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One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  68 reviews
A powerful exploration of the evolution of a harrowing phenomenon that forever changed the landscape of conflict in the twentieth century: the concentration and work camps

Concentration camps--the preemptive communal detention of innocent civilians--first took foothold in Cuba in the late 1800s when Spain's Captain General Valeriano Weyler drove a half million Cuban refugee
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
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Susan Csoke
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
{Both my father and grandfather were detained in concentration camps during the holocaust in Hungary.} One Long Night is an excellent book of documentation of concentration camps, includes a section of interesting photos. Thank you Goodreads for this free book!!!!!
Claire Westenhaver-Loretz
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well-researched, brilliant, and soul crushing. I appreciate the author made no attempt to sugar coat history yet begs the reader to pay attention to acts past and present. Everyone should read this book.
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
The protection and support we get from our civilization is tissue thin. With the right set of circumstances, a concentration camp is waiting for us all. Horrifying.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Adam by: author interview on Corey Pein's podcast
Shelves: history, far-corners
The lesson that was taught and taught again but not learned in the postwar era of concentration camps was that emergency laws in combination with demonization of military or political opposition led to a downward spiral and systemic atrocity. Moreover, when these counterinsurgency tactics appeared to succeed, they tended to deliver only temporary victory and in fact exacerbated the larger crises that initially triggered the conflict.

A survey of concentration camps interspersed with the stories o
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I would like to start with a few quotes which capture what Pitzer is trying to get across:

"Honorable people can do terrible things" (p. 403).
"The use of concentration camps changes the world, but going forward, the most predictable outcome of their use is a world with more camps" (p. 400).
"Even isolated from the world, covered up, and left behind, all the camps for more than a century were filled with bodies: bodies that failed the detainees, bodies that saved them, bodies that hounded them"
Tess Huelskamp
CW: Concentration camps

One Long Night follows survivors' first hand experience through concentration camps from the mid 1800's through 2017. This book was /highly/ educational as, prior to reading this book, I had only known about the holocaust. I found it particularly interesting to learn how the intensity of concentration camps worsened over time.

I'd recommend both taking breaks after reading chapters of this book and interleaving reading another, happier book with this one. The horror documen
Rachel Rideout
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I would recommend that everyone read this book, as the author doesn’t shy away from the grim details of life in the concentration camps. It is very well written and I learned so much new information.
Joe Kessler
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
When we think or talk about concentration camps, we often and understandably limit our focus to the atrocities of Nazi Germany, which cannot be overstated. Yet that program did not arise in a vacuum, and in this book, author Andrea Pitzer traces the concept of mass civilian detention from its modern origin in 1896 Cuba over the course of the next century and beyond. As she documents in heartrending detail, nearly every major country on earth has at one point or another engaged in the practice, w ...more
Dylan Bateman
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The last moment in time when no concentration camps existed was more than a century ago; that moment seems unlikely to come again." This history is as important now as it ever was.
Christina Zable
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is an engrossing and important book. Journalist Andrea Pitzer has written a story of concentration camps from their origins at the very end of the 19th century through the beginnings of the 21st. Only the Nazis had technological death factories bent on genocide, but extrajudicial mass detention of civilians in the modern sense started in Cuba shortly before the Spanish-American war and was indeed one of the justifications for it -- the sinking of the Maine was the spark but the horrors of t ...more
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, almost encyclopedic account of the horrifyingly banal use of concentration camps over the last century. The writing is unsparing, the content deeply disturbing (in a wonderful wake the f*ck up kind of way - the Holocaust was unspeakably awful but far from singular in its use of camps as a tool of torture; the legacy of government “emergencies” to “justify” the use of camps lives on around the globe today. Looking at you, xinjiang, gitmo, Burma...)
Liya Djamilova
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very depressing, as one could expect. However, if one is interested in the subject, it is great. A lot of things i had no idea about.
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A detailed, lengthy, and yet eminently accessible story of the 100+ year experiment in concentration camps and detention facilities outside of formal judicial structures. Pitzer shows how the camps set up by the Spanish in Cuba inspired the Germans in their colonial possessions in West Africa, and how gruesome approaches to interrogations and torture were borrowed among erstwhile enemies in the fascist and communist blocs. The chapter-by-chapter approach hopscotches from country to country and f ...more
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A moving and disturbing book. The events chronicled in this narrative are probably familiar to anyone who follows history or the news, but Pitzer manages to connect the history of concentration camps into one coherent thread, using personal testimonies from camp survivors and historical accounts and new interviews, all bringing the focus down to the human impact, while at the same time showing the reasons that governments and regimes shared for detaining people who have been convicted of no crim ...more
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
The history of concentration camps starts in Cuba and ends in Ciuba . A concise history of all the camps that used from all over the world .i am glad it was any longer though. Germany Asia the Gulags in Russia the camps of ours for Japanese and more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Right. So. Humans... you know we suck, right? In what would be a genius move in chess, risk or stratego, the concentration camp was born. It seriously was a genius move. Not a good move, not a humane move, not even a particularly well thought out move, but it decisively fixed the military problem at hand. You see in the 1880s in Cuba the natives wanted independence and the Spanish were not keen on this idea. The Spanish had better weapons and more soldiers but the Cubans knew the lay of the land ...more
Scott Martin
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it
(Audiobook) This book attempts to define the history of the concentration camp, mixing together academic facts any eyewitness accounts. While most people, when they hear the word “concentration camp” will immediately think of Germany and World War II, Pitzer lets the reader know that there is much more to the concept. For her, the concentration camp started in Cuba in the late 1890s, when Spanish military commanders, attempting to subdue Cuban revolutionaries, created locations for the housing o ...more
Jack Durish
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Are concentration camps a necessary evil or are they simply places where acts of evil must always occur? I once thought I knew the answer; however, after reading One Long Night, author Andrea Pitzer’s global history of concentration camps, I’m not so sure.

