Auschwitz was a world unlike any other because it was created and governed according to the principles of absolute evil. Its only function was death. The first question, then, is whether we see Auschwitz as the epitome of life itself, an incarnation of the darkest principles of Machiavelli and Hobbes, or whether we see it as a mirror image of the true life, a Satanic perversion of some divine plan that we have not yet discovered. From that central enigma, flow all the lesser contradictions that still bedevil anyone who seeks to understand the mystery of Auschwitz. Did it represent the ultimate evil of the German nation, and was that the evil of German rationality or of German irrationality? Or did it represent, conversely, the apotheosis of Jewish suffering? And was that suffering simply the result of centuries of anti-Semitism, or was it part of the fulfillment of the prophecy that the tormented Jews would someday return to Palestine, return, as Ezekiel had written, to “the land that is restored from the ravages of the sword, where people are gathered out of many nations upon the mountains of Israel”?

It can be argued that Auschwitz proves there is no God, neither for the Jews nor for the Catholics, neither for atheists nor for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who all went equally helpless to their death. “If all this was possible,” wrote one Hungarian survivor, Eugene Heimler, “if men could be herded like beasts toward annihilation, then all that I had believed in before must have been a lie. There was not, there could not be, a God, for he could not condone such godlessness.” But such declarations have been made at every moment of extreme crisis by those who see God only in success and happiness. Since all efforts to prove or explain God’s purpose demonstrate only the futile diligence of worker ants attempting to prove the existence of Mozart, Auschwitz can just as well prove a merciful God, an indifferent God, or, perhaps best, an unknowable God.

From The Kingdom of Auschwitz by Otto Friedrich


“Exterminate All the Brutes”: One Man’s Odyssey Into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide

Sven Lindqvist

This book presents an argument that “the harrowing racism that led to the Holocaust in the 20th century had its roots in European colonial policy of the preceding century.” It sets Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the context of its times and traces “the legacy of the writings of European explorers and theologians, politicians and historians, from the late 18th century on, in an effort to help us understand that most terrifying of Conrad’s lines, ‘Exterminate all the brutes.’” It chronicles many infamous genocides of “lower species” and “inferior races” that hallmarked the Western world’s “progress” in the 1800s, such as: Darwin’s witnessing of the Argentine government’s slaughter of the Pampas Indians; the complete extermination by the Spanish of the Guanches of the Canary Islands; the complete extermination of the Tasmanians of the South Pacific (also witnessed by Darwin); and America’s decimation of its native tribes, cutting them down from 5 million to one-quarter million. GR

Publisher: New Press
Hardback: 179 pages

The “Problem of the Gas Chambers”

Robert Faurisson

Well-known historical revisionist disputes standard accounts of extermination of prisoners in Hitler’s concentration camps. SC

Publisher: Noontide
Pamphlet: 2 pages

A Collector’s Guide to the Waffen-SS

Robin Lumsden

From their death’s-head insignia, snappy SS tank top and sports kilt, to their luxurious Russian Front greatcoats (lined with furs stripped from gassed Jews), it can’t be said the nastiest of the Nazis weren’t well-dressed. This is a detailed history, illustrated with field photos, of the uniforms and insignias of the armed units of Hitler’s Schutzstaffel der NSDAP (SS), originally formed as non-fighting “protection squads” to the Nazi bigwigs. By the time war broke out, Germany had recruited a quarter million of these well-liveried chauffeurs. Then Adolf demanded his special boys have “soldierly character… It will be necessary for our SS and police, in their own closed units, to prove themselves at the front in the same way as the army and to make blood sacrifices to the same degree as any other branch of the armed forces.” So the SS went to war. Chronicles manufacturing history, design changes, evolution of steel helmets and field caps, and shows how to spot fakes and fantasies. GR

Publisher: Hippocrene
Paperback: 160 pages

Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide

Berel Lang

The sign over the gate of Auschwitz read “Arbeit Macht Frei,” (Work Makes One Free) and the Zyklon-B gas canisters for the death camp were shipped in Red Cross trucks. Sick jokes, both. Why did the Nazis use such obvious irony? Such imaginative evil? “The ancient categories of moral philosophy—responsibility, intent, choice, forgiveness, shame, and all the rest-are horrifyingly repositioned when applied to the German mass murder of the Jews in Europe.” The author argues “that the events of the Nazi genocide compel reconsideration of such fundamental moral concepts as individual and group responsibility, the role of knowledge in ethical decisions, and the conditions governing the relation between guilt and forgiveness.” Chapters include: “The Knowledge of Good and Evil,” The Decision Not To Decide,” and “Language of Genocide.” GR

