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A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust

10 October 2012

A Small Town Near Auschwitz

Mary Fulbrook’s new book, "A Small Town Near Auschwitz - Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust", explores the role of Udo Klausa, the principal civilian administrator of Bedzin, a town that lies just 25 miles from Auschwitz. Klausa was responsible for implementing Nazi policies towards the Jews in his area – processes that were the precursors of genocide. Through the ghettos of Bedzin and a neighbouring town 85,000 Jews passed on their way to slave labour or the gas chambers.

The story that unfolds is important because in many ways it is so typical. Across the Third Reich other ordinary administrators, just like Klausa, facilitated the murderous plans of a relatively small number of the Nazi elite. Everyday racism unwittingly paved the way for genocide. These men 'knew' and yet mostly suppressed this knowledge, performing their day jobs without apparent recognition of their own role in the system, or – despite evidence of growing unease, certainly in Klausa’s case – any real sense of personal wrongdoing, responsibility, or later remorse.

Mary Fulbrook also explores the wider historical issues raised by this case, as well as her own conflicts of interest, in her professional and personal roles, as she uncovered a story behind a family she had known personally all her life.

A full review can be read on the Guardian website and Professor Fulbrook was also recently interviewed on the BBC 3 Night Waves programme where she discusses how an essentially decent man laid the foundations that sent some 85,000 Jews to their deaths.