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Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,068 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Based on 70 hours of interviews with Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka (the largest of the extermination camps), this book bares the soul of a man who continually found ways to rationalize his role in Hitler's final soulution.
Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 12th 1983 by Vintage (first published 1974)
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Community Reviews

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Paul Bryant
I don't want to keep writing obituaries, but I have to say something here. Gitta Sereny died this week at the age of 91, she was another hero of mine. She was an intellectually tough woman who spent a good part of her long life staring evil right in the eyes - take a look at her main books :

Into That Darkness - an account of the life of Fritz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka, who escaped after the war and was arrested in Brazil in 1967, and became the only commandant of a death camp ever to have
This is one of the most incredible Holocaust books I have come across to date. It is about so much more than author Gitta Sereny's conversations with Franz Stangl ( Commandant of Treblinka ). These conversations (conducted while Stangl was in Düsseldorf prison) give us a narrative around which Sereny integrates her exceptional research, outside interviews and experiences. Sereny manages to be both our guide and an appropriately impartial observer of the events described (and is open in descr ...more
Richard Burger
Gitta Sereny is perhaps the most thorough, meticulous interviewer I've ever read. As if she's unpeeling an onion layer by layer, she leads us into the life and mind of her subject, the former Kommandant of Treblinka, Franz Stangl, and makes us feel, whether we want to or not, as if we know him and understand him. And that is a huge accomplishment, because it isn't easy to understand what motivated a man like Stangl, what kept him loyal to and even proud of his "work," and how he (and his family) ...more
When confronted with the idea of the Holocaust, I find the scope of the atrocities perpetrated against Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals,and others whom the Reich considered as "undesirables" is inconceivable. At Treblinka, where Fritz Stangl was Kommandant, one million and two hundred thousand people were put to death. Once the trains reached the pretty little fake railway station, with its flower-filled window boxes and faux clock tower, the passengers in the cattle cars had approximately one hour to ...more
Ruby Tuesday
I've read countless books about the Holocaust and recently I started to question what my fascination is with the subject. I came to the conclusion that it's the psychology of what leads a country towards genocide and the mentality that enables individuals to carry out such terrible crimes against humanity. Whilst undoubtedly some individuals were sadistic what is apparent in so many books that I've read is how un extraordinary most of the perpetrators were, it's this aspect that I find the most ...more
For a swedish review, look further down!

This is about a man who became a monster. A wife that refused to acknowledge the truth. About certain people that became victims. Others who lost their loved ones. And those who became determined to escape and to spread the truth. This story is terrible as well as incredibly fascinating. Gitta Sereny was a truly magnificent author that revealed man's inner core. The soul.

I felt so sick when reading this book that I sometimes had to put it away for a while.
Jennifer Barnes
It is really difficult to give this book five stars because its content is so repugnant and disturbing. A quote from a review by Elie Wiesel on the rear cover perfectly sums it up - "Most often one is sick to one's soul. Yes, that is the word that is needed ... one is gripped by a profound existential nausea." And I did feel sick to my stomach while reading much of this book - but it is important precisely because it serves as a most necessary reminder that each and every one of us is capable of ...more
In interviewing Franz Stangl, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the co-responsibility in the murder of 900,000 people while Kommandent of the Treblinka death camp, Gitta Sereny asked him about his signing a paper certifying that he was prepared to give up his religion. The paper signified that he was a believer in God but agreed to break his affiliation tho the (Catholic) Church. Stangl acknowledged that he was not a 'regular' church goer but always went on Easter and Christmas. He said ...more
John Woltjer
This book reminded me of Hannah Ahrendt's phrase about "the banality of evil." it is chilling to read the story of a man, in normal times just like any other average man, whose life leads him inexorably and incrementally into a situation in service of pure evil. it is also an example of how individuals can train their vision to ignore horrific events at their doorstep while practicing the little niceties and carrying out the routine tasks of a normal day. It is not hard to understand how this ca ...more
Steven Waters
After reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, I got into a bit of a WWII reading binge. First I read, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas and then I launched into The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. I read Into That Darkness contemporaneously with Shirer's book. I don't doubt that my reading of this book was colored by these other Summer readings.

