Synopses & Reviews
In 1972 the Hamburg State Court acquitted Walter Becker, the German chief of police in the Polish city of Starachowice, of war crimes committed against Jews. Thirty years before, Becker had been responsible for liquidating the nearby Jewish ghetto, sending nearly 4,000 Jews to their deaths at Treblinka and 1,600 to slave-labor factories. The shocking acquittal, delivered despite the incriminating eyewitness testimony of survivors, drives this author"s inquiry.
Drawing on the rich testimony of survivors of the Starachowice slave-labor camps, Christopher R. Browning examines the experiences and survival strategies of the Jewish prisoners and the policies and personnel of the Nazi guard. From the killings in the market square in 1942 through the succession of brutal camp regimes, there are stories of heroism, of corruption and retribution, of desperate choices forced on husbands and wives, parents and children. In the end, the ties of family and neighbor are the sinews of survival.
"A master historian of intimate tragedy." Moment
Employing the rich testimony of almost three hundred survivors of the slave-labor camps of Starachowice, Poland, Christopher R. Browning draws the experiences of the Jewish prisoners, the Nazi authorities, and the neighboring Poles together into a chilling history of a little-known dimension of the Holocaust. Brutal and deadly in their living and work conditions, these camps represented the only chance of survival for local Jews after the ghetto liquidations of 1942. There they produced munitions for the German war effort while scrambling to survive murderous and corrupt camp regimes and desperately trying to protect children, spouses, parents, and neighbors. When the labor camps closed in the summer of 1944, the surviving Starachowice Jews still had to confront Auschwitz and then the reprisals of anti-Semitic Polish neighbors. Combining harrowing detail and insightful analysis, Browning's history is indispensable scholarship and an unforgettable story of survival.
"An important, revealing story, exceptionally well told."--Jonathan Yardley,
About the Author
Christopher R. Browning is the Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina and the author of Ordinary Men, Remembering Survival and other works of Holocaust history. He lives in Chapel Hill.