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Ordinary Nazis. Reflections on Memory, Terror, and a Small Town in Poland
This explores the development of Nazi racist policies and genocide in Będzin, a small town in Eastern Upper Silesia just 25 miles north of Auschwitz during the period 1939-1943. More Jews were deported through the ghetto of Będzin-Sosnowiec than from the whole of occupied France; some 50% of the population of Będzin was ultimately murdered as a result of Nazi oppression; yet it has virtually escaped the attention of historians. Based on a rare and rich collection of sources, including private letters from the wife of the Landrat (civilian district administrator) to her mother and to friends at the time, the Landrat’s later memoirs, contemporary archival sources and the records of subsequent legal investigations, and survivor testimonies and oral history interviews, the book explores the implications of systemic violence and the role of German civilian administrators as ‘Hitler’s willing functionaries’, and reflects on the character of later ‘memories’, in an effort to probe beyond the familiar focus on acts of physical violence and atrocities. It has an added personal twist, and the intention is therefore to write a book that will be not only of academic but also wider general interest.
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