Friday, May 01, 2015

Review: The Liberation of the Camps

About the Book:
Seventy years have passed since the tortured inmates of Hitler's concentration and extermination camps were liberated. When the horror of the atrocities came fully to light, it was easy for others to imagine the joyful relief of freed prisoners. Yet for those who had survived the unimaginable, the experience of liberation was a slow, grueling journey back to life. In this unprecedented inquiry into the days, months and years following the arrival of Allied forces at the Nazi camps, a foremost historian of the Holocaust draws on archival sources and especially on eyewitness testimonies to reveal the complex challenges liberated victims faced, and the daunting tasks their liberators undertook to help them reclaim their shattered lives. Historian Dan Stone focuses on the survivors - their feelings of guilt, exhaustion, fear, shame for having survived, and devastating grief for lost family members; their immense medical problems; and their later demands to be released from Displaced Persons camps and resettled in countries of their own choosing. Stone also tracks the efforts of British, American and Russian liberators as they contended with survivors' immediate needs, then grappled with longer-term issues that shaped the postwar world and ushered in the first chill of the Cold War years ahead.

My Comments:
I've read a lot about the Holocaust over the years, but its end, the closing down of the camps, is a subject about which I have not read a lot.  While this book had some interesting information, I found it repetitive and tedious at times.  Perhaps that's because I was looking for more personal anecdotes and instead found a textbook-like treatment of the problems of displaced persons in Europe after WWII and the political situation at the time between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union.  For most survivors, Stone postulates, the liberation of the camp wasn't an event so much as a process.  Many had been marched across Europe ahead of the approaching Allies, we sick in bed and abandoned by the Nazi who fled as the Allies got close.  They needed food and medical care.  Then, instead of being able to go home to community and family, most survivors had no family left and their former communities did not want them back.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B-

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