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The Druggist of Auschwitz: A Documentary Novel

3.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  325 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
Dieter Schlesak’s haunting novel The Druggist of Auschwitz—beautifully translated from the German by John Hargraves—is a frighteningly vivid portrayal of the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of criminal and victim alike.

Adam, known as “the last Jew of Schäßburg,” recounts with disturbing clarity his imprisonment at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. Through Adam’
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2006)
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The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThe Lucky One by Nicholas SparksVoluntary Madness by Norah VincentThe Druggist of Auschwitz by Dieter SchlesakAsh by Malinda Lo
52 in 52 (2012)
4th out of 11 books — 2 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankNight by Elie WieselThe Hiding Place by Corrie ten BoomI Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-JacksonThe Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
The Holocaust - Fiction and Non
51st out of 154 books — 48 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 930)
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Tara Lynn
Mar 27, 2012 Tara Lynn rated it really liked it
I'm not sure how to rate this. Do I rate it based on how much I learned, or by how much I was disgusted or disturbed? I think that any historical account will have a disturbing factor, a tenable acceptance of things we have not lived, because we haven't experienced them with all of our senses. There is no way to fully experience the smell of fear, or the sight of desperate people through words on a page.

Today, as we become fully sanitized to the "torture porn" landscape, we can ignore even the
Liz B
May 22, 2011 Liz B rated it it was amazing
It's one of the things I love most about the kindle (or e-books in general, I suppose). I heard this reviewed on NPR, then went home, bought it, and read it over the weekend.

I have read a lot of fiction and nonfiction about the Holocaust and its aftermath; I find this book indescribable. As I suppose it should be, given its subject. It feels strange to give it five stars. Reading it was a disturbing and horrifying and powerful experience. I think that perhaps what made it so horrifying was its c
Laurie Garcia
Dec 19, 2011 Laurie Garcia rated it really liked it
"The Druggist of Auschwitz" is the true story of Dr. Victor Capesius who was in charge of the pharmacy in Auschwitz told through the eyes of eye witnesses and prisoners at the camp using actual trial records and testimonies. The books covers a wide spectrum of topics dealing with life in the camp including selections, the gassing and shooting of victims, experimentation, musselmen, the camp brothel, and resistance. The testimonies of the eye witnesses at the trial are absouletly horrifying, hear ...more
Apr 24, 2012 Lauraleigh rated it it was amazing
I have always had a deep yearning to learn anything I could about WWII since I found out my great Grandfather fought in it. When I found Elie Wiesel's infamous "Night" my senior year of high school, all literature pertaining to the Jewish experience during the war became a quiet fixation. Being a privileged child growing up in the Southeastern US, it was hard to fathom that such monstrosities happened and that my fellow human beings were a part of it all. Reading this book has opened up a new pe ...more
Nov 15, 2011 Shannon rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this because I'd heard it recommended on a TAL podcast or something similar. After reading it, I feel bad saying that a book about the Holocaust was boring, but this one kind of was. Half of it centered around the incrimination of Dr. C as a horrible person; although, personally I didn't need much more than the fact that he was present for the Nazis at Auschwitz to convince me. Still, I trudged through over 100 pages of trial notes and testimony, not all of which seemed entirely relevant. ...more
Apr 30, 2014 Thaíssa rated it really liked it
I've just finished reading this book. To me it was a difficult experience. We all know what happened at World War II, but the descriptions in this book and some of the information shocked me and disgusted me. There were times I couldn't stop thinking about it and cry and ask myself if people who did all that were really human. But at the same time, I have learned so much reading it! All the information, the testimonies, the excerpts of documents and letters. It was somehow very enlightening.
Alexandria Orlando
Dec 15, 2014 Alexandria Orlando rated it really liked it
A Mature, Moving Novel

