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The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them
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The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  538 ratings  ·  43 reviews
By the spring of 1945, the Second World War was drawing to a close in Europe. Allied troops were sweeping through Nazi Germany and discovering the atrocities of SS concentration camps. The first to be reached intact was Buchenwald, in central Germany. American soldiers struggled to make sense of the shocking scenes they witnessed inside. They asked a small group of former ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 19th 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 1946)
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4.22  · 
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 ·  538 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Probably the most insightful book about the structure of German Concentration Camps I have read. It came highly recommended by the tour guide I had, when I visited Sachsenhausen - even though the book is about Buchenwald.
Some parts were difficult to read and it was quite emotional, but he gave such a matter-of-fact account of his time in the camp it made his book more than just a personal account of life inside the camp.
The chapters on 'the psychology of...' gave great insight into reasons behin
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: history
My father-in-law gave me this frightening book as a gift. To read it is to walk into the ultimate nightmare of mankind's inhumanity to man. Given in excruciating detail are the tortures, "medical" experiments, starvations, sickness, beatings & horrendous murders that made up the daily lives of the victims of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Eugene Kogon did not set out to write a sensationalist account in order to shock and inspire pity. He only wanted to tell what he experienced and exactl
Sep 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in history
Recommended to William by: My father
I was an eighth grader when I read this book. It scared me then, as well as now. Then, when I was a Sophomore, it was required by my English class to read "Night" by Elie Wiesel. While sad, it could not equal how disturbing "The Theory and Practice of Hell" had. It was so dispassionate, so cold, so matter-of-fact that it made Wiesel's experience seem like nothing.
After we read "Night" the class, each student individually, entered a writing contest about the Holocaust. All of my fellow students,
Matt Glaviano
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, histories
I found this book lying around after finishing In the Garden of Beasts, and thought that there was no time like the present to read it.

What was my motivation for reading a graphically detailed text about the mentality behind, and the day-to-day life in German concentration camps? There seem to be two groups – those who read it out of a sense of moral responsibility, and those who read it for, as the back cover puts it, “gruesome fascination.” I don’t think I quite fall into either camp. Maybe,
Kogon's book is a clear analysis of his experiences at Buchenwald, detailing the lives of prisoners and SS soldiers, the psychology of the incarcerated and the incarcerator and the attempts at survival made possible by a certain unity between the victims. It gives numbers, dates, stats, but it also gives you the personal judgement of Kogon, who was a prisoner himself for six years. It is written with a steady hand, whilst never forgetting that it discusses a shaky subject. Definitely worth the r ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, holocaust, memoir
An excellent first-person account (as well as third person analysis!)of the process of dehumanization and murder put into mass production in the Third Reich. All the reasons WWII should have been fought are here, as well as, all the reasons people ought to just give it up (war, exclusionism, and genocide)and get a life instead of thinking they can blink away an entire culture they disagree with. This book by Kogon, and Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search For Meaning, are of the same nature.
Human d
Trae Johnson
Jan 01, 2012 rated it liked it
I bought this book a long time ago. I decided to read it over the summer. Not sure why? The whole thing was pretty gruesome, not for the faint of heart. The most interesting thing about the book, and something worth returning back to, is the psychology and characteristics of the SS. A brutal bunch, yes, but also a brutish bunch.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Sicherlich wurden viele Bücher über den Holocaust und die grausamen Zustände in den Konzentrationslagern geschrieben die doppelt so lang wie dieses Buch sind und gefüllt mit Zahlen und Fakten in einer fast schon steril wissenschaftlichen Art. Aber einen intimeren und den Geschehnissen näheren Bericht wird man so wohl kaum noch einmal finden, was wohl auch der traurigen und ernüchternden Tatsache zuzuschreiben ist das der Autor selbst seit 1939 im KZ Buchenwald inhaftiert war.
Inhaltlich ist der
Translated from the German by Heinz Norman.

Opening: Late in the fall of 1937, in Frankfurt, Í had occasion for an extended discussion with a leading SS man from Vogelsang Castle - a discussion that continued over several afternoons.

Lots of pencil underlinings and margin comments in my copy.

autumn 2012

The translation leaves things amibiguous at many a crucial moment [insert the early Heydrik motto as example]. That aside, this is a straight-forward guide to which dept was which
Mar 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
What makes this book unique in the literature of the Holocaust is it's proximity in time to the actual events. When the US Army liberated Buchenwald in 1945, they asked a group of surviving inmates to draft a report for the military about what had happened in the camp. Eugene Kogon (a political prisoner since 1939) led the effort, and this is the result. It is written in the tone of a coroner's report dissecting the remains of a murder victim. It is one of the most horrifying books I have ever r ...more
Jul 20, 2014 rated it liked it
This was not one of the better books about the holocaust. I found it difficult to follow. I knew this wasn't going to be a survivor story, and I thought I would really like it, but I didn't. The author talks about the nazis and their system of the camps. I had a hard time understanding some parts and some parts had way too much politics (which I have no interest in).
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Often horrifying history of the holocaust that charts the rise of Heinrich Himmler and the SA/SS, and focuses on the Buchenwald camp. The title is a fair indication that the book is not for the faint of heart.
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An intimate telling of the operations and inter workings of German concentration camps written by a political prisoner that survived five and a half years at Buchenwald. A must read for anyone interested in WW2 and Holocaust history.
Mike Janes
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Chillingly matter-of-fact. Not for the feint of heart.
Les Wolf
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Eugene Kogan wrote one of the most internationally acclaimed accounts of life in the Nazi concentration camps which was a best-seller in a time when sensational accounts proliferated.
What the Gestapo and the SS termed "protective custody" was really nothing more than a living Hell of daily degradation, deprivation and grueling slave labor accompanied with regular beatings, whippings and other forms of torture. This book offers the glimpse of a life that is difficult to reconcile with our underst
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dieses Buch hab ich meinem Papa vorgelesen, da er selbst nach einem Koma nicht mehr richtig sehen kann. Er interessierte sich schon immer für alle Kriege, vorallem natürlich die, die auch in Deutschland statt fanden.

