Gitta Sereny, a writer perhaps best known for her extraordinary biography of Albert Speer, has spent most of her 78 years attempting to understand human evil. As we learn from this collection of essays, some of them autobiographical, this preoccupation came to her naturally enough. Of Hungarian-German parentage and raised as a Protestant, Sereny was a precocious year-old in Vienna when Hitler annexed Austria in Her mother traveled in Jewish circles, and young Gitta, whose father had died when she was 2, saw the unfolding terror firsthand. Unlike so many Austrians, she tells us, she did not jeer at the Jews on their hands and knees forced to scrub the pavement with toothbrushes; on one such occasion, she even impetuously risked her life to intervene.

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Treblinka extermination camp. Some ,, Jews and 2, gypsies murdered there. I waded in notes, currency, precious stones, jewellery. The smell was indescribable;. Then I made my next round, starting up at the Totenlager. By that time they were well ahead of the work up there. At twelve, I had lunch.

Sereny met Stangl in He was in prison in Dusseldorf, appealing against a life sentence; she was looking for answers. But Sereny would not give up. She questioned him, hour after hour.

As he always said. Nineteen hours later, Stangl was dead from heart failure. Into That Darkness tells a savage truth. But look away at your peril.

Sereny looked Stangl in the eye. And in doing so she challenges us to look at ourselves. To ask: who am I?

What would I do? What is my truth? Why did we love it so much? To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber. Please subscribe to sign in to comment. Julie Parsons. Gitta Sereny looked Stangl in the eye. More from The Irish Times Books.

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Into That Darkness

Mass murderer Franz Stangl, one-time commendant of the Treblinka death camp, died of heart failure 19 hours after he spoke these words to the remarkable investigative journalist Gitta Sereny. Few people in the 20th century have done as much as her to explore the nature of moral evil. She ranks alongside Hannah Arendt, whose phrase " the banality of evil ", Sereny came to dislike. Both resisted the easy characterisation of evil as something done by people with horns and funny accents: that is, done by people not like you and me. What is so terrifying about the work of Sereny is that she makes evil look ordinary and everyday.


Gitta Sereny led us through our own darkness

The biography of Franz Stangl, commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp - a classic and utterly compelling study of evil. Only four men commanded Nazi extermination as opposed to concentration camps. Franz Stangl was one of the. Gitta Sereny's investigation of this man's mind, and of the influences which shaped him, has become a classic. Stangl commanded Treblinka and was found guilty of co-responsibility for the slaughter there of at least , people. Sereny, after weeks of talk with him and months of further research, shows us this man as he saw himself, and 'as he was seen by many others, including his wife. To horrify is not Sereny's aim, though horror is inevitable.


Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience

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In praise of older books: Into that Darkness by Gitta Sereny (1974)

She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in for services to journalism. Sereny was born in Vienna , Austria in When she was thirteen, her train journey to a boarding school in the United Kingdom was delayed in Nuremberg where she attended one of the annual Nuremberg rallies. After writing about the rally for a class assignment she was given Mein Kampf to read by her teacher so she might be able to understand what she saw there. After the Nazi takeover of Austria in , she moved to France , where she worked with orphans during the German occupation until she had to flee the country because of her connection to the French Resistance. Among her tasks was reuniting with their biological families children who had been kidnapped by the Nazis to be raised as " Aryans ". She attended the Nuremberg Trials for four days in as an observer and it was here that she first saw Albert Speer about whom she would later write the book Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth.

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