Book Reviews

Book review: Remembering Survival.

Many books have been published about the Nazi regime, and the atrocities officials committed, but this well-researched oeuvre approaches the subject a bit differently.

It explains in great detail the truth of what took place, based on the rich testimony of hundreds of survivors of labour camps, and some Poles living nearby.

C.R. Browning, a professor of history, was outraged by the 1972 Hamburg State Court’s acquittal of W. Becker, who has committed crimes against Jews, and decided to bring to light the injustices committed.

The book has six parts, which are sub-titled for clarity. Part I has six, II three, III four, IV eight, V five, and VI three including the conclusion of the good professor.

Illustrated with several archival pictures, the book is revealing in its detail.

Jews and Poles were living in peace and harmony for years before the German occupation in Wierbnik-Starachowice. Some Jews were financially well-off, and owned factories employing Poles. Many Jews also contributed to the community, however when the Germans occupied Wierzbnik-Starachowice, life for Jews started to become difficult, and soon turned deadly. Many families were summarily deported to the death camps of Auschwitz, less than 140 kilometres from Starachowice.

Some factory owners were forced to work in their own establishment as labourers; others lost all their fortunes, belongings and families.

While some Poles helped their former neighbours, others chose to collaborate with Germans. It is incomprehensible how Walther Becker, born in Hamburg, after committing so many crimes (all well explained and documented in this book) and testified by survivors, could eb acquitted. Here professor C.R. Browning does an excellent job laying bare what Becker did and how he enticed his deputy to execute his orders.

Some Poles were friendly and helped families to survive, but many, anonymous and faceless, became informers or predators, Wierzbnik, very close to Starachowice, had at least 5400 Jews living, and only 600 – 700 survived.

This is a book for all trying to understand how supposedly civilized people could be so cruel, and irresponsible to follow inhumane orders of their superiors, and in some cases even become even crueler than their superiors thought possible.

Highly recommended for all to prevent such atrocities from being repeated.

Hrayr Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
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