Discover Compassion

From the JFR Library – February 2014

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This month The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR) recommends A Small Town Near Auschwitz by Mary Fulbrook. The Washington Post published a review by Jonathan Yardley in November 2012. Excerpts from the review follow:

A-small-town-near-Auschwitz“Mary Fulbrook, a distinguished scholar of German history who teaches at University College London, has written in “A Small Town Near Auschwitz” a richly and painfully detailed examination of “those Germans who, after the war, would successfully cast themselves in the role of innocent ‘bystanders,’ even claiming they ‘had never known anything about’ ” the Holocaust. Her specific focus is on a man named Udo Klausa, but she casts a far wider net…

With bodies and blood in the streets of Bedzin, with the unspeakable horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau “a mere 25 miles away down the railway tracks,” Klausa surely was fully aware of what was happening in what was at least nominally his jurisdiction…

“In short, those who had been involved in running the German system in a wide variety of capacities in the area later professed that they had seen and heard nothing at all while an estimated 85,000 people in total were deported in stages out of the towns, villages, and surrounding localities and through the ghettos of Bedzin and Soisnowiec on their way to labour camps and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. These Germans all claimed, however implausibly, that they had been working late, were engaged in other duties, away on holiday, attending a son’s wedding — or, in Klausa’s case, had ‘disappeared’ to the front — at the time of any violent incident or deportation that they might have been been expected to have witnessed; and they had supposedly only at a later date gleaned — or at second hand, by being told — something of what had allegedly taken place…”

Many of the stories she tells are gruesome, and reading them is not easy, but they are absolutely necessary to an understanding — even if a tentative and limited one — of what happened then and there, and why the likes of Udo Klausa, decent though they may have been at heart, cannot be permitted to escape the judgment of history.
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