Shelves: world-war-two , holocaust Perhaps the definition of a worthy book about the Holocaust is that it leaves you asking more questions than it answers. That, ultimately, it is unsatisfactory. Satisfaction, after all, allows one to move on. The author of Into the Darkness conducts a series of interviews with Franz Stangl, the kommandant of Treblinka and various people who knew him, including one Jewish man who survived the death camp. Before the Anschluss Stangl was a policeman in Austria.
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But this time I said nothing. He paused and waited, but the room remained silent. For the first time, in all these many days, I had given him no help. There was no more time. He gripped the table with both hands as if he were holding on to it. These few sentences has taken almost half an hour to produce. Few people in the 20th century have done as much as her to explore the nature of moral evil.
She ranks alongside Hannah Arendt, whose phrase " the banality of evil ", Sereny came to dislike. Both resisted the easy characterisation of evil as something done by people with horns and funny accents: that is, done by people not like you and me. What is so terrifying about the work of Sereny is that she makes evil look ordinary and everyday. And in this way she shows us how close we all could be to it. The myth she seeks to expose is that evil people are somehow qualitatively different.
He was more concerned with the neatness of his uniform and with getting things done efficiently and decently. Stangl had no perception of the big picture. He saw himself a minor functionary, just obeying orders and doing his best. His whole identity was so bound up in this function that it was only at the very end of his life that he was able to glimpse something of his own guilt. For this can prompt a sort of spiritual crisis in a person and thus act to warn us not to be so trusting of our own virtue.
Evil is not done by other people. It is done by people like us. No wonder some got so angry at her work. She was blamed for being too soft on murderers, of understanding them too much. But her writing was driven by something much deeper than soft-hearted liberal understanding.
She took the reader on a journey not just into the dark soul of the Nazi guard, but also into a darkness that is our own. And no one was going to thank her for that. Except that one of the most important ways to avoid evil — or whatever one wants to call it — is by having the self-critical vigilance that such a journey can scare you into developing.
Which is why her work is among the bravest and most significant literature of the century.
Into That Darkness
Biography[ edit ] Sereny was born in Vienna , Austria in After writing about the rally for a class assignment she was given Mein Kampf to read by her teacher so she might be able to understand what she saw there. After the Nazi takeover of Austria in , she moved to France , where she worked with orphans during the German occupation until she had to flee the country because of her connection to the French Resistance. Among her tasks was reuniting with their biological families children who had been kidnapped by the Nazis to be raised as " Aryans ". The poster of Che Guevara on a red background  is one of his best known creations. From the mid-sixties and throughout the s she wrote extensively for The Daily Telegraph Magazine under the editorship of John Anstey.
Gitta Sereny led us through our own darkness
But this time I said nothing. He paused and waited, but the room remained silent. For the first time, in all these many days, I had given him no help. There was no more time. He gripped the table with both hands as if he were holding on to it.
Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience