We have this little thing by the Reference Desk on the second floor called “In the News.” I am a news junkie and enjoy the opportunities when I get to pick the book that sits under that sign.
Today, my “In the News” book searching took me to CNN.com, which then compelled me to browse through the photo essay “Life Behind the Picture: The Liberation of Buchenwald, April 1945.” (Trigger warning: Concentration camp atrocities are not censored in these photos.) We know the 21st century is not immune to issues of genocide and concentration camps. Last fall, I downloaded the e-Audio book, Escape from Camp 14, and listened in horror to what the narrator had endured throughout his family’s time in a North Korea prison camp. (That is *not* an audiobook meant for bedtime!)
To honor those who endured such suffering and to remember that great liberation 68 years ago this month, the following are recommended reads that you can check out from ICPL.
Published in 2010, this book averages between 4 and 5 stars on GoodReads, with 100% of the people who rated it liking it. The book tells the story of the liberation of Buchenwald from the American soldiers’ perspective, with the author (Michael Hirsh) interviewing more than 150 soldiers. Encountering the camp made a lasting imprint on these young Allied troops. The Life photo slideshow has images of bodies stacked like lifeless lumber, heading towards the incinerator, and this book describes how witnessing such atrocities changes a person.
If you are into the “How could it ever lead to this???” question, check out The Theory and Practice of Hell by Eugen Cogon. This is another book with GoodReads ratings overwhelmingly at the 4-5 star levels. Eugen Cogon was a survivor, and this book will give readers an eyewitness account from within the walls of the concentration camp. Cogon, a.k.a. Prisoner 9093, wrote the first version of this book in 1946 while still freshly scarred by his experiences. He maintains his analytical approach, however, and provides readers with his own understanding of what social undercurrents brought about this concentration camp system, or, how it could ever lead to bodies piled tall like logs for a fire.
Journalist Mark Jacobson takes a different approach to explore the experiences in the Buchenwald concentration camp. A friend sends him a lampshade purportedly made out of human skin–the skin from a Jewish concentration camp prisoner at Buchenwald. Jacobson has a DNA test run to discover that the story rings true. Jacobson takes his investigation to the place where it all began, and readers get a present-day perspective of the atrocities that took place at Buchenwald.
It’s been 68 years since the Liberation of Buchenwald, but these stories still weigh on the conscience, on the imperative to be responsible to humanity. Whether you’re the type to read these stories to understand how gruesome it gets, or someone who wants to know what factors to look for in current-day systems of oppression, these books are a good place to start.