Marcuse, Harold. Legacies of Dachau: the uses and abuses of a concentration camp, 1933-2001.
Cambridge, 2001. 590p index ISBN 0-521-55204-4, $34.95 .

Reviewed in Apr. 2002 CHOICE.

Dachau served as the signature concentration camp for the Nazis. What happened there to its 200,000 inmates allows Marcuse (history, Univ. of California Santa Barbara) to talk about the system of terror generally. Victims, perpetrators, and bystanders come in for informative treatment, personalized by thumbnail biographies of individual actors. But the Nazi era is not the main concern. Unlike editors Jo Reilly et al. in Belsen in History and Memory, 1997, Marcuse gives extensive treatment to how the concentration camp has come to be understood in and beyond Germany. In three large sections, he details the three myths that allowed the citizens of Dachau to escape facing the reality that was in their midst (1945-55); the first commemorations by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish victims and the awakening of interest in the nation at large (1955-70); and the ups and downs of the process of overcoming myth while reflecting on the meaning of the camp in history and the present (1970-2001). Four hundred pages of text, 160 pages of endnotes, and 88 well-chosen, carefully explained illustrations compose the definitive history of Dachau--the town, concentration camp, and site of memory. Clearly and sensitively written, the book is accessible to a broad audience. It belongs in every library.

-- R. S. Levy, University of Illinois at Chicago

prepared for web by H. Marcuse, Nov. 2002
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