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The Death Marches

The Death Marches

The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide

Daniel Blatman

Translated by Chaya Galai

ISBN 9780674725980

Publication date: 11/18/2013

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Co-winner of the Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research

From January 1945, in the last months of the Third Reich, about 250,000 inmates of concentration camps perished on death marches and in countless incidents of mass slaughter. They were murdered with merciless brutality by their SS guards, by army and police units, and often by gangs of civilians as they passed through German and Austrian towns and villages. Even in the bloody annals of the Nazi regime, this final death blow was unique in character and scope.

In this first comprehensive attempt to answer the questions raised by this final murderous rampage, the author draