The story of a small town near Auschwitz and of its local Nazi administrator. An ordinary functionary and family man without whose help, and those of thousands like him, the murderous plans of the Nazi elite could never have been fully realized.
Auschwitz is peripheral to this academic but often horrific account of a Polish county, Bedzin, and its German administrator, Udo Klausa, during WWII. Thanks to family connections (he himself knew Klausa for years), Fulbrook, professor of German history at University College, London, was granted access to the Klausa family archive. Using this material, especially the letters of Klausa's wife, and other newly discovered archival materials, Fulbrook explores how a mid-level Nazi bureaucrat went about his duties as unspeakable events occurred under his nose. Klausa arrived at his post in February 1940, five months after invading Nazis had herded hundreds of Jews into the town of Bedzin's synagogue before burning it down. Although not directly responsible, Klausa witnessed public hanging, starvation, expulsion of Jews from jobs and homes, and repeated deportation. He and his wife often expressed discomfort but mostly got on with their lives. Despite Fulbrook's personal motivations for embarking on this project, it remains scholarly: dense with citations, analyses of evidence and motivation, and long summaries of ongoing historical controversies. If general readers don't mind the heaviness of the text, what they will find regarding a man's capacity to dissociate himself from the evil to which he contributes will both captivate and disturb. 15 b&w halftones, 4 maps.