In KL, Wachsmann fills this glaring gap in our understanding. He not only synthesizes a new generation of scholarly work, much of it untranslated and unknown outside of Germany, but also presents startling revelations, based on many years of archival research, about the functioning and scope of the camp system. Examining, close up, life and death inside the camps, and adopting a wider lens to show how the camp system was shaped by changing political, legal, social, economic, and military forces, Wachsmann produces a unified picture of the Nazi regime and its camps that we have never seen before.
A boldly ambitious work of deep importance, KL is destined to be a classic in the history of the 20th century. Many books have explored the general history of the Holocaust and the Nazis, or anatomized individual concentration camps. But there has, surprisingly, never been a comprehensive history of the camps that integrates the stories of both the broad development of the system and daily life in the camps. In KL (the widely used acronym for konzentrationslager, German for concentration camps), Wachsmann offers an unprecedented account of the development of the camps, similar in scope and approach to Anne Applebaum's best-selling and award-winning Gulag: A History (2003). We will publish on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of most of the camps in April 1945.
Wachsmann is the first to synthesize a new generation of original scholarship on the camps, much of it only available in German and little-known in the English-speaking world. And he has unearthed a wide range of new documents, offering startling new revelations about the history of the camps.
"Nikolaus Wachsmann has written an admirable historical overview of the Nazi concentration camps, effectively combining decades of recent scholarship with his own original research. He captures both the trajectory of dynamic change through which the camp system evolved as well as the experiences and agency - however limited - of the prisoner community. This is an impressive and valuable book." (Christopher R. Browning, Frank Porter Graham Professor of History Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"It is hard to imagine that Nik Wachsmann's superb book, surely to become the standard work on Nazi concentration camps, will ever be surpassed. Based on a huge array of widely scattered sources, it is a gripping as well as comprehensive and authoritative study of this grim but highly important topic." (Ian Kershaw, author of The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944 – 1945)
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Worth every minute
This was a daunting effort: 31 hours of the history of the concentration camps. It is NOT a collection of nothing but horror stories. It clarifies and explains the three stages of the camps I, at least, had never thought about.
You don't have characters in histories: you do have personages. None of the admins of the camps are very admirable. This is, you understand, an understatement.
Nope, never heard any of his work. He has an interesting approach to accents. I don't know if his natural speech is German accented or not, but the entire book is done with that accent. Except for the quotations, even short ones, done with a Polish accent, or the one or two American voices done in flawless "American." It seems to be an odd choice for the narration of a history.
Good grief, no! Thirty-one hours in one sitting? Focused on German concentration camps? I listened to the whole thing over a period of a month, and was able to absorb the information. There was enough new-to-me information that I needed time to sift through it.
Wachsmann has managed to take an incredible history and make it comprehensible, a gargantuan undertaking. On the whole, beautifully done.
- Kathy Perow
Well performed, but...