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216 × 138 × 24 mm
240 pages
27 illustrations
01 Apr 2012
  • £20.00

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The Nazi, the Painter and the Forgotten Story of the SS Road G. H. Bennett

In 2006 in England a long-forgotten canister of film was discovered by chance in the dusty cupboard of a Devonshire church. No one knew how it had got there, but its contents were tantalizing: grainy black-and-white scenes showed SS soldiers and slave labourers involved in what appeared to be a Nazi road-building programme. BBC television caused a sensation when it broadcast the footage, but the film gave few clues to the identities of the people in it, the places shown or the construction work's ambitious ultimate purpose.

G. H. Bennett set out to uncover the story behind this compelling visual record, and to identify the perpetrators and victims it portrayed. Piece by piece Bennett has put together the story of the SS Road, construction of which was managed by an unremarkable SS officer who, through a chance office mix-up of names, unexpectedly found himself in charge. He describes the Red Army prisoners, Jews and others who were worked to death building it, and singles out by name the barbaric overseers. Arnold Daghani, a Romanian artist, was one of the few Jewish labourers to survive the project. Bennett explores through Daghani’s words and pictures the brutal treatment the slave workers endured, and Daghani's own postwar efforts, finally while living in England, to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Recovering a neglected part of the history of the Second World War and the Holocaust, The Nazi, the Painter and the Forgotten Story of the SS Road is a moving, at times horrifying, account of gratuitous cruelties imposed on ordinary people by a regime fixated on a nightmare future.

‘Bennett writes very well . . . an engaging book, which should be welcomed for shedding light on a little-known chapter of the wider holocaust.’ — BBC History Magazine

‘With these pieces of the puzzle in place, Bennett was able to research the most historically important aspect of the book, namely the network of notorious slave labor camps strung along the entire length of the highway and the experiences of a tragically small number of survivors, particularly the Romanian Jewish painter Arnold Daghani.’ — Christopher R. Browning, New York Review of Books

‘An excellent account of an episode that brings together the Holocaust and Nazi plans for the Ukraine. Truly impressive use of new material. The purposes as well as cruelty of Nazi road-building emerges clearly. Very harsh conditions for the enslaved workers. The dependence of Nazi plans on the flow of war is also a clear conclusion.’ — The Historical Association

‘This surprising and artful book mixes the history of the Nazi occupation of Ukraine and of the Holocaust with present perspectives. It entertains and enriches our understanding of a terrible time.’ — Richard Breitman, Professor of History, American University, Washington DC and author of The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution

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G. H. Bennett is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Plymouth. He is the author of ten books including Hitler's Admirals and The RAF's French Foreign Legion.

Introduction: A Puzzling Reel of Film
1. Marching Eastwards
2. The Aryan Imperial Dream
3. The Master Race in Control
4. Putting Names to Faces
5. The Fat Man Identified
6. Durchgangstrasse IV: Highway of the SS
7. The Film-makers
8. The Romanian Connection
9. The End of the Road
10. The Cry for Justice
11. Beyond Earthly Justice

Sources and Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements