This book is, as Primo Levi says in the introduction, filled with lies and shirks, but never the less, it is an extremely important document of The Fi...moreThis book is, as Primo Levi says in the introduction, filled with lies and shirks, but never the less, it is an extremely important document of The Final Solution, the extermination machine, Auschwitz, Birkenau, the bureaucracy, the corruption and the insanity that existed in the top ranks and among the SS in Auschwitz.
While Höss details his life from growing up until the end, he intersperses the story with very important details on how Auschwitz grew, how the sub-camps worked, he also writes about his family, mass exterminations, day-to-day activities, hardships, etc.
Remember: Höss joined the nazi party and the SS voluntarily. And he is considered by many to be the most cruel commandant of Auschwitz.
All in all, as Levi writes, Höss' prejudice and idiocies stick out like "flies in milk", but viewed with a critical eye, this is a must read for anybody who wants more insight into the horrors of The Final Solution.(less)
This is a recent translation of a book which is a statement of a homosexual man who was sent to the concentration camps during the Second World War, a...moreThis is a recent translation of a book which is a statement of a homosexual man who was sent to the concentration camps during the Second World War, as told to another person.
It is very well written, contains much information on the day-to-day life of "the men wearing pink triangles" - the pink triangle symbolising that the wearer is homosexual - in a concentration camp.
Being homosexual, they were considered as bad as Jews and Romani people, and even worse than the pedofiles and convicted criminals (not that being convicted during the nazi regime actually meant something).
All in all: naturally very upsetting, but not written as a scare tactic, but very upfront. The afterword is especially interesting, while Jonas Gardell's self-serving foreword is quite bad.(less)
This is a compact book. The contents seem effortlessly written, and read like watching water flowing. There's no hardship in reading this book, apart...moreThis is a compact book. The contents seem effortlessly written, and read like watching water flowing. There's no hardship in reading this book, apart from the contents; I won't go into details that may spoil this for you, but it's big, and I actually felt as though two books had finished by the time I was 11% into it.
The author's use of language is commendable, as it's easy to read and digest, while the characters and their inner thoughts are less palatable (to me, at least), but are so interesting, that I kept wanting more and more of the book. After half of it, interest waned, but picked up again after circa 70%.
I'll recommend this to all; it's a two-punch book, first for the use of language which I've seldom seen, and second, for the contents; the plot twists, turns, churns and is truly imaginative. Shan't say more. Go read.(less)
From the beginning of this book, two paragraphs spring to mind to not only contrast the mind of what I deem as the psychopathology behind major corpor...moreFrom the beginning of this book, two paragraphs spring to mind to not only contrast the mind of what I deem as the psychopathology behind major corporations, but what also separates murderous decisions from having to be the one at the end of the whip, so to speak:
Quickly, Cheim learned the method. Every day, transports of slave laborers were received. Prisoners were identified by descriptive Hollerith cards, each with columns and punched holes detailing nationality, date of birth, marital status, number of children, reason for incarceration, physical characteristics, and work skills. Sixteen coded categories of prisoners were listed in columns 3 and 4, depending upon the hole position: hole 3 signified homosexual, hole 9 for anti-social, hole 12 for Gypsy. Hole 8 designated a Jew. Printouts based on the cards listed the prisoners by personal code number as well.8 Column 34 was labeled "Reason for Departure." Code 2 simply meant transferred to another camp for continuing labor. Natural death was coded 3. Execution was coded 4. Suicide coded 5. The ominous code 6 designated "special handling," the term commonly understood as extermination, either in a gas chamber, by hanging, or by gunshot.
One December morning, even as the numbered man Cheim, in his tattered uniform, stepped quickly toward the Bergen-Belsen Hollerith office to stay warm and to stay alive, another man, this one dressed elegantly in a fine suit and warm overcoat, stepped out of a new chauffeured car at 590 Madison Avenue in New York. He was Thomas J. Watson. His company, IBM—one of the biggest in the world—custom-designed and leased the Hollerith card sorting system to the Third Reich for use at Bergen-Belsen and most of the other concentration camps. International Business Machines also serviced its machines almost monthly, and trained Nazi personnel to use the intricate systems. Duplicate copies of code books were kept in IBM's offices in case field books were lost. What's more, his company was the exclusive source for up to 1.5 billion punch cards the Reich required each year to run its machines.
Even though IBM still, to this day, negate their cooperating with the nazis, evidence stands clear. Thomas Watson received a medal from Hitler in 1937 and the war started in 1939, and despite this IBM still cooperated with the nazis. The pressure on Watson to return the medal didn't stand in the way of American IBM of controlling IBM in every part of Europe in every facet.