The Druggist of Auschwitz:A Documentary Novel, is a mature read, despite the fact that some of it is fiction. While I did enjoy the book as a whole and the knowledge I received from it, I would not recommend it to young children. With that said; I came upon this book by accident, as I browsed through the shelves at my local library. I was curious and excited (I'm a little geeky) and couldn't wait to start reading. However, when I first started reading it and flipping throug
Dec 03, 2015 Alli rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This book is absolutely fantastic...until it isn't. The first 1/3 is riveting, giving accounts of Auschwitz that I've never heard before from multiple viewpoints. A compelling mixture of narrative and interview transcripts. Then..something happens. It becomes a tangled and garbled he said she said walk down memory lane with a fake character. The first 1/3 of this book is my favorite written account of the topic, and I'd like to pretend the rest of it doesn't exist. I had a hard time distinguishi ...more
Jun 26, 2011 Daniel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no-one
Recommended to Daniel by: wife
It could have been said with less words, hard to follow, not worth your time, it is not a documentary novel, more fiction than fact
Apr 05, 2014 Leen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Ik begon dit boek met verkeerde verwachtingen: ik dacht dat we een aaneensluitend verhaal zouden krijgen, het is tenslotte een roman. In plaats daarvan is het hele boek een rommeltje: een aaneenschakeling van letterlijke stukken die uit de getuigenissen tijdens de Auschwitzprocessen zijn getrokken, met het persoonlijke interview van de schrijver met een voormalig bewaker in het kamp, met notities van de apotheker zelf, met tot slot fragmenten uit de dagboekrolletjes die een gevangene met gevaar ...more
Rena Sherwood
Feb 01, 2015 Rena Sherwood rated it it was ok
Something DEFINITELY got lost in translation!

This is an extremely difficult book to read -- not just because of the horrific subject matter, but in it's presentation. Most of the time, you have no idea who is talking or how these people are related. At times it's very repetitive. I'm not entirely sure why this is listed a fiction, considering that most of the text is lifted straight from the Auschwitz Trial transcripts or from interviews. It would have been better as a straight non-fiction book.
Jack Feighery
Sep 24, 2014 Jack Feighery rated it really liked it
This book is important because it is one of many works that keeps the soul-chilling events of the Holocaust from fading away in the apathy of time. In The Druggist of Auschwitz, Schlesak constructed a unique genre combining about 90% nonfiction from various trials, records, and personal interviews and 10% fiction from the viewpoint of a prisoner named Adam. Though the Adam's story was brief and sometimes interesting (and sometimes not), the strongest element of this book was by far the nonfictio ...more
Martha Toll
This devastating book is almost unbearable to read, but worth it! Here's my review.

If only The Druggist of Auschwitz were fiction. The book’s sole imaginary character, however, is the narrator, Adam Salmen. Said to be the “last Jew of Schässburg,” (now Sigişoara, Romania), Adam’s occasional commentary coils through ghastly fact.

The core of the book is Dieter Schlesak’s arrangement of witness testimony and historical research about the 1963-1965 Frankfurt A
"A human being, like a dog, can get used to anything!"

So says Adam Salmen, a fictional narrator in Dieter Schlesak's The Druggist of Auschwitz: A Documentary Novel . But what Salmen and others imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II got "used to" is staggering, so much so that it continues to shock the world decades later. Children grabbed by their legs and smashed into walls. Infants catapulted alive into trenches in which dozens of corpses have been set afire. Mussu
Nov 15, 2015 J rated it it was ok

I decided not to finish this book, though I did read the first 200 pages or so.

It's not that I can't handle hearing about the Holocaust. In fact, this book was a successful read for me in that it prompted me to look up more about Victor Capesius, the true-life "druggist" at Auschwitz.

