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4.27  ·  Rating details ·  15,280 ratings  ·  452 reviews
In this compelling book, highly acclaimed author and broadcaster Laurence Rees tells the definitive history of the most notorious Nazi institution of them all. We discover how Auschwitz evolved from a concentration camp for Polish political prisoners into the site of the largest mass murder in history - part death camp, part concentration camp, where around a million Jews ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 6th 2005 by BBC Books (first published January 2nd 2005)
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Average rating 4.27  · 
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 ·  15,280 ratings  ·  452 reviews

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Michael Finocchiaro
I felt that this was an extremely well-researched and well-written account of this episode of the cruelest man has ever been to one's fellow humans. It is the harrowing account of the creation of Auschwitz (with notable parentheses about the other camps and the overall context in which they were created and were operated). I visited Auschwitz days after finishing the book and felt prepared for the horrors that awaited me and also felt I got much more out of the experience since I felt relatively ...more
Paul Bryant
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


When you read about the Nazis there's always this strange contradiction - their famous obsession with order, with following orders, with classification, rules, hierarchy, and all of that, is superimposed upon a regime which was most of the time in chaos, ministries competing with other ministries, states (the SS) within states; for many really big projects there was a culture of no written orders, and in many cases major policies were made up on the spot.
The answer to
Jul 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite quote I now live by came from this book....
when a survivor was asked how he made it through Auschwitz, he replied "worse things have happened to better people". I think twice about my woes when I think of his response...
Ammara Abid
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The real bloodbath was about to begin."

One word for it,
I don't know what else to say, I'm too dumbfounded to speak.

"Having suffered in the camp himself for nearly two years, Paczyńński felt no great emotion as he saw these people go to their deaths: “One becomes indifferent. Today you go, tomorrow I will go. You become indifferent. A human being can get used to anything.”
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When it comes to complex topics like the Holocaust, I think it's helpful to read from a number of sources. And often, the best books are those that offer us something new, either by presenting a piece of the puzzle that was missing or perhaps adding additional perspective that affords us a new way of looking at an old piece, allowing us to better place it.

I'm not sure I can do a book like this justice in a review other than to say it was an excellent compliment to other readings I've done to thi
K.D. Absolutely
This historical non-fiction is 300 pages but I spent only 3 working days (which means I read only at home - late evening and early morning) to finish it. I just could not put it down. It is well-reseached and contains interviews of the survivors not only the Jews from diffent countries (Poland, France, Italy, Slovakia, Hungary, Belgium and Netherlands, etc) but also the other groups like gypsies, Jehova's Witness, etc.
Previously, my only knowledge about Holocaust was those from watching Schindl
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Laurence Rees traces the history of Auschwitz, and uses it as a lens to view the progression of the wider Holocaust. It’s hard to describe something like this as “enjoyable“ but it’s a very interesting - and in my view necessary - book.
I've read countless books on the holocaust. I've taken classes on Genocide. The pages I've read and absorbed on hate, suffering and the amazing will to survive will never leave me. Books on Hitler. Nazis. Speer. Höss. Goebbels. Even Eva. Germany. France. Russia. Hungary. Poland. Ghettos. Stars. Treblinka. Sobibor. Ravensbruk. Dachau. And of course, Auschwitz. I've been there. I've made that climb to the Eagles Nest and viewed that panoramic sky. It's downright evil that such a place of beauty ev ...more
Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii
The 5 stars I gave are not oh my gosh this was amazing 5 stars. It was I am completely speechless and cannot believe what I did not know 5 stars. I only write these reviews to print them out in my journal so 30 years from now I can laugh at how dumb I was. Or to see what I thought when I re read something. There were times in this book I went and hid in my room to cry so my wife couldn't see me. I have had countless sleepless nights. My kids have yelled out in their sleep and I have dashed into ...more
Jan 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Auschwitz: A New History was filled with new facts and numerous interviews with survivors and former SS. I liked the detailed interviews which spanned from Jewish people from numerous countries that turned them over to the Reich, gypsies, POWs, Jehovah's Witness, and other groups of people that in most books might have been passed over. It obviously gives more facts about the atrocities that occurred at Auschwitz then the other camps, but all the camps are brought up throughout the book. The inf ...more
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would like to preface this review by stating that I have read a great deal of Holocaust literature and each evokes in me a different emotional response, but never before has a text exposed me to both an analytical and equally sorrowful account of this dark period in history. Much like the point in time this work is based on, the subject matter is not for the faint of heart. The author does not skirt over any events that took place in Auschwitz including the part played by the Allies and the no ...more
Oct 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephie Williams
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The premise of the book is that Nazis at all levels, from the soldier to the leaders, years later that they saw nothing wrong with the way they acted at the time and for many even many years later. The book is more than just a history of Auschwitz, arguably the most infamous of all Nazi concentration camps. It sets Auschwitz in the mist of the Nazis attempt to exterminate the Jews. According to the book Auschwitz was not just an extermination camp. Matter of fact this was not its main purpose fr ...more
Brandon Cormier
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know a lot about WW2 history and the crimes that took place at Aushwitz however this book gave me a more detailed account of what went on there. The story’s are chilling and disturbing to know that human beings can do this to one another is horrifying. But at the same time some of the story’s of the inmates were full of courage and hope that one day this evil would end and it did!!!