It was an irony of the war that IBM equipment was used to encode and decode for both sides of the conflict.
Indeed. Hitler and the Allies came to the same conclusion: they could not be without the machines that IBM owned, the ones that made all the automatic calculations work. All the counting of people, arms, gender, sexual preference, nationality, whether or not the person counted was a jew or not, one-half jew, one-fourth jew, one-sixteenth jew. The statistics collected was staggering and used by the Reich to fast-track The Final Solution.
IBM was in some ways bigger than the war. Both sides could not afford to proceed without the company's all-important technology. Hitler needed IBM. So did the Allies.
IBM was there every step of the way, and their personnel not only serviced the machines that made the punch-cards work, but the machines were leased - not sold - to the Reich, so that IBM could make as much money as possible. And traipsed along with IBM across Europe as the nazis exploded their boundaries and willen.
Fascism is good business, as the book says.
Watson and his international cohorts went to great lengths not only to help kill anybody to make a buck, but also to secure as many patents as possible to eliminate their competition likewise. And then, ultimately, tried to murder any trail that was left after their doings with Hitler as they realised the nazis were in fact going to lose the war. Of course, that was in the pipes from the start. IBM was, after all, a self-professed "solutions company".
The Final Solution.
Which is merely one - albeit the biggest cog, of sorts - of the many bits of the war and the book that exposes the far-reaching, blood-curdling operation that IBM ran, but chilling precision:
After nearly a decade of incremental solutions the Third Reich was ready to launch the last stage. In January 1942, a conference was held in Wannsee outside Berlin. This conference, supported by Reich statisticians and Hollerith experts, would outline the Final Solution of the Jewish problem in Europe. Once more, Holleriths would be used, but this time the Jews would not be sent away from their offices or congregated into ghettos. Germany was now ready for mass shooting pits, gas chambers, crematoria, and an ambitious Hollerith-driven program known as "extermination by labor" where Jews were systematically worked to death like spent matches. For the Jews of Europe, it was their final encounter with German automation.
And, as stated, there was The End of WWII:
In many instances, elaborate document trails in Europe were fabricated to demonstrate compliance when the opposite was true. Nonetheless, the true record would be permanently obscured. During the war years, IBM's own internal reviews conceded that correspondence about its European business primarily through its Geneva office was often faked. Dates were falsified. Revised contract provisions were proffered to hide the true facts. Misleading logs and chronologies were kept.
In the years that followed, IBM's worldwide stature became even more of a beacon to the cause of progress. It adopted a corporate motto: "The Solutions Company." Whatever the impossible task, IBM technology could find a solution. The men who headed up the IBM enterprise in Nazi Europe and America became revered giants within the corporation's global community. Chauncey became chairman of the IBM World Trade Corporation, and the European subsidiary managers were rewarded for their loyalty with top jobs. Their exploits during the Nazi era were lionized with amazing specificity in a promotional book entitled The History of Computing in Europe, published in 1967 by IBM itself. However, an internal IBM review decided to immediately withdraw the book from the market. It is no longer available in any publicly accessible library anywhere in the world.
More information also surfaced about IBM president Thomas J. Watson's involvement in Germany. A former IBM employee, now in New York State, discovered a pamphlet in his basement and sent me a copy. It was the commemorative program of a luncheon held in Watson's honor just before Watson received Hitler's medal during the 1937 Berlin International Chamber of Commerce festivities. The program includes a picture of Watson surrounded by grateful Hitler Youth, and the text of toasts by Nazi finance wizard Hjalmar Schacht appealing to Watson to help stop the anti-Nazi boycott.
All in all, this tome is extremely well-researched and well-written. I'm just waiting for a newer edition with even more information that's come up since 2003. And there's www.edwinblack.com.(less)
In one of the logs that I use to note and review books there are "tags". These tags are words and terms used to describe the book, e.g. "analysis", "p...moreIn one of the logs that I use to note and review books there are "tags". These tags are words and terms used to describe the book, e.g. "analysis", "philosophy" and "war". I've I have never attributed a book so many tags as I have used here, and I'm not exaggerating a single thing.
