David Cesarani

“The Twisted Road from Auschwitz”

Review of Daniel Blatman, The Death Marches: The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide. Trans. Chaya Galai. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2011. 515 pp.

In the last three months of the Third Reich, about 250,000 inmates of concentration camps perished on death marches and in countless incidents of mass slaughter. Even in the bloody chronicles of the Nazi regime, this final deathblow was unique in character and scope. In The Death Marches: The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide, Daniel Blatman attempts to answer the questions raised by this final murderous rampage, by drawing on the testimonies of victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. Using a wide range of archival material Blatman argues that the death marches and the attendant massacres were not the last phase of the Final Solution because the SS guards killed the camp inmates not out of genocidal rage, but for what they conceived of as practical reasons. However, Blatman concedes, that guiding the murderers’ decisions was a genocidal mentality which emerged from an antisemitic milieu. Blatman’s meticulous research forces recosideration of the last phase of the war – its characteristics and its linkage to earlier murderous stages.