I don’t normally review books, it’s not often something I feel the need to do and in truth it probably isn’t a review. I read it due to a recommendation following discussions on prejudice, racism and war. I have already read an account and as mentioned previously have a family history that is linked. I also said before that I felt a sense of duty to know the truth and to acknowledge it to prevent it happening again. Now as I sit, feeling sick and trying not to get emotional I stand by that sense of duty even more. I can only say that it is a great relief that Miklós wrote this from a mostly factual view and only occasional discussed his emotions. If he had fully told what I believe he felt I think it would have been impossible to read. I trained myself a while ago to detach myself enough to view horrific events, the first time I tried to watch Schindlers List I cried so much I didn’t get through half of the film. More than 15 years later I tried again and forced myself to try and hold onto my emotion to watch it as what I was feeling was nothing compared to those depicted in the film. So I want people to understand that the only reason I could read this was by mentally stepping back. I succeeded almost to the end when another fact, another horror, on top of all the others and there are so many, pushed me beyond my boundary. Words almost fail me on how it felt when the reality of what I’d read sunk in.
The book is an account of Miklós’ time at Auschwitz. That alone should give you some understanding without any detail. In reading the accounts and various internet material I find that there is a lot more that I did not know. More horrors that I could not have imagined. What I already knew was bad enough. I’ll spare you the multitude of emotions that this makes me feel. Almost an entire race of people was wiped out because a large group of people believed they were inferior. That scares me more than anything, that opinions can cause genocide. Without proof or cause just an opinion, a belief presented strongly enough that it gained followers. Not only did it lead to death but unimaginable torture for merely being who you are, for your race, your religion and your colour. For the most part things you have no control over.
I have already been left with lasting impressions from the last book I read. I often think now as I’m about to lay down to sleep, what it must have been like, so cramped you couldn’t turn over, no bed, no blankets, no room, starving, cold and afraid. It makes me more humble and grateful for what I have. At almost every meal I think of what it must be like to truly starve. When I just get a bit hungry I feel faint, sick, dizzy and hot with uncontrollable irritability. To starve, with me as I am anyway, I’d surely have been shot for falling out of line, or stopping work. There isn’t a day that goes by that at some point I look around me and think about what could so easily be for any one of us. None of us truly knows that this will never happen again and they certainly didn’t think it would happen to them.
I don’t think about the torture, I can’t, to know that one human being can do those things to any other human being sickens me, so I respectfully remember whilst never lingering for long. Internment was torture enough though and that I cannot put behind me. I need to remember, I need to never be a part of anything like the holocaust. Personally I don’t hate any person enough to do what was done to the Jews and many other societies. Not a single person.
It’s detachment of course, the same detachment I utilised to read the book in the first place. I am confident in that I am not so detached as to ever be a part of an act like this but it’s that which allowed these horrors. From what I see the third reich consisted of people who genuinely held the belief that they were not killing their fellow man but a lesser race and those who followed orders through fear. I used to hold both those categories in equal contempt and now I find myself conflicted. The doctor who wrote this book carried out his orders through fear and yet he could not be labelled a Nazi. So of those men and women who found themselves acting out of fear I wonder if they shouldn’t be afforded at least some forgiveness. On the other hand I think what I would do faced with that situation and I may have to choose the alternative, death. That was the choice, do as you are told or death.
That is what we forget in our comfortable existence sometimes, that we may be slaves to a system but we have some elements of choice and if we’re lucky it isn’t, do this or death. In the face of that I wonder what many people would do? It also frightens me how easily the regime carried out their orders in that the camps were smooth running killing machines, where the prisoners were made to dispose of their fellow prisoners. Only at the end it seems were there concerns of being found out. In all that time did no one wonder where all the Jews went? What a concentration camp was REALLY like? When our POW’s came back from war emaciated did no one think that it would be the same again? I ask myself in the society we live in, with all it’s prejudice, racism, bigotry and greed what would anyone do if this happened again?
The horror that people in positions of power can capture a race of people, persuade them they would be safe, giving them false papers and then leading them to a grim and torturing death is the utterly terrifying. Who do you trust if you don’t trust those in power? I wonder now if ever there was an evacuation of some kind if I would believe the kind words or run for the hills. Call it paranoia if you like but I am astounded that this happened for so long, how almost an entire race could be wiped out, that people could be left in such appalling conditions in a world where we believe we are a civilisation.
It only stands to prove that the fancy patter of a strong figure can lead the masses to go to extraordinary lengths and commit unbelievable atrocities. It should be a warning to us all to believe our own judgement and not fall in with the judgement of others. For those who deny the holocaust, I could understand why you do, after all it is definitely the most horrific thing I have ever read about but the denial is lack of respect and logic that I cannot understand.
I will continue to be grateful and maybe one day I will find out about my family and I hope they all got away and our family is the proof. I’ll never forget it, the words that make up the events are burned into my brain. All through reading a few items. I can’t imagine, no I just can’t imagine how it must have been to have survived and have those memories. If you have the stomach for it the book is worth reading if not only to know, I wouldn’t read it twice and I will be haunted by reading it this time, but it is well written and I pay deep respect to the author.