Publisher: University of Chicago
Paperback: 258 pages

An Eye for an Eye: Untold Story of Jewish Revenge Against Germans in 1945

John Sack

Eye for an Eye recounts with brutal candor the savage treatment meted out to ethnic Germans by Jewish vengeance squads recruited from Nazi concentration-camp survivors by Stalin’s terror regime. The author of the book, himself a conservative Jew, tracked down the alleged perpetrators of these appalling crimes to locations in Poland, Israel and the United States during the course of his research. Appalled by the catalog of horrors he uncovers, the author seeks philosophical answers to perennial questions such as, “Can any good come out of evil?”
The book is replete with lurid descriptions of the agonies and torments inflicted upon Germans innocent of any wrongdoing: “The girls in Gleiwitz used fire. They held down the German boy, put out their cigarettes on him and, using gasoline, set his curly black hair on fire. In time, three-fourths of the Germans at Shlomo’s camp were dead, and Shlomo announced, ‘What the Germans couldn’t do in five years at Auschwitz, I’ve done in five months at Schwientochlowitz.’” Eye for an Eye generated a storm of controversy both before and after its release. Though the subject has been dealt with at length in previous publications, such as German Documents on the Expulsion and Silesian Inferno, this book is unique in that it provides the reader with the identities of alleged perpetrators. Indeed, some of the ghoulish characters described in this book make Spielberg’s Commander Amon Goth look like Winnie the Pooh. JB

Publisher: Basic
Paperback: 252 pages

The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution

Richard Breitman

Hailed by mainstream Holocaust historians as a “path-breaking book,” Architect of Genocide attempts to reply to the arguments of revisionist historians. Relying extensively on Himmler’s surviving notes and official correspondence, the author weaves an intricate and subtle web of innuendoes, facts and often compelling arguments in support of his thesis that the extermination of Europe’s Jews was ultimately the end result of a fatal attraction between two dynamic and unstable personalities—Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. The author offers the reader an abundant array of hitherto untapped sources in support of his claims. Those familiar with the works of establishment historians will welcome the new source materials which this book provides. On the other hand, revisionists will also welcome these same arguments and materials as additional fuel to keep the fires of debate burning. JB

Publisher: Univ. Press of New England
Paperback: 352 pages

Assassins of Memory: Essays on the Denial of the Holocaust

Pierr Vidal-Naquet

Vidal-Naquet dedicates his book to his mother, who died in Auschwitz in June 1944. Haunted by this memory and the recent flurry of revisionist publications initiated by his countryman Robert Faurisson, Vidal-Naquet seeks to defuse the growing tide of revisionism without recourse to debate. Indeed, it is a hallmark of his style that Vidal-Naquet refuses to debate revisionists, fearful lest it endow a form of legitimacy to revisionist arguments. Nevertheless, he does respond, and it is his response which makes the reader wish that Vidal-Naquet would debate his controversial adversaries. JB

Publisher: Columbia University
Paperback: 205 pages

Atlas of the Holocaust

Martin Gilbert

Gilbert is one of the most prolific writers on the Holocaust, having written Auschwitz and the Allies, among other titles. His Atlas of the Holocaust is packed with maps and photographs on every page. This current title took over seven years to research, and should be a welcome addition to any library devoted to the study of the Holocaust. The book is not without controversy, however, as many critics question the sources of the facts and figures it quotes. Regardless of one’s opinions, the book is fastidiously detailed and even relates previously unavailable facts and figures concerning the Jewish Partisan Movement. JB

Publisher: Morrow
Hardback: 283 pages

Auschwitz, 1940-1945

Author unknown

Copy of the grim souvenir book available at “the world’s greatest battlefield”—Konzentrationslager Auschwitz—translated from Polish. Shows the crematorium; the punishment cells; the wall of death; wooden barracks; daily rations for a prisoner; piles of clothes, hair, and false legs; and other evidence of the assembly-line slaughter of an estimated 4 million people, mostly Jewish. Also covers Birkenau. Illustrated with black-and-white snapshots taken by SS guards, who took pictures like tourists enjoying a gruesome theme park. GR

Publisher: Route 66
Paperback: 120 pages

Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present

Debórah Dwork and Robert-Jan Van Pelt

As an exhaustive history of the town of Auschwitz, this book has a certain value. However, this reviewer is puzzled as to why these two authors should have decided to research the history of an insignificant little Polish village all the way back to its origins in 1270. Obviously, Auschwitz is only of historical interest insofar as the history of the Holocaust—which is indeed covered in meticulous detail later in the book—is concerned. However, aside from interesting photographs and the history of a Polish village, the book really adds nothing new to what historians already know about the infamous concentration camp. JB

Publisher: Norton
Hardback: 443 pages