I believe everyone should read this book and that we never forget the 1.1 million lives lost at Aushwitz 🌺
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I've been interested in the history of the Holocaust ever since I first studied it in eighth grade. This book is a well-researched, extremely thorough account of what happened at Auschwitz, with many personal details from the people who were there.
Matthew Barlow
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably one of the best books concerning the Holocaust that that I have ever read. Not because it is abound with new information, just the opposite in fact, much of the facts discussed are ones that I have heard before. What truly makes this book remarkable is the overwhelming amount of research that went into it, specifically the gathering of first hand accounts from Nazis and survivors alike. These accounts lend an unmistakable realism to the discussion. The reader is not able to disa ...more
Steph (loves water)
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: ww2-non-fiction, 2015
Oh, man. Everyone needs to read this book.

I learned many things about Auschwitz I didn't know before. Well written, intensely researched, intricately detailed, I learned about concentration camps, work camps, and death camps. I saw how European countries were culpable in the detention and transport of Jews to Auschwitz, and how many (not all) looked on as their neighbors were taken away. I thought perhaps Germans, Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, French, etc., really weren't aware of the mass exterminati
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After I went to visit the concentration camps ( a sad and educative experience that I would recommend) I wanted to read more about it and how such horrors could happen in the first place. Having this book recommended by the guide, I burrowed it and dug into it.
It is so well documented with interviews from survivors, Polish people that lived near by, Russian prisoners, and even SS members. It provides a glimpse into one of the most hard pages written in blood. The stories of children touched me t
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my personal opinion this is one of the best historical documentaries I have ever read. It honestly felt like I was reading a fictional thriller, keeping me gripped to each page wanting to know what will happen next. Although quite gruesome at times it does have moments of happiness like when the author explains many successful escape plans. This particular book was indeed quite slow at the beginning but really picked up pace shortly after.
The book conducted interviews with many prisoners o
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-justice
Descriptive, informative and painful all at once. Having studied the Holocaust for the past 16 years, this book provides new and interesting information. The information is astounding. It was fascinating to read from many different perspectives of all those who were involved; victims, perpetrators, and outsiders.

One of the survivors said that Nobody knows themselves. Upon meeting someone who is kind, he wonders how kind they would be in camp. Survival is one hell of a form of betrayal. Unfortuna
Mar 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What makes this book so powerful is the use of personal interviews and personal stories. Because we are human, a personal storyhas far more resonance than a statstical number.

Rees brings out several not widely kown facts, but he also realies on a variety of eye witness accounts that bring a depth to the history. One hears the story of an adopted child who is taken from her family because her biological grandmother was a gypsy. One learns about what happens in the Channel Islands, and how Jewish
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
So far it's the best book about concentration, death camps that I've read. The chronology is clear and understandable. Testimonies touching and a good break from just dry historical fact throughout a book.

It mentioned Bełżec death camp on a few pages. I happened to live nearby it. When my parents came to visit me and saw me reading this book, we decided to go to see this place. Small area, incredible place.

