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The Liberators: America's Witnesses To The Holocaust (2010)

The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust (2010)
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Rating
4.14 of 5 Votes: 4
ISBN
0553807560 (ISBN13: 9780553807561)
languge
English
publisher
bantam
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The Liberators: America's Witnesses T...
The Liberators: America's Witnesses To The Holocaust (2010)

About book: I try to read a book about World War II every few years simply to remind myself of what humans can do to each other and how we must put forth a great effort to keep things like the Holocaust from occurring again and again. I remember playing with the military uniforms, deactivated rifles and disarmed grenades that belonged to the neighborhood fathers back in the 1950s. We played war in emulation of the stories we overheard being told by these fathers. We also had access to small, black-and-white photos of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps in which we saw the dead stacked like cordwood. We were immersed in the war experience on a daily basis which gave me a desperate sense of curiosity as to why the war had happened and what it must have been like tobe faced with violence, starvation, torture, death, etc. I spent my high school years reading everything I could about the Holocaust and the war (I still have my copies of William Shirer's books), trying to answer the big question: WHY? I never found an adequate explanation. This book records the experiences of the rapidly dwindling GIs who were there. I've read many accounts before but this is the first time I've read about the totally understandable violent reaction many soldiers had after they discovered these camps. Also, this book describes the varied religious reactions the GIs experienced. Those who thought there could not be a god that would allow that much pain, suffering and pointless death became atheists. Others thought they were chosen by god to survive so that they could keep the war and the Holocaust from ever happening again. I can't quite understand the latter position. In addition, I was surprised to discover that some of the soldiers were still suffering PTSD reactions over sixty years after their terrible experiences. This book has changed how I will behave toward veterans of all wars. They need to talk and I need to listen. The book made me sad. I don't think we humans have made much progress in our treatment of those who are different from ourselves. Scary but that is reality with which we have to deal. I'm glad I read this book and I hope it puts a dent in the armor of the crazy Holocaust deniers.

This important book is not for everyone. My wife, for instance, would be too emotionally upset by the harsh reality of the reported "final solution" details. After reading the accounts presented to the author through interviews of our hero WWII fighting men and nurses, I found myself becoming somewhat numb to the graphic descriptions. I suppose, in a way, that is the scariest part of this very subject. Could this be what led the German citizens to claim ignorance of the atrocities happening right outside their towns and villages?There are recurring sensory descriptions used throughout this book: the smell of death and the visual of corpses discovered in the vacated concentration camps. As noted by Mr. Hirsh, the witnesses repeatedly use the phrase "stacked like cord wood" to describe the masses of dead bodies that had not been disposed of by their captors.As we move closer to the day when there are no living WWII veterans remaining to tell their stories, it is important works like this one that capture testimonies for the benefit of future generations. While the subject matter of the book is gritty and disturbing, the liberation efforts are presented in a logical fashion that follows the latter part of the war. Interestingly, many prisoners are found (barely) alive as the allied forces occupy the camps that were vacated by German officials just a few days or hours prior. The impact of reading such a book is, I believe, to require the reader to face up and deal with the cold, harsh reality of this horrific time in history. Bravo to Mr. Hirsh for translating these experiences to written words.
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Reviews
Jennifer
Michael Hirsh spoke with over 150 Americans who were among the first to encounter Nazi concentration camps, sometimes mere hours after German troops had deserted them. They shared with him not only their experiences as young men and women witnessing hitherto unimaginable cruelty, but how those sights - and smells - affected them throughout their lives.Many, but not all, of them did not speak about their experiences for decades after the war. Some just wanted to put it in the past. Others found that nobody wanted to hear about it. So why now? Many say they began speaking publicly about what they saw in response to Holocaust deniers and with the realization that soon there will be no witnesses left to speak out. These who saw atrocities against their fellow man that still give them nightmares speak out to anyone who will listen in the hope that learning about the past will spark a desire to prevent it from recurring.That is the reason to read books like this. It is difficult to read about such monstrous hatred. It is honestly not something I like to think about, such pervasive evil, so much passivity to evil. I am a lover of happily ever afters, gardens in bloom, and laughing babies....but I know that ignorance does not create bliss. We need to know and remember and make sure future generations do, too.
Ryan
Got repetitive at times...each camp provided the same horrors to those witnessing it as other camps, so sometimes the story could drag on with nothing really new happening, just a different setting. It was still interesting to see how unaware our GIs were before reaching these camps and their emotions when they see what they find there. Also interesting to see how the local townspeople react & respond as if they had no clue that anything was amiss.I also liked the last bit of the book where he profiled the people in a "Where are they now?" style. Interesting to see how some have abandoned their faith in God because of this while others have grabbed on to their faith even tighter and the experience strengthened their resolve.
Andy
Well, i guess as far as WW2 books I've read go, this might be considered one of the happier ones. Maybe, kinda. It's all interviews with soldiers who were at the liberation (or soon after) of the concentration camps. To put it simply i think it's what you'd expect. Lately I've been looking for some stuff on the "payback" from the prisoners to the guards and got a few good stories on that subject. Also after reading book after book about how little support a lot of the prisoners got even after liberation it's good to read about people who supported them and who felt the rage that must've been felt seeing humans treat others this way. And the actions that the liberating soldiers also took on the Nazi gaurds. As I say in most of my reviews, a great and emotional read!
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