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KL A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps by Nikolaus Wachsmann

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Joint Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2016.

The first definitive history of the Nazi concentration camp system, KL will remain an essential read for years to come. Wachsmann explores the practice of institutionalised murder and inmate collaboration with the SS selectively ignored by many historians. Pulling together a wealth of in-depth research, official documents, contemporary studies and the evidence of survivors themselves, KL is a complete but accessible narrative.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation said: "The Wolfson History Prize has for almost half a century recognised historical writing of the highest quality: books based on brilliant scholarship that are written with compelling readability. Robin Lane Fox and Nikolaus Wachsmann bring incisive new perspectives to histories we thought we already knew. They are both worthy winners in this long and eminent tradition, and tackle one of the great perennial issues: the nature of evil."


KL A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps by Nikolaus Wachsmann

In March of 1933, a disused factory surrounded by barbed wire held 223 prisoners in the town of Dachau. By the end of 1945, the SS concentration camp system had become an overwhelming landscape of terror. Twenty-two large camps and over one thousand satellite camps throughout Germany and Europe were at the heart of the Nazi campaign of repression and intimidation. The importance of the camps in terms of Nazi history and our modern world cannot be questioned. Dr Nikolaus Wachsmann is the first historian to write a complete history of the camps. Combining the political and the personal, Wachsmann examines the organisation of such an immense genocidal machine, whilst drawing a vivid picture of life inside the camps for the individual prisoner. The book gives voice to those typically forgotten in Nazi history: the 'social deviants', criminals and unwanted ethnicities that all faced the terror of the camps.


'It is hard to imagine that Nik Wachsmann's superb book, surely to become the standard work on Nazi concentration camps, will ever be surpassed. Based on a huge array of widely scattered sources, it is a gripping as well as comprehensive and authoritative study of this grim but highly important topic' -- Ian Kershaw, author of The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945

'This is the fullest and most comprehensive history of the Nazi concentration camps in any language: a magnificent feat of research, full of arresting detail and cogent analysis, readable as well as authoritative: an extraordinary achievement that will immediately take its place as the standard work on the subject' -- Sir Richard J Evans, author of the Third Reich trilogy

'This book is a remarkable achievement. Nikolaus Wachsmann has written the first integrated history of Nazi concentration camps, unifying in a single narrative the policies and measures governing the inception and growth of the system, the context in which the monstrous KL developed and how each of its stages and facets was recorded and remembered by its victims. The study is essential for a further understanding of the Third Reich' -- Saul Friedlander, author of The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

'Nikolaus Wachsmann has written an admirable historical overview of the Nazi concentration camps, effectively combining decades of recent scholarship with his own original research. He captures both the trajectory of dynamic change through which the camp system evolved as well as the experiences and agency - however limited - of the prisoner community. This is an impressive and valuable book' -- Christopher R. Browning, author of Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

'Telling the story of the KL means facing up to a formidable challenge: how to make the camps relatable, as places where real people lived, worked and died, rather than transcendental symbols of evil? ... [Wachsmann] proves himself equal to this challenge ... thanks to Wachsmann's skill as a writer, it manages to be much more than a doleful trudge through a universe of ever-increasing death and terror Independent Monumentally impressive ... seems certain to become the definitive history of the Nazi concentration camps ... his scholarship brings new life to a familiar subject' -- Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times

'Profoundly important ... exceptional ... will surely become the standard work on the subject' -- Laurence Rees Mail on Sunday

'Wachsmann has in effect united the best of the German and the British schools of grand World War II history: hugely but humbly exhaustive research with attention to character and to detailed narrative' Wall Street Journal

'Wachsmann's meticulous research and unwavering eye for detail is never permitted to detract from the individual human tragedies ... so much more than another academic record of the holocaust' Good Book Guide

About the Author

Dr Nikolaus Wachsmann was born in Munich, Germany. He obtained a PhD in History from Birbeck College at the University of London and was a joint winner of the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History.

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd March 2016


Nikolaus Wachsmann

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Little Brown


880 pages


Biography / Autobiography
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Second World War
European history
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000



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