- Paperback: 232 pages
- Publisher: Polity Press; 1 edition (28 January 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0745643841
- ISBN-13: 978-0745643847
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 281 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Inside the GAS Chambers - Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz Paperback – 28 Jan 2011
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"Venezia reports soberly and seemingly without emotion - and yet the book becomes breathtaking in its forcefulness."
Holocaust and Genocide Studies
"Venezia's experiences during the war is at once both fascinating and disturbing. His description of prewar Salonika and his complicated ethnic/national background certainly help illuminate our picture of the multicultural societies of Europe that the Second World War nearly completely eliminated. He also captures the violence and brutality of Auschwitz in a very readable fashion. His descriptions of the inhumanity of the camp will remain with me for quite some time."
H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online
"A deeply sincere, unadorned description of Venezia's journey through hell ... There are few, if any, better descriptions of the impact of massive psychic trauma on the human soul."
Jewish Book World
"Venezia comes across as a very reliable witness. His language is clear, and he certainly does not idealize the members of the 'Sonderkommando' or his own role in the extermination process. It is a detailed and heartbreaking story, told in very restrained language."
Journal of Contemporary History
"A harrowingly matter-of-fact account."
"Most Sonderkommando members were systematically killed by the SS. But fate allowed Shlomo Venezia to survive, and the horrific privilege to bear witness."
"Shlomo Venezia's unnervingly dispassionate personal record demands to be heard. Interviewer Beatrice Prasquier's brusque questions, answered with painful truthfulness, bring home the lifelong scars this Greek Italian Jew must carry from the ever-present memories of the numberless innocents he helped lead to their grotesque slaughter."
"What is remarkable is on the one hand the lack of anger, the simple language dealing with events that are unforgettable and beyond reality, and on the other hand the fact of Venezia's daily life ever since ... He has never, in his mind, lived outside the camp."
"I read many accounts of former deportees, and each time they take me back to life in the camp. But the story told by Shlomo Venezia is especially overwhelming because it is the only complete eye-witness account that we have from a survivor of the Sonderkommandos."
"This holocaust survivor's testimony, like all others, will be read with fear and trembling."
Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate
From the Back Cover
Slomo Venezia was born into a poor Jewish-Italian community living in Thessaloniki, Greece. At first, the occupying Italians protected his family; but when the Germans invaded, the Venezias were deported to Auschwitz. His mother and sisters disappeared on arrival, and he learned, at first with disbelief, that they had almost certainly been gassed. Given the chance to earn a little extra bread, he agreed to become a Sonderkommando, without realising what this entailed. He soon found himself a member of the special unit responsible for removing the corpses from the gas chambers and burning their bodies.
Dispassionately, he details the grim round of daily tasks, evokes the terror inspired by the man in charge of the crematoria, Angel of Death Otto Moll, and recounts the attempts made by some of the prisoners to escape, including the revolt of October 1944.
It is usual to imagine that none of those who went into the gas chambers at Auschwitz ever emerged to tell their tale but, as a Sonderkommando, Shlomo Venezia was given this horrific privilege. He knew that, having witnessed the unspeakable, he in turn would probably be eliminated by the SS in case he ever told his tale. He survived: this is his story.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
For those of you who have read Wiesel's 'Night', this book is a way more interesting read because while Wiesel was in the camp just trying to eke out an existence, Shlomo was in the god damn Sonderkommando, at the very heart of the death machine. The stories contained within are truly horrible, like his descriptions of when the chambers are opened after a gassing, or how the initial processing occurred upon arrival into the camp. Just imagine yourself in that situation, your soul simply cannot fathom the anguish, the despair, the constantly looming threat of death following you around 24/7! My God, the madness of Europe in that era! My heart was beating at an accelerated pace pretty much all day as I read this.
Buy this book, you will be blown away by its power. Best book I've read in ages.
By the way, I'd like to add that there are some quality images included when key details are being explained. David Olere's paintings are reproduced within the book to give the reader a complete understanding of what Shlomo is actually referring to. David Olere was a surviving Sonderkommando as well, so the images are true representations, and not some artist's or scholar's interpretation of a testimony.
Sadly, Shlomo Venezia died in October of 2012, at the age of 88.
NOTE: If you can only read one testimonial of a crematoria sonderkommando worker, I would recommend that you read
Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers" by Filip Muller. He wrote this just a couple of years after he got out of the camp, and has a more coherent and direct feeling.
This story is an important chapter in history. I applaud this man for his courage; to survive and to tell, it is an important read, a part of history that needs to be told. This man continues to survive while the instigator (Hitler) of all of this horrible history took the easy way out and killed himself. Only goes to show how unsuccessful Hitler was and how demented a human being he (Hitler) and his henchmen were.
I hope Shlomo has had peace in his later years and has in some way been able to accept that that part of history he witnessed was out of his control. This book is brutal but a must read if you are interested in knowing the intimate details to the death of so many innocent people.
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