Why this book?
If I were asked to recommend one book on Nazi crimes, this would be it. Gitta Sereny was an Austro-British journalist who wrote history with a flair most historians can only dream of. Into that Darkness epitomizes her method of story-telling: to locate the principal actors in a historical episode and allow them to speak in their own voice. At the center is Franz Stangl, former commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps. Sereny conducted interviews with him in his jail cell, as well as with other perpetrators, death camp survivors, and witnesses.
Sereny is too sophisticated to take the perpetrators’ words at their face. She notes Stangl’s tendencies to evade his own responsibility by insisting he didn’t act with criminal intent and hence should not have been convicted. This and similar dodges are typical of her subjects, demonstrating the very human penchant for self-justification.
Sereny is a subtle thinker and a graceful writer. She doesn’t accept her subjects’ self-exculpations; neither does she regard them as inhuman monsters. Nonetheless, she believes they had a choice, and had they behaved differently they might have altered the outcome, at least to some extent.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
Based on 70 hours of interviews with Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka (the largest of the five Nazi extermination camps), this book bares the soul of a man who continually found ways to rationalize his role in Hitler's final solution.