Bottom line, it's gruesome to realize that a man trained to prepare and dispense medications instead took charge of storing and dispensing the Zyklon B gas that
Stephanie Wittmer
Oct 02, 2014 Stephanie Wittmer rated it really liked it
A too real and terrifying account of survivors's written documentation of living and surviving Auschwitz death camp. Lots of German and German phrases but really one gets the overall image of what is going on.
Disturbing yet so much an important piece of our history that we should never forget. Really if you look around, someone you know had relatives, friends, business partners etc who know of someone lost to this genocide.
Problem is it could easily happen again... let us never forget.
Sep 21, 2015 Jessica rated it it was ok
I tried really hard to get "into" this book. The book was confusing, as sometimes the same thing was explained by different people, but you don't know who is talking. I also didn't like that it goes back and forth between fiction and non-fiction. I got to about page 98, and just want make myself keep reading it. There are horrific details about the gassing and murdering, but all in a very "dry" tone. The book seems to be naming one fact after another, rather than telling a story.
Aug 08, 2011 Doug rated it really liked it
It is really difficult for me to review this book. It is called a documentary novel but there was really not much fiction here. Actual court documents and interview transcripts are interspersed with the author's interpretation of what various people would have said based on his interviews of those involved on both sides and his study of relevant documents. The absolute horror of Ausscwitz is there but this book has convinced me tat I will never be able to come close to understanding it. At one p ...more
Jul 16, 2012 Brent rated it it was ok
Leaving books unfinished sets off a unique turmoil in my soul but alas, sometimes it is of necessity. For this book, it is almost exclusively written from testimonials during the Nuremberg trials. Keeping straight who is who is a challenge that becomes tedious and tiring (my second review with this flavor, wtf?). There are some heart-felt and tear jerking anecdotes interspersed throughout that threatened my emotions but after 200 pages I am sick of trying to figure who is testifying and their re ...more
Jul 10, 2011 Angela rated it it was ok
Another book reviewing the atrocities in Auschwitz. I did not find real human connection here as the majority of the book was excerpts from the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial in 1963-1965. It was interesting to see how some of the "criminals" tried to hide/change their identity after the war, while others lived openly under their real names as if they had nothing to hide, and the really interesting part was that some of them felt they had done nothing wrong !!! They said they were following orders on ...more
Jen MP
Jan 29, 2014 Jen MP rated it liked it
It was a good book. I didn't particularly like the 'fiction' mixed in with the documentary part - I thought I would but in the end it just didn't work for me. The book comes off as quite wordy at times. I know a lot of it is testimony, but some of it was unnecessary. The focal point was lost at times, I found. It was still a quite moving book and it truly showed the horrific side of the Holocaust, but I just think I would have liked it more if it was a straight documentary novel.
I added this to the This Reminds Me shelf because the Druggist and his scientific background reminds me of the jeweler/gemologist in All the Light We Cannot See. I'm also very intrigued by the research that went into this book, and I wonder about the research that went into All the Light We Cannot See as well.
Sep 12, 2014 Terra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think it's ever taken me so long to read a book I enjoyed in my entire life. So many times I had to put the book down to cry or even to stop reading because the book felt heavy on my soul. Masterfully creative with the fictional voice of Adam and the true pieces of courtroom testimonies and real life interviews, this book portrays a piece of Auschwitz like never heard before.
May 19, 2015 Eileen rated it it was ok
very difficult to read, in that it is very disjointed, it switches from one viewpoint to another and is at times very dry and boring. if you're going to write a memoir, do so. if you are going to write fiction, likewise. but don't try to mix the two together
I didn't finish it but I'm calling it done. The first half was fairly engaging and horrific, if a thing can be both. I think the concept of a 'documentary novel' is good but apparently hard to pull off. The fictional narrator Adam sometimes had rants that were hard to follow although if you were trying to describe a horror so unimaginable I would probably start ranting too. Some of the actual testimony was rambling and could have been left out.

I did learn a few things about how the Germansand go
Ari Pepper
Mar 09, 2012 Ari Pepper rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, horror, painful
This was a horribly disturbing and moving book about the reality of life in Auschwitz. While the author did take some liberties by adding in the fictional character of "Adam", I think it added more depth. The main content of the book is excerpts of the Auschwitz trial, focusing on the prosecution of Dr.Capesius (for whom the book is named) and interview with other SS officials. The banality of how the subjects speak of the things they saw, coupled with vivid and detailed descriptions of every da ...more
Jun 27, 2011 Kris rated it it was ok
This book was based on the transcripts of the Frankfurt Aushwitz trial for the pharmacist Victor Capeisus and others who acted as both guards and "doctors". Interspersed throughout the transcript is the fictional diary of Adam...known as the last Jew of Schaburg. It was interesting but I got bogged down with the transcript. I had a hard time following who the witnesses were but I was astonished at the lack of any feelings of guilt that the accused had. They were unrepentant in every way, still i ...more
Carolyn Gerk
Jan 17, 2013 Carolyn Gerk rated it it was ok
I would have liked to give this book two and a half stars, but, alas, Goodreads does not allow half stars.
This novel is a combination of fictional prose and true testimony of holocaust survivors and perpetrators. While it has proven to be, at times, gripping and heartbreaking, The Druggist was awfully slow moving, plodding along, bogged down by details of testimonies. This novel has moments that got under my skin, horrifying depictions of the tortures and murders at Auschwitz, moments of hope (
May 11, 2015 Rjj rated it liked it
I learned a lot from this book. That said, it was all over the place. It seemed like the author wasn't sure what genre he wanted to write in or what specifically he wanted to write about.
Kari Wright
Feb 11, 2014 Kari Wright rated it liked it
I couldn't finish this book. Very interesting, but was difficult to follow. Jumping between the trials and the stories.
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Dieter Schlesak is a German-Romanian poet, novelist, and essayist. He is the author of The Druggist of Auschwitz and is a member of the German PEN Center and the PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad, and has received scholarships and awards from numerous organizations, including the Schiller Foundation and the University of Bucharest. Schlesak was born in Transylvania in 1934 and has lived ...more
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