Auschwitz by Debórah Dwork and Robert Jan Van Pelt

542461Nonfiction — print. W. W. Norton & Company, 2002. 445 pgs. Library copy.

I was lucky enough to have Debórah Dwork, a world-renowned Holocaust historian,  as one of my professors this past semester. She was quite possibly my best professor as she told stories that illustrated history instead of lecturing on the facts.

Her two-day lecture on the development of Auschwitz, why Auschwitz was chosen as a place for a concentration camp, and how it became the location of mass murder and genocide peaked my interest and immediately upon arrival at home I headed to the public library and checked out her and Robert Jan Van Pelt’s book on the subject, Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present.

Unfortunately, the book was no where near as interesting as the lecture. There’s just something off about the flow of the book; something I can’t seem to put my finger on. The book uses architectural records and the architecture of the town of Auschwitz as its base for an exploration of why Auschwitz developed into the site of extermination of the Jews. Even the chapter on IG Farben, which I found to be the most interesting during her lecture, did not delve into the role the company played in the development of Auschwitz as much as I had hoped it would. The vast amount of architectural drawings and photos of important structures were provided so one could examine the evidence for themselves, but they had a tendency to take over the book and overwhelm the text.

I wish I could have videotaped or, at least, recorded Dwork’s lecture because it was so fascinating, and unfortunately this book and my seven pages of notes do not do it justice.

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