This book is about Michel de Montaigne, a sixteenth-century nobleman who wrote down his thoughts and ideas in ways that very few other people had done so far. This book provides a somewhat chronological walk through the life of Montaigne, while issuing 20 attempts to twist the question "How to live?" as seen through his ways and eyes, and while being fairly complex, it's extremely simple to read. And I think a huge portion of why it's so accessible and laudable, is because it's unique and understandable:
From page 293 in the book, where Bakewell describes how Marie de Gournay felt when she discovered Montaigne's "Essays":
Some time in her late teens, apparently by chance, she came across an edition of the Essays. The experience was so shattering that her mother thought she had gone mad: she was on the point of giving the girl hellebore, a traditional treatment for insanity - or so Gournay herself says, perhaps exaggerating for effect. Gournay felt she had found her other self in Montaigne, the one person with whom she had a true affinity, and the only one to understand her. It was the experience so many of his readers have had over the years:
How did he know all that about me? (Bernard Levin)
It seems he is my very self. (André Gide)
Here is a 'you' in which my 'I' is reflected; here is where all distance is abolished. (Stefan Zweig)
Time and time again, Montaigne struck me as quite marvellous, simply because of his reasoning; he maintained that everything should be experienced with fresh eyes no matter how many times it has been seen before. And also, he believed that everything should be questioned. Yes, everything, but with a purpose.
As Virginia Woolf was, according to Bakewell, prone to quote, this is a line from Montaigne's last essay:
Life should be an aim unto itself, a purpose unto itself.
In his writing about everything, his examinations of everything, people who read his gigantic work - which I have yet not read - seem to love and critique it, simply because Montaigne continually examined his own flaws, errors and problems - and he stirs, and quickly traipsing from one subject to another in his writing, by following a trail of thought - not because he's trying to be difficult, but rather because he is human; I believe he was truly trying to discover what being human was about, and I think that's why people love his writing, not to forget his fantastic, amazing and provoking reason. All of this is superbly put into historical context by Bakewell; when Montaigne questions that he could have been killed for, it's clear to see that he meant what he said and did (also, while being flawed enough to go against himself at times; what the hell, he was human and knew it).
Another quote from this book:
But Montaigne offers more than an incitement to self-indulgence. The twenty-first century has everything to gain from a Montaignean sense of life, and, in its most troubled moments so far, it has been sorely in need of a Montaignean politics. It could use his sense of moderation, his love of sociability and courtesy, his suspension of judgement, and his subtle understanding of the psychological mechanisms involved in confrontation and conflict. It needs his conviction that no vision of heaven, no imagined Apocalypse, and no perfectionist fantasy can ever outweigh the tiniest of selves in the real world. It is unthinkable to Montaigne that one could ever 'gratify heaven and nature by committing massacre and homicide, a belief universally embraced in all religions.' To believe that life could demand any such thing is to forget what day-to-day existence actually is. It entails forgetting that, when you look at a puppy held over a bucket of water, or even at a cat in the mood for play, you are looking at a creature that looks back at you. No abstract principles are involved; there are only two individuals, face to face, hoping for the best from one another.
Perhaps some of the credit for Montaigne's last answer should therefore go to his cat - a specific sixteenth-century individual, who had a rather pleasant life on a country estate with a doting master and not too much competition for his attention. She was the one who, by wanting to play with Montaigne at an inconvenient moment, reminded him what it was to be alive. They looked at each other, and, just for a moment, he leaped across the gap in order to see himself through her eyes. Out of that moment - and countless others like it - came his whole philosophy.
This book is radiant, a marvellous excursion for a Montaigne neophyte like myself, and I recommend this to everybody.(less)
Simple drawing, simple storytelling - in the same vein as the Beach Boys made their songs sound simple but were really complex and hard once you start...moreSimple drawing, simple storytelling - in the same vein as the Beach Boys made their songs sound simple but were really complex and hard once you started analysing them.
This is a layered, quite non-preachy story about choices in life and a view of the Boxers rebellion in the late 1800s, where religions clashed, and former friends could make for enemies.
A boy turns older and fights, while in the process discovering himself and the world around him. Duty vs personal responsibility clashes.
Excellent tome on The Final Solution, focusing (of course) on Auschwitz, the foremost concentration camp in The Third Reich, if one counts by the numb...moreExcellent tome on The Final Solution, focusing (of course) on Auschwitz, the foremost concentration camp in The Third Reich, if one counts by the number of dead. Rees has researched the subject for many years, and even facts from the 21st century are included here. Apart from the sheer chronological dealings, Rees exemplifies, factualises and explains everything in lay-person terms, going to great extent to bring out the humanity of it all, i.e. how humans are at their worst and best in a variety of ways, before, during and after WWII. A must-read, as a brilliant accommodation to the likewise brilliant BBC TV series.(less)