It's never easy to visit those places or read about them. But it's important to remember
Nov 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-site, history
Gruelling of course. A chronological account of the development of Auschwitz with substantial detours into the stories of the communities of Europe that were shipped (and in a few rare cases, not shipped) to the crematoria. This is an efficient and affecting telling though it is opinionated, and has rather too much of the 'imagine how traumatic that would have been' approach.

Anyway after a difficult visit there a few weeks ago (and a poor guide) I found this sorted some residual issues in my mi
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Chilling. Even more so because it is meticulously documented and footnoted. That said, Rees spread his net so wide that it bogged down, if not distracted from his central story.

Not a fun read, but a worthwhile read.

We--none of us--should ever forget that "civilized", educated, proud people did this. Intentionally, with malaise and forethought.
Richard Burger
I had purchased this book hoping to learn more about daily life in Auschwitz, only to find a far more general, entry-level book on the Holocaust in general that would have been more aptly titled Holocaust 101. I almost felt swindled when I found page after page about the irrelevant rescue of the Jews from Denmark, the role of the Waffen SS and police battalions on the Eastern Front, and a long, detailed description of how the Final Solution was finally brought to Hungary in 1944 - things that ar ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

Attend church on Sunday and imagine all of you, men, women, young and old, children, babies coming inside the church naked, their deportment in varying degrees: hope, trepidation, fear. Then when all of you are in, or when the church is packed to the rafters, all its doors and windows are closed, then the poison gas begins in seep in. In less than an hour all of you will be dead. Then the workers would come in and haul your carcasses in a large vacant lot. Some of them will have scissors to cut
Haunting. Horrible. Terrifying. Fascinating. That's what this book delivers.

This is one of my favorite accounts of the Holocaust, and what I especially liked from Rees' book was that he not only focused on the Jews, but Jews from Poland, from Hungary, Italy, Denmark, France, Belgium, etc, as well as on gays, POWS, gypsies, Jehova's Witnesses, etc. He also wrote of the Holocaust through previous Nazi's eyes.

It's a personal account from all different types of people associated with the Holocaust,
Lynette Twaddle
Having read 'The Nazis a Warning from History' and 'The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler' I came to this book worrying how much material would have been recycled in those two later books, I was pleasantly surprised in that respect.

This volume demonstrates Rees' fantastic ability as a historian, writer (and when he doesn't go mad with graphics, producer). He has an ability to show a human side as a historian whilst not pulling any punches, or withholding upsetting information. The information is sta
Sep 28, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was a very moving and disturbing book. Rees interviewed dozens of Auschwitz survivors, as well as several former Nazi officials. What emerges is a shocking and sobering look at human nature in the midst of world war.

I chose to only give this book three stars because I feel that the title was deceptive. While Auschwitz was certainly a primary focus of this book, I felt that a great deal of the book focused on what led to the creation of the death camps in general. While fascinating, this was
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2, history
Sometimes it seems the more you read and learn about certain aspects of history, the more questions you're left with. This book answers a lot of those not only in relation to Auschwitz itself but on a broader scope of the Holocaust and the war in general. It brought me to tears several times, it's more emotional than other similar books yet somehow it doesn't read emotionally, if that makes sense. It's serious and well researched, and maybe it's the honesty and forthrightness of the accounts tha ...more
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In addition to writing, Rees has also produced films about World War II for the BBC.

In New York in January 2009, Laurence was presented with the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by ‘History Makers’, the worldwide congress of History and Current Affairs programme makers

In 2011 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (DUniv) by The Open University(UK).

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When you work at Goodreads, it's pretty tough to keep that Want to Read shelf under control. (And let's be honest, most of us don't even t...
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“there was a greater likelihood that individuals who committed crimes within the Nazi system would take personal responsibility for their actions, than there was that war criminals who served Stalin or Hirohito would take such responsibility.” 1 likes
“Michel and Annette Muller’s mother, snatched from her children at Beaune-la-Rolande, died at Auschwitz. And while it was the Nazis who wished her dead, it was the French who put her in harm’s way.” 1 likes
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