The Order of Terror: The Concentration Camp

Paperback | June 6, 1999

byWolfgang Sofsky

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During the twelve years from 1933 until 1945, the concentration camp operated as a terror society. In this pioneering book, the renowned German sociologist Wolfgang Sofsky looks at the concentration camp from the inside as a laboratory of cruelty and a system of absolute power built on extreme violence, starvation, "terror labor," and the business-like extermination of human beings.

Based on historical documents and the reports of survivors, the book details how the resistance of prisoners was broken down. Arbitrary terror and routine violence destroyed personal identity and social solidarity, disrupted the very ideas of time and space, perverted human work into torture, and unleashed innumerable atrocities. As a result, daily life was reduced to a permanent struggle for survival, even as the meaning of self-preservation was extinguished. Sofsky takes us from the searing, unforgettable image of the Muselmann--Auschwitz jargon for the "walking dead"--to chronicles of epidemics, terror punishments, selections, and torture.

The society of the camp was dominated by the S.S. and a system of graduated and forced collaboration which turned selected victims into accomplices of terror. Sofsky shows that the S.S. was not a rigid bureaucracy, but a system with ample room for autonomy. The S.S. demanded individual initiative of its members. Consequently, although they were not required to torment or murder prisoners, officers and guards often exploited their freedom to do so--in passing or on a whim, with cause, or without.

The order of terror described by Sofsky culminated in the organized murder of millions of European Jews and Gypsies in the death-factories of Auschwitz and Treblinka. By the end of this book, Sofsky shows that the German concentration camp system cannot be seen as a temporary lapse into barbarism. Instead, it must be conceived as a product of modern civilization, where institutionalized, state-run human cruelty became possible with or without the mobilizing feelings of hatred.

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During the twelve years from 1933 until 1945, the concentration camp operated as a terror society. In this pioneering book, the renowned German sociologist Wolfgang Sofsky looks at the concentration camp from the inside as a laboratory of cruelty and a system of absolute power built on extreme violence, starvation, "terror labor," and the business-like extermination of human beings. Based on hist...

From the Jacket

"Wolfgang Sofsky dares the near impossible: he gives us a rational description of the concentration camp without losing sight of the human suffering, which the use of terror brought with it. . . . Sofsky exposes the potential of immorality that modern times carries within itself, and how the ordinary can transform itself into terror."--Ralf Dahrendorf

Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.79 inPublished:June 6, 1999Publisher:Princeton University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0691006857

ISBN - 13:9780691006857

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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
Acknowledgments
Pt. IIntroduction1
1Entry3
2Absolute Power16
3On the History of the Concentration Camps28
Pt. IISpace and Time45
4Zones and Camp Plans47
5Boundary and Gate55
6The Block65
7Camp Time73
8Prisoner's Time82
Pt. IIISocial Structures95
9The SS Personnel97
10Classes and Classifications117
11Self-Management and the Gradation of Power130
12The Aristocracy145
13Mass, Exchange, Dissociation153
Pt. IVWork165
14Work and Slavery167
15The Beneficiaries173
16Work Situations185
Pt. VViolence and Death197
17The Muselmann199
18Epidemics206
19Terror Punishment214
20Violent Excesses223
21Selection241
22The Death Factory259
Epilogue276
Selected Glossary and Abbreviations283
Abbreviations Used in Notes and Bibliography289
Notes291
Bibliography343