Into That Darkness is written by Gitta Sereny who interviewed Franz Stangl (the commandant of Treblinka) while he was in prison. Stangl had e
If you have ever asked yourself "How did the people of Germany allow the holocaust to happen," this book explains a lot. I learned that many of the perpetrators like Stengl, the subject of this book, were average citizens who did not appear to be born with "devil horns." But the most enlightening lesson I gained from reading this is that anyone could find themselves in these circumstances and we will never know how we would react until we do find ourselves in such circumstances. And that violenc ...more
Franz Stangl was commandant at the Treblinka extermination camp during world war 2 and during his tenure he oversaw the murder of over 700,000 people. After the war, Stangl escaped justice for over a decade, though he made little effort to hide himself; he settled in Brazil with his family and never took an assumed name.

When Stangl was finally caught and brought to trial, he accepted no guilt, stubbornly insisting that he was just a man who had done his duty. The court convicted Stangl of war cr
Elliot Ratzman
Gitta Sereny, who recently died, was a writer who did extensive interviews with former Nazi officials. This is her classic account of the Commandant of the death camp Treblinka, Franz Stangl, who oversaw nearly a million deaths. Sereny wins his trust, and the portrait is fascinating. Not particularly anti-Semitic, not the cruelest SS officer around, the Austrian Stangl finds himself through sheer ambition and cowardice rising through the ranks, first in the Euthanasia program “T4”, then coordina ...more
John Kammeyer-mueller
The most fascinating account of a twisted conscience I've ever read. Gitta Sereny is an excellent interviewer, and her probing of the mental state of Sobibor and Treblinka commandant Franz Stangl is thorough and unflinching. If the book were simply a review of rationalizations for past horrific actions, it would be part of a story that's often been told. However, here we read commentary from direct conversation with Stangl, his very devoted wife, and several survivors that is unique. The extreme ...more
Naturalmente, nessuno sapeva che cosa volesse dire un ‘campo di sterminio’. Voglio dire, era al di là… non dico semplicemente dell’esperienza, ma dell’immaginazione, no?
Sono le parole di Franciszek Zabecki, capo movimento della stazione di Treblinka, nonché informatore della Resistenza polacca, in servizio per tutto il periodo di attività del campo di sterminio, che di nascosto, giornalmente, annotava il numero di convogli, di vagoni e di prigioni
The content is certainly compelling, but the structure of the book had me slogging through it at times. So much momentum is lost during her digressions on the role of the Catholic Church in helping SS war criminals escape to South America, that even though that is interesting and obviously important, I found myself itching to get back to Stangl's interviews. Maybe it should have been delineated more clearly? She kept things largely chronological, which was good, but the church stuff is so impers ...more
Patrick Belair
This was a very interesting look at Franz Stangl,Interviewed when serving life sentence for war crimes.Many think that 800.000 thousand to 1.2 million dead should have been death for him self ( I do not believe that Germany has the death sentence)Moving along it was interesting to read interviews with him and also Frau Stangl,about this time,Including Vatican involvement, and the fact that he never was hiding always in open .for all to see and find.A very complex man and very good book,consideri ...more
I sat in the bathtub for a good twenty minutes after I finished this just thinking. It's limited in scope - conversations with Stangl, the Kommandant of Treblinka, after his capture and shortly before his death - but nevertheless manages to go wide as well as deep. This is both a wonderful and terrible mediation on humanity, the slippage that leads from normality to atrocity, the hard truths and willing self-delusions of those participants.

I read Goldensohn's Nuremberg interviews and felt sicker
David Willem
This is one of the most significant books I have ever read. It is the biography of Franz Stangl, an intelligent family man and gifted administrator who became the Commandant of Treblinka. I don't think this is the right forum to talk about Treblinka, but the book is a superb example of journalism.

The first thing the author, Gitta Sereny, achieves is to gain Stangl's trust. (The book is based on seventy hours of interviews she did with him while he was in prison in Austria in 1971.) For me, jour
Tejas Janet
Gitta Sereny's book is a thoughtful, scrupulously researched look into the heart of darkness, providing a psychological portrait of Franz Stangl, a man responsible for managing the business of running various of Hitler's death "camps," as the Nazis perversely called their death factories, where the business of killing on a massive scale was carried out routinely with deliberate, carefully designed intent.

