A Small Town near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust.
A Small Town near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust. Mary Fulbrook. Oxford University Press. [pounds sterling]20.00. xvii + 421 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-960330-5. This study has various layers. It is an investigation of how one small Polish town, annexed by the Reich, coped with the Final Solution which was being carried out some 25 miles away in Auschwitz. It is also an investigation of the man most responsible, Udo Clausa, the local Landrat. It is a story of a personal search for truth because the author's mother had left this part of Poland before the war and the author knew Clausa. Even more pertinent are his memoirs: by comparing surviving MS sources with these, Prof. Fulbrook is able to discuss how at least one man represented his past to himself and his family. Using a wealth of materials the author brings 'several sides of the story together' from the first violence--the burning alive of almost half the town's Jews and all its Jewish children within hours of the German troops' arrival--to the ghettos and deportations. Running through the book are the arguments that without the help of civilian officials, Nazi or not, and without the complicit aloofness of the average person, the Holocaust could not have occurred. Bedzin was a Polish town, not a German town and a town with a very high percentage of Jews. It cannot therefore be taken as representative but Clausa is shown as more typical of German civilian officials (if not of Germans themselves) than many would like to admit. Complicity in evil is shown to have been based on a sliding scale of knowledge and involvement (much like those today who are involved in, support, don't oppose, or don't want to know about state sponsored abortion). It is the personal search for understanding along with the attempt to understand how men like Clausa made sense of their own past that makes this book so worthwhile. (H.V.K.)