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Forty years ago Allied soldiers liberated Buchenwald, Dachau, Belsen, and other concentration camps, and came face to face with the human ruins of the Nazi system of slave labor and genocide. What they saw transformed the definition of evil in the Western mind. Inside the Vicious Heart captures the shock of that discovery by telling the story of the camp liberations as experienced by American GIs and other eyewitnesses, including Eisenhower, Patton, Joseph Pulitzer, and Margaret Bourke-White. Through their diaries, letters, and photographs we see how those Americans finally made the world believe what until then had only been rumored.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780195042368
ISBN-10: 0195042360
Format: Paperback
(229mm x 153mm x 13mm)
Pages: 208
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publish Date: 1-Jan-1987
Country of Publication: United States


US Kirkus Review » A quiet, almost reticent account of what may truly be called "a turning point in Western consciousness": the liberation of Nazi concentration camps in April and May of 1945 - what the first American forces found, and its impact upon them; how they responded, how the news was disseminated and received, how the survivors were treated. Abzug - a historian at the U. of Texas, biographer of Theodore Weld (Passionate Liberator, 1980) - wisely confines himself to American experience. (The single, partial exception - British liberation of Bergen-Belsen - is suggestive of differences.) He interprets and analyzes; he doesn't expostulate. With the graphic evidence - the map showing concentration camps throughout Germany (Dachau close to Munich, Buchenwald on the outskirts of Weimar), the photos that stunned the world (the piles of dead, the cadaverous living) - he has no cause or need. Americans, he notes, couldn't imagine the full extent of Nazi atrocities - only partly on account of the discredited 1914-18 atrocity tales. Using eye-witness testimony (some published, some collected at the Holocaust Project, Emery U.), Abzug chronicles the confrontation, the recognition, the "disturbing mixture" of horror and revulsion, anger and alienation, camp by camp (especially as it beset the Jewish soldier). Eisenhower, in "the small hell of Ohrdruf," snapping at a hapless G.I. ("Still having trouble hating them?") and ordering that all behind-the-lines units tour the camp. The grisly spectacle of Nordhausen - where "We laboriously tried to pick out the ones who still showed signs of life" (and the dead were laid out side-by-side over two acres). The "macabre society" of Buchenwald, ruled by German Communist prisoners who kept the despised Jewish inmates sealed off, even days after liberation. The dead burned alive at Gardelegen, their heads "peering from beneath the walls"; the charred bodies caught in motion at Thekla. The violence and revenge at Dachau - and the rejection, the backing away from the "subhuman," grasping survivors, from mass-German guilt (and its connotations). In the aftermath, American personnel found German civilians, and displaced Baits and Poles, far more congenial and sympathetic than the suspicious, unruly, "lazy" and "dirty" Jewish DPs. Americans who did connect, however, "could better gauge the fragility of life in a world whose possibility for evil had been irrevocably widened." But we are not helpless to stop it. At once documentation and contemplation, stark and muted: a precarious undertaking, well and memorably done. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Robert H. Abzug

Robert H. Abzug is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of Passionate Liberator: Theodore Dwight Weld and the Dilemma of Reform.

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