During 1938 and 1939, Paul Neurath was a Jewish political prisoner in the concentration camps at Dachau and Buchenwald. He owed his survival to a temporary Nazi policy allowing release of prisoners who were willing to go into exile and the help of friends on the outside who helped him obtain a visa. He fled to Sweden before coming to the United States in 1941. In 1943, he completed The Society of Terror, based on his experiences in Dachau and Buchenwald. He embarked on a long career teaching sociology and statistics at universities in the United States and later in Vienna until his death in September 2001. After liberation, the horrific images of the extermination camps abounded from Dachau, Buchenwald, and other places. Neurath's chillingly factual discussion of his experience as an inmate and his astute observations of the conditions and the social structures in Dachau and Buchenwald captivate the reader, not only because of their authenticity, but also because of the work's proximity to the events and the absence of influence of later interpretations. His account is unique also because of the exceptional links Neurath establishes between personal experience and theoretical reflection, the persistent oscillation between the distanced and sober view of the scientist and that of the prisoner.
Table of Contents
Part One: The Scene; First Impressions; A Day in Concentration Camp; The Work; Mail; Food; Sickness and Death; Political Prisoners (red badge: arrested by Gestapo); Conservatives and Fascists; Others; Cri-Po Prisoners (brown badge: arrested by criminal police); Jehovah's Witnesses (violet badge: arrested by Gestapo); Emigrants (blue badge: arrested by Gestapo); Second termers (colored bar: arrested by Gestapo); Jews (yellow badge: combined with any other color); The common guards; The Commanders; The more common punishments; Crime; Midemeanors against discipline at work; Special crimes; Guard system and organization of work; Size of the camp; Kaleidoscope; Buchenwald, January 4, 1939; Bunchenwald, Spring 1939; Bunchenwald, April 20, 1939; Dachau, May 1938; Buchenwald, November 1938; Buchenwald, December 1938; Part II: The Society; Power; The Moor Express; Property Rights; Conflict; Antisemitism; Political prisoners vs. professional criminals; Individual prisoners enter the camp; Why they don't hit back; Christian Fleck, Albert Muller and Nico Stehr Afterword
“Within the large pool of literature on the Holocaust, I rate Paul Martin Neurath’s The Society of Terror as a must read.” Jewish Book World
"The Society of Terror is marked by the precision and elegance of its psychological observation and literary quality."The Frankfurter Allgem eine Zeitung
"The Society of Terror by Paul Neurath is a timeless, brilliant first-hand account of the author's incarceration in Dachau and Buchenwald. One of the most compelling presentations of the heights and depths, the heroism and evil, that the human condition is capable of attaining. "Charles W. Smith, Professor of Sociology, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY
"With a sociologist's eye and a prisoner's harrowing memories, Paul Neurath leads us throught the Nazi concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald. He combines his painful, subjective experiences with a keen understanding of the camps' social systems and illuminates how the society of terror functioned. Neurath shows how "the cruelty of hell" and "all the madness of a lunatic asylum" could be "expected at any minute" and became part of the ordinary world of camp inmates. The editors, Christian Fleck and Nico Stehr, are to be congratulated for bringing this important amalgamation of scholarship and memoir to light."Marion Kaplan, author of Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany and Skirball Professor of Modern Jewish History, NYU