Er meinte das Buch wäre wirklich sehr detailliert geschrieben, aber man bräuchte an manchen Stellen Vorkenntnisse dieser Zeit, weil doch viele Namen darin vorkommen.
Ich für meinen Teil fand es erschreckend zu lesen wie leicht und einfach man zu dieser Zeit wirklich mit dem Verlust vo
Lord Zion
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an evidence gathering report that was submitted by Eugen Kogon after the war and, as such, is quite dry. Lacking the more human element of other books on the subject made it, for me, less involving.

As you would expect, each section of the book is laid out like a report, extensively covering an aspect of camp life. A lot of them are anecdotal and some speculative. Some have since been acknowledged as inaccurate.

It is a good read, but I did not learn anything new and found it much less rel
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This was an excellent book as the author speaks from experience. This book gives you an insight into how evil the camps were and the depths at which human beings treated one another. Great lessons from history to be taught.
Joseph Dean
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and horrific but a must read lest we forget.
Carl Macki
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was the most significant book about WWII when I was eight or nine.
Katherine Addison
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
One of the arguments used by the deniers of the Holocaust, whether those who claim it didn't happen at all or those who hold the less radical but really no less peculiar position that Hitler was innocent of it, is the lack of a written order. In making this argument, they are using a logical fallacy, the one that is most trenchantly rebutted by the maxim Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. More specifically, though, they are, willfully or ignorantly, failing to understand a fundament ...more
May 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of genocide, German historians, political activists
Recommended to Michael by: serendipity
This was one of the first books to try to explain the Holocaust as a total event to a mass audience, and it was appropriately written by a survivor, who had gone on to research the facts of the system he had suffered under. For a modern audience, there isn't a lot new here, and more recent research has corrected a lot of the data given, but there is a certain power in reading the words of someone who actually experienced the caps, so it remains in print and can be useful as a teaching tool.

Oct 09, 2011 rated it liked it
its gonna be a very sloooow reader...the book was excellant. The Author gave real, honest insight on what goes on in a concentration camp, the complex system of one, not only with the SS but between the inmates as well. i only gave it a 3 star, becuz for me it was a very hard read at times. Yes, we think of those men, woman, children stuck in these camps, we feel for them. But we never really give much thought to them "after" they are liberated. to be thrown back into a 'normal" society, in many ...more
Elissa Lawrence
It feels wrong to give this book a star rating, considering its subject. A good broad overview of the inner workings of a concentration camp from a survivor. Because the breadth of the subject is so large, this book would best serve as a compliment to other literature on the subject, perhaps volumes discussing the politics involved throughout this time period or biographies of the major players in the SS that Kogon briefly mentions. Overall, an interesting account for the basics on Buchenwald.
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a very insightful book that is sometimes difficult to read. The details of the Nazi system around the concentration camps make this a must read. There are some parts that are just plain tough to read concerning the life of a prisoner and the SS disregard for anything that was right. The psychology of the prisoners, SS and Germany helped to understand to some degree how this all happened.
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
A very informative study published in 1946 by a German political prisoner about the inner workings of the Third Reich at the time of liberation. I thought I knew the story of the Holocaust but this book tells it all in horrifying detail. I actually can't believe I finished it. It's chilling just how evil man can be.
Kin Guan
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
A personal account of Buchenwald concentration camp by Dr Eugen Kogon. He managed to deliver what he had experienced in the camp to the readers, the terrifying facts of the lives of SS and the prisoners. Worth a read if you are interested in catching a glimpse into the inhumane life in Germany Concentration Camp.
Angelo Vassallo
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It took a little bit of time to finish this book, due to the difficult language used. It gives you a deep look at the system of the concentration camps and all the tragedies related. I found especially interesting the last part of the book speaking about the psychology of the SS soldiers, the one of the prisoners and the one of the German people.
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Clear and insightful account of Buchenwald, told by a former longtime inmate. For readers familiar with the subject, the broader assessments weren't new, but I found this to be one of the most detailed and well-structured accounts of a camp as a whole that I've read. Very matt-of-fact and systematic, with specific anecdotes to illustrate day-to-day life.
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I bought this one when I was stationed in (the old) West Germany. I wanted to understand how the Holocaust was carried out after visiting Dachau. This book painted a clear picture of a technologically advanced nation putting its knowledge to work in the service of evil. I loaned the book out and never asked for it back because it was so disturbing. Still is.
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Eugen Kogon (February 2, 1903 – December 24, 1987) was a historian and a survivor of the Holocaust. A well-known Christian opponent of the Nazi Party, he was arrested more than once and spent six years at Buchenwald concentration camp. Kogon was known in Germany as a journalist, sociologist, political scientist, author, and politician. He was considered one of the "intellectual fathers" of the Fed ...more