Monday, September 7, 2009

Inside the Gas Chamber - Book #80

Title Free: Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz
Author Shlomo Venezia
Genre Historical Nonfiction
Pages 196
Publisher Polity
Copyright 2009

Synopsis (from web-site)
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 ‘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.

Why I read It
I like historical fiction and truly believe the awfulness of man's treatment of man should never be forgotten, lest it be relived.

The Good
You would be hard pressed to find a more accurate depiction of this horrific event. I cannot fathom how so many people were okay with this happening and actively participated in it (I am speaking of the Germans, specifically the SS).

The Bad
This book will disturb you on a fundamental level - as it should.

The Ugly (my opinion)
A terrible story that needs to be told, or it could happen again. I finished this in church waiting for the service to begin. I could only imagine the horror if one day some power decided Mormons should be exterminated on this scale. Very moving.

Author Biography
Originally from the Jewish-Italian community of Thessaloniki, Shlomo Venezia was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau when he was twenty years old and enrolled in the Sonderkommando, of which he was one of the few to survive. These special teams were employed by the SS to empty the gas chambers and to burn the victims' bodies before being eliminated in their turn after several months.


Chris said...

thank you for the book recommendation...i will add it to my list of books to read as part of my ongoing research of the holocaust...i started my new blog for the same reason you read this book, I too "truly believe the awfulness of man's treatment of man should never be forgotten, lest it be relived." See Never Again!, my online Holocaust memorial.

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