KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps

Author(s): Nikolaus Wachsmann


Winner of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize and the Wolfson History Prize In March of 1933, a disused factory surrounded by barbed wire held 223 prisoners in the town of Dachau. By the end of 1945, the SS concentration camp system had become an overwhelming landscape of terror. Twenty-two large camps and over one thousand satellite camps throughout Germany and Europe were at the heart of the Nazi campaign of repression and intimidation. The importance of the camps in terms of Nazi history and our modern world cannot be questioned. Dr Nikolaus Wachsmann is the first historian to write a complete history of the camps. Combining the political and the personal, Wachsmann will examine the organisation of such an immense genocidal machine, whilst drawing a vivid picture of life inside the camps for the individual prisoner. The book gives voice to those typically forgotten in Nazi history: the 'social deviants', criminals and unwanted ethnicities that all faced the terror of the camps. Wachsmann explores the practice of institutionalised murder and inmate collaboration with the SS selectively ignored by many historians.
Pulling together a wealth of in-depth research, official documents, contemporary studies and the evidence of survivors themselves, KL is a complete but accessible narrative.


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Winner of Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize: Non-fiction 2016 and Wolfson History Prize 2016. Shortlisted for Longman/History Today Book of the Year Award 2016 and Cundill Prize in History 2015. Long-listed for PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History 2016.

It is hard to imagine that Nik Wachsmann's superb book, surely to become the standard work on Nazi concentration camps, will ever be surpassed. Based on a huge array of widely scattered sources, it is a gripping as well as comprehensive and authoritative study of this grim but highly important topic -- Ian Kershaw, author of The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945 This is the fullest and most comprehensive history of the Nazi concentration camps in any language: a magnificent feat of research, full of arresting detail and cogent analysis, readable as well as authoritative: an extraordinary achievement that will immediately take its place as the standard work on the subject -- Sir Richard J Evans, author of the Third Reich trilogy This book is a remarkable achievement. Nikolaus Wachsmann has written the first integrated history of Nazi concentration camps, unifying in a single narrative the policies and measures governing the inception and growth of the system, the context in which the monstrous KL developed and how each of its stages and facets was recorded and remembered by its victims. The study is essential for a further understanding of the Third Reich -- Saul Friedlander, author of The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (winner of the Pulitzer Prize) Nikolaus Wachsmann has written an admirable historical overview of the Nazi concentration camps, effectively combining decades of recent scholarship with his own original research. He captures both the trajectory of dynamic change through which the camp system evolved as well as the experiences and agency - however limited - of the prisoner community. This is an impressive and valuable book -- Christopher R. Browning, author of Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland Telling the story of the KL means facing up to a formidable challenge: how to make the camps relatable, as places where real people lived, worked and died, rather than transcendental symbols of evil? ... [Wachsmann] proves himself equal to this challenge ... thanks to Wachsmann's skill as a writer, it manages to be much more than a doleful trudge through a universe of ever-increasing death and terror Independent Monumentally impressive ... seems certain to become the definitive history of the Nazi concentration camps ... his scholarship brings new life to a familiar subject -- Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times Profoundly important ... exceptional ... will surely become the standard work on the subject -- Laurence Rees Mail on Sunday Wachsmann has in effect united the best of the German and the British schools of grand World War II history: hugely but humbly exhaustive research with attention to character and to detailed narrative Wall Street Journal Wachsmann's meticulous research and unwavering eye for detail is never permitted to detract from the individual human tragedies ... so much more than another academic record of the holocaust Good Book Guide Hugely impressive ... Wachsmann has produced the standard historical work on the Nazi camps ... KL represents the acme of what the historical disciple can achieve BBC History magazine [A] magnificent work of scholarship ... every page of Nikolaus Wachsmann's magisterial account is suffused with humanity Literary Review Gripping, humane, and beautifully written New York Review of Books A work of prodigious scholarship New York Times Every page is suffused with humanity and anyone who wants to understand the Nazis should read it Jewish Chronicle Hugely impressive ... Wachsmann pulls off a remarkable feat: he not only provides an account of Konzentrationslager, or KL of the books title, he does so in a readable, accessible way. KL represents an acme of what the historical discipline can achieve -- Dan Stone BBC History magazine It is difficult to do justice to the brilliance of Wachsmann's comprehensive history ... engrossing as well as illuminating -- Joanna Bourke New Statesman Wachsmann's book is a world-making history London Review of Books In devastating and undeniable detail, KL sets out the full story of the camps -- Nicholas Shakespeare Telegraph A staggeringly well-informed and enormously moving record of suffering and evil ...the terrifying lesson of Wachsmann's account is not that any of us might have been an inmate. It is that any of us might have been a guard -- Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times A truly excellent book on one of history's darkest moments History Today This is both a panoptic and an intimate history of the camps: we get the big picture as well as the telling detail (the SS officer who opened doors with his elbow rather than his hand because he was worried about germs). It is a huge and very necessary contribution to our understanding of this obscene subject. It makes us think anew: about how the camps worked, what it was like in them and how they fitted into the machinery of the state -- Nicholas Lezard Guardian

Dr Nikolaus Wachsmann was born in Munich, Germany. He obtained a PhD in History from Birbeck College at the University of London and was a joint winner of the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History.

General Fields

  • : 9780349118666
  • : Little, Brown Book Group
  • : Abacus
  • : July 2016
  • : 149mm X 199mm X 43mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : October 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 940.5317
  • : 880
  • : Section: 24, b/w
  • : Nikolaus Wachsmann
  • : Paperback
  • : 1116