I struggled throughout with what time of day to read this material. Like better served over
Stacey PL
this is NOT a light or quick read. but this is the true story of Franz Stangl - commandant of one of the Nazi extermination camps during the Holocaust. it is based on extensive interviews with Franz, his family, "coworkers", survivors and those who guarded him during his own time in prison.

this provides insight into how one man changed/evolved from a "normal" man to a man responsible for the mass murdering of hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people. it is one man's descent down the slippery
A beautifully written and humane book, as much about Ms Sereny's reaction to meeting a man capable of such hideous crimes. It is a testement to Ms Sereny's humanity that she could meet a man (whose idea of humane treatment was to provide the women standing in line, going to their death with a single bcket to use when their terror overcame the control of their bowels) and still manage to find a human beneath this.

It is an utterly horrific book, but one which reminds us of how easily one can be se
Gitta Sereny brought to life a horrendous period of history in this account of her 70 hours of interviewing Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka. The author also explores the fact that the Pope and the Catholic Church had knowledge of the death camps and subsequently the lack of action. Though to be fair she does mention the numerous outcries of the Church and of other pastors throughout Europe. I hope to read her book Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth fairly soon. This is the kind of his ...more
A very interesting and thought-provoking study of Franz Stangl,who was the commander of two of Nazi Germany's four extermination camps. Based on extensive interviews with Stangle in the early 1970's, after he had been convicted of war crimes in Germany, this book considers the question of how a basically decent, average man, cooperates with and participates in evil.

Towards the end, Sereny missteps by spending time examining the question of whether the Vatican and the Pope were aware of the syste
Jun 28, 2007 Sara rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
I've read it ages ago but it still qualifies as one of the most fascinating books I've ever read.

Gitta Sereney writes about the conversations she had with Franz Stangl, commander of the extermination camp Treblinka, in the seventies when he was in prison in Duesseldorf, Germany.

Reading this book you can get close to understanding what went on in the mind of a mass murderer. The ability of the human psyche to twist facts and distort the truth in order to carry on with life is terrifying.

I admire
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the Holocaust. It is a unique look into the life and mind of one of the leaders of a Nazi death camp. Sereny makes the reader question not only the morality of the man interviewed, but also one's own sense of right and wrong. There is absolutely no doubt that the Holocaust was one of the most horrific and brutal events in our history, but this book takes a look at the steps that lead a seemingly normal man to become a mass murderer...a ...more
Alyssa Bellows
this book really makes you think about went on the minds of those who were in charge during the horror of the holocaust. this book looks at the complex character of Franz Stangl head of Treblinka extermination camp and what the method to his madness was. it includes interviews with those he worked with, his wife who stuck by his side and even from the few survivors of the camps that he worked at. this work has the reader on edge as whether or not one should sympathize with something of this natu ...more
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
Honesty in journalism as well as in life

The sudden impression I had when finishing reading this great book was how ridiculous fiction can be when compared to reality. I had never read a book yet where truth was seeked more honestly and more compulsively than here. Bravo for Ms Sereny. I could see the interviews in my head, as I was reading, just like one of those old -but good- BBC documentaries. We follow the life of this man who was the Commandant of one of the extermination camps, and under w
Quyen Hoang
Just an awesome book all over. Her writing is easy to read, her questions intelligent. She managed to strike the balance between emotion and reason, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know about the Holocaust and the life of an average Nazi officer (and yes there is one).
I read this book on the recommendation of Diana Athill[Stet:].
A very hard look into evil.

In 1973 the author interviewed Franz Stangl in prison.

Stangl was one of 4 Nazi extermination camp commandants carrying out Hitler's Final Solution.

Gives new meaning to the "banality" of evil.
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Gitta Sereny was a journalist, biographer and historian. She passed away in England aged 91, following a long illness.

Gitta attributed her fascination with evil to her own experiences of Nazism as a child of central Europe in the early 20th century. Hers was not a happy childhood. She was born in Vienna, the daughter of a beautiful Austrian actress, whom she later described as "without moral opin
More about Gitta Sereny...
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