A disturbing look at the ultimate in moral indifference during the nightmare years - the concentration camp and its civilian neighbours. Focusing on the physical space in which a community coexisted with a death camp, Horwitz probes the depths of man's capacity to suspend moral action - and consider himself neutral in the face of evil - in order to reveal how individuals could reconcile themselves to the daily horror that surrounded them.
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Horwitz has written a useful history of the interaction between the civilian population and the Nazi concentration camp of Mauthausen and its satellite camps, both during and after World War II. Situated in Upper Austria close to granite quarries vital to SS business interests, Mauthausen was one of the harshest camps. Horwitz clearly describes the camp's evolution from a political detention center to ultimate slave labor and death factory; 120,000 victims perished, one quarter of them Jews. With scrupulous detail and research, the author effectively illustrates the multiple ways in which civilians learned about the camps, as well as the scope of their involvement with them, and demonstrates how they disengaged themselves from the horrific treatment of camp victims. Although the book is particularly illuminating about the reasons for the bystanders' attitudes, its chronicle of their behavior toward and limited feelings for Mauthausen's inmates demonstrates conclusively how much the general populace knew about the camps. That unnerving fact alone renders the book important.
-Benny Kraut, Univ. of Cincinnati
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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