Depicting contemporary Dachau, home of the first Nazi concentration camp, the first gas chamber, and the first crematory oven, proves an illusive task. Timothy Ryback travels to Dachau, looking for the community that inhabits the town today, to find out how the older people live with the memories and how the younger generation deals with the legacy; there he finds Martin Zaidenstadt.
While Dachau's residents express vastly divergent ways of and reasons for living in a city coinhabited by ghosts, Ryback finds one daily constant: Martin Zaidenstadt's vigil in front of the camp's brick crematorium. Should you visit the crematorium, Martin will tell you, "My name is Martin Zaidenstadt. I survive this camp. I come here every day for fifty-three years." Martin claims to be a Holocaust survivor; he is both gadfly and guide, a man who embodies the paradox that is Dachau -- a place that was so successful at producing death, that it has become impossible for anyone who resides there to live a normal life.
Ryback's inquiry into a place uncovers a person whose keen intelligence, subtle wit, and boundless goodwill help us to understand Dachau as a city unable to forget, yet unwilling to be defined by its abominable past. This is a stunning and passionate portrait.
About Timothy W. Ryback
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Published January 1, 1999
by Pantheon Books.
History, Biographies & Memoirs, Travel, War.