Against All Hope: Resistance in the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1938-1945

Against All Hope: Resistance in the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1938-1945

Against All Hope: Resistance in the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1938-1945

Against All Hope: Resistance in the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1938-1945

Synopsis

In this major and comprehensive work, hailed by Le Monde as a "monumental study", Hermann Langbein shatters the myth that all prisoners of concentration camps during World War II passively let themselves be slaughtered. A prisoner himself and one of the leaders of resistance at Auschwitz, Langbein painstakingly documents the detailed account of the history of the camps and the story of resistance. Spanning the initial years to the chaotic weeks before liberation, Against All Hope is the first systematic presentation of organized resistance. Deeply moving, it is an unforgettable testament to the resilience and determination of the human spirit. As the camps were being established, Langbein examines the composition of the initial prisoners; a mixture of political prisoners (Reds), convicted criminals (Greens), Jews, and "anti-socials" and reveals the brutal struggle for camp domination between the Reds and Greens. With analytic detail, he presents the history and nature of the individual camps and the inmate self-government. In "The Actors", Langbein recognizes for the first time the various inmate groups, Germans, Austrians, Poles, Russians, Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Gypsies and Jews, and how they related to resistance. Langbein portrays the incredible impossibility of resistance against the all-powerful total domination of the Nazi camp administration. The prisoners were to be morally broken, psychically disabled, and even physically destroyed. To resist against this systematic demoralization, its isolation from the rest of the world, and its intention to exterminate, was inconceivable. Through chronic malnutrition, beatings, torture, and the permanent terrorism ofthe SS, the prisoners were led to believe "there is only one way out of here: through the chimney". And yet, resistance, individual initiatives and organized action, to aid fellow inmates, to escape, to revolt, to thwart manag

Excerpt

There already exists an extensive bibliography of writings about the Nazi concentration camps. Many books, however, have not been translated into other languages, and a considerable number are not to be found even in specialized libraries, for in the early years after the defeat of National Socialism, international communication was still difficult, and the paper shortage of those days permitted only small editions. Moreover, even experts cannot be familiar with what literature is accessible, and despite innumerable publications, the subject has not been exhausted.

More than anything else, the Nazi concentration camps teach us how the ideology of German National Socialism was to be translated into action, for in this area Nazism was able to put its plans into practice without being inhibited by traditions, where it was necessary to build upon existing institutions. The National Socialists created their concentration camps from scratch, and operated them with people selected and specially trained. In these camps they carried their theory about a master race to its logical conclusion: the extermination of human beings whom their ideology equated, on the basis of their descent, with vermin that could be destroyed without qualms. Those who had been trained to pour the poison gas Zyklon B (hydrocyanic or prussic acid) into the gas chambers of Auschwitz were officially called "disinfectors."

The mass murder of concentration-camp inmates did not begin until 1941, when disabled and "racially inferior" prisoners were transferred to "euthanasia" institutions and there butchered. Nevertheless, these camps were equipped from the beginning in such a way that they could later -- without regard for laws still in force -- safely serve as sites for mass murder. No other fascist or totalitarian system has so ideologically motivated and prepared genocide and so utilized the institutions of the state for this purpose. This differentiates German National Socialism from all other fascist regimes, and that is why its concentration camps, the sites of this . . .

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