- Review: A Small Town Near Auschwitz
- Series: —
- Author: Mary Fulbrook
- No of Pages: 464
- Release Date: Published November 15th 2012 by Oxford University Press
In A Small Town Near Auschwitz, historian Mary Fulbrook tells the story of Udo Klausa, a civilian administrator in the small town of Bedzin, an ordinary functionary who helped implement the Nazis’ inhumane policies towards the Jews. Using a wealth of personal letters, memoirs, testimonies, interviews, and other sources, Fulbrook pieces together Klausa’s role in the unfolding destruction of the Jews under his authority, as well as the heroic attempts at resistance on the part of some of the victims of Nazi racial policies in this area. She also offers fascinating insight into the inner conflicts of a Nazi bureaucrat who, throughout, considered himself “a decent man.”
Udo Klausa’s case is so important because it is in many ways so typical. Behind Klausa’s story is the larger story of how countless local functionaries across the Third Reich facilitated the murderous plans of a relatively small number among the Nazi elite–plans that could never have been realized, on the same scale, without the diligent cooperation of these very ordinary men. As Fulbrook shows, men like Klausa “knew” and yet mostly suppressed this knowledge, performing their day jobs without apparent recognition of their own role in the carnage, or any sense of personal wrongdoing or remorse–either before or after 1945.
For Fulbrook, an eminent historian, the story of Udo Klausa hits very close to home, because Fulbrook’s mother was both a refugee from Nazi Germany and a close friend of Klausa’s wife. Fulbrook has known the Klausa family all her life, but had no inkling of Udo’s true role in the Third Reich until a few years ago, a stunning discovery that led directly to this deeply personal history of life in Nazi Germany.
This is an amazing look at a man and his family during a really horrible time. Being quite the emotional person some of this was difficult for me to read, but I knew that going in. I got this because I am fascinated with history, even the very dire and cruel things that people have done to one another.
Although Mary Fulbrook is related to Udo Klausa it seems that she sets everything on the table. Is her voice a little apologetic, maybe. But I don’t understand how a person, even a historian could be empathetic and not have some kind of apology in her voice. Even with that though, for me the book was spot on. It was intense. It was hard to read but in an emotional, oh my god did that really happen? sort of way. Even with the subject matter being so intense I did enjoy reading this. As I said, I knew what I was getting coming in!
Now although I have my belief system and I think the atrocities that were committed were heinous, I also think that Mary Fulbrook has a good point of view and in sharing that is sharing part of herself. It is a hard read but it is still a good story.
Anyone obsessed with WWII and specifically the Nazi history will appreciate this look.