If anyone had asked me to guess at the earliest examples of concentration camps, I might have mentioned the reservations used to remove Native Americans from valuable lands that we coveted. Or, I might have mentioned American plantations where
Dec 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: hist, auth-female
One Long Night takes on a very heavy topic and is well-researched. However, it seems very uneven. With some chapters focused on one country, others one specific system, and others on entire regions.
Chapter 1: The book first starts with the Spanish-American War and looks at the internment camps in Cuba and the Philippines. This section I feel was mostly directed at the bloodthirstiness of the generals who led the war.
Chapter 2: Next was South Africa, divided into the British camps from the Boer
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I really enjoyed the work, I was less than fully sold on Pitzer's argument. Clearly she views the concept of concentration camp as a fairly modern (dare I even say progressive) development that society should continue to attempt to stamp out. She grants that the infamous Andersonville prison camp serves as precursor of what was to come. And I think her bracketing the century with Cuba at the beginning and Guantanamo at the end is somewhat artful. The question I end up with is parallel to P ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Andrea Pitzer provides a necessary history of the world’s concentration camps. These recent inventions (she argues beginning during in Cuba prior to the Spanish-American War) are camps where civilians are separated from the rest of society without due process and where those held lack most freedoms. It is important to read about acts of dehumanization in both our past and present in order to right errors now and hopefully prevent/limit future atrocities. This book is paced well and its mostly ch ...more
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was lured into reading this when the author was a guest expert on a podcast I listen to. I checked out the book and then renewed it twice before I even TRIED to read it, because who wants to read a 400 plus page book that’s so serious?!? ME!!! When I finally sat down and opened it, I was blown away. The first 100 pages are the most interesting, because it starts right around 1900 in Cuba, so it’s not ancient history at all. In the next 10 years, 4 empires made concentration camps with disastro ...more
Glenn Robinson
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fairly impressive history of large camps from the late 1800's to present day that describes the why, the how, the what and the who of each camp and how these influenced others. Starting with Spanish attempts to win the hearts and minds of Cuba and the Philippines and ending with Myanmar and Gitmo, the camps have long been the stain on all modern nations. This was a hard read as it rubs the emotions raw with the abuse of millions worldwide-Africans abused by the English and the Germans; Germans a ...more
Jeremy Gerbrandt
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Getting through this book can be difficult at times. Not because of the way it's written, it's a beautiful piece of writing. The difficulty comes through in learning about the failures of humanity that we call concentration camps. The use of broad facts and governmental policies combined with the personal stories of prisoners who lived through these atrocities and were affected by these facts and policies make this an especially powerful book. Even the stories of the prisoners who had it good en ...more
Marco Hokke
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Pitzer chronicles the emergence of the concentration camp through wars of the last 120 years, detailing their first appearance in Cuba and their slowly evolving purpose and general acceptance as a means of warfare. She writes on wars I had never heard of, and how camps were used by the Spanish, Americans, British and Germans even before the First World War. In the 20th century, concentration camps have been in use on every continent, killing and hurting millions of mostly innocent and vulnerable ...more
Matthew Rohn
Jul 09, 2019 rated it liked it
While this book provides a good survey of concentration camps since their inception in Cuba in the late nineteenth century it suffers from two faults. Firstly, framing each episode through the personal stories of prisoners ends up distracting from the systemetized nature of different countries' camps, why they existed, how they functioned and were thought of, in favor of the experience of prisoners inside who were, almost definitionally by the fact that they survived and produced extensive writt ...more
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A strong book that is, of course, a hard read but from which I learned an enormous amount. Four instead of five stars because I think it suffers from a perhaps un-solvable definitional problem: what exactly separates a camp system from a prison system? "Civilians indefinitely interred without trial" are Pitzer's main criteria, and sometimes systems very clearly fit them, but at various times she breaks all of these boundaries, discussing people who aren't civilians and who aren't interred indefi ...more
Caroline Hirko
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really depressing- as the subject matter might allude to. I'm glad I had it on audiobook so I could listen to it in spurts. The chapters on the Gulags and Nazi concentration camps are of course really harrowing, but I also learned more about concentration camps in Cuba, the Phillippines, South Africa, China, North Korea, and of course Guantanamo. Warning: some of the passages are incredibly disturbing (literally the most gruesome torture and rape of human beings) but I think it is worthwhile to ...more
Overall Pitzer's One Long Night offers readers a well researched yet succinct history of concentration camps, spanning from Spanish camps operated in Cuba during the 19th century to the "modern" camps of Guantanamo Bay, North Korea, and Myanmar. This book provides readers with an introductory overview of the different types of camps that have existed throughout history: military camps, internment camps, camps for political prisoners, death camps, etc. I especially liked how Pitzer intertwines bi ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great and unfortunately timely book about a persistent evil. The author gives brief summaries of the proliferation and development of camps over time, interwoven with moving accounts of those who suffered there. I know a lot about the Holocaust & the Gulag - but it was fascinating (in a grim way) to read about places I knew less of, like Cuba and Kenya.

“As Justice Antonin Scalia said of Japanese American internment, “You are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.”
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My writing has appeared many places in print and online, from Slate, Vox, and USA Today to Longreads, McSweeney's and Lapham's Quarterly. I founded Nieman Storyboard, the narrative nonfiction site for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

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