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The Last Survivor: Legacies of Dachau by…

The Last Survivor: Legacies of Dachau

by Timothy W. Ryback

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What is disturbing about this book is that the author, a journalist, denounces an old man as an impostor on the basis of his own inconclusive investigation. The fact that Ryback cannot find the proof he is looking for does not give him the right to call Martin Zaidenstadt a fraud. Even if Zaidenstadt was not a survivor at Dachau, his age and European history and whatever Zaidenstadt did go through, would make him a victim of some sort. Besides, what is gained by Ryback's revelation? Throughout the book, Zaidenstadt emerges as pretty harmless. Staff of the memorial site at Dachau speak of him endearingly. Let the old man be, is what the Germans in the book say.

The book is a bit of a jumble of related stories, all around Martin Zaidenstadt. The author is clearly on a mission. Some chapters were interesting to read. It is a bit of a scrap book of history. ( )
  edwinbcn | Nov 13, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679439714, Hardcover)

This disturbing group portrait of Dachau's modern-day residents is a Holocaust book unlike any other. American journalist Timothy Ryback, whose Austrian heritage includes a distant relative in the SS and a Nazi-sympathizing grandfather, depicts the wide range of perspectives held by those who live in the German town best known for being the site of a concentration camp. He finds that denial, distasteful self-pity, and genuine reflection are some of the typical emotions. Looming over all the other Dachauers, however, is 87-year-old Martin Zaidenstadt, a troubled and possibly delusional man who claims to have been a Dachau inmate and makes it his business to stand outside the camp every day, contradicting the glib accounts of the tour guides. Ryback never finds documentary evidence that Zaidenstadt was in Dachau, and many of the old man's diatribes contain factual errors. Yet he is a towering figure, possessed by near-biblical rage and a past whose nightmares include a wife and daughter burned alive in Poland--a trauma that, Ryback subtly suggests, fuels Zaidenstadt's vigil. By presenting his subjects without overt editorial comment, the author forces readers to confront discomfiting issues without the solace of easy condemnation or quick disassociation from decades-old ethical questions that are still painfully relevant. --Wendy Smith

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:49 -0400)

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Timothy Ryback explores the ways in which the citizens of Dachau go about their lives in a city the rest of the world associates with gas chambers and mass graves.

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