupation were concentrated into a "ghetto" by the Nazis, but allowed to work. In an "aktion" in Autumn 1942, those ostensibly able to work were marched off to newly-created "work camps", while the balance of theie families were shipped directly to Treblinka for extermination. This book focuses on the sensitive interrelationship between Polish anti-Semitism, the Nazi-imposed regime in the camps (guarded by Ukrainians under Nazi authority and direction), Jewish self-leadership within the camps (and as altered by subsequent shipments of workers from other towns/camps), work in the factories, and the overarching Nazi plan for a Final Solution. It is extremely well-researched and accurately footnoted, with sources ranging from Nazi records of that era, to subsequent war crimes trials, to survivor interviews. The author makes manifest attempts to remain objective, but occasionally lapses into normative assumptions or judgments which are perhaps outside of a historian's proper role. Additionally, I would have liked to see more detailed descriptions of the work the Jews did, so as to enhance my appreciation of their daily lives. Nevertheless, while most Holocaust literature examines concentration/extermination camps, this book is quite unique in that it explores life -- and the attempt to maintain life -- in a working (slave labor) environment subject to only intermittent harassment (depending on the Nazi camp direction). The ultimate (happy) irony is that, due to the inmates' pre-selection as healthy workers, when the work camps were liquidated and the inmates shipped off to Auschwitz/Birkenau they were exempted from inspection and "selection" on the Birkenau platform/ramp, thus sparing them at least temporarily from the ovens. As a result, an unusually large proportion of them, especially among the women, survived the War. One of these women was my mother. The book moves chronologically and consistently, and remembers to follow up on many "individual" stories, as it should... for this is after all the unique history of the survival of a group of individuals from family life through ghetto life through slave-labor camps and extermination camps and death marches. It is really quite good reading for historians, students of history, as well as those interested in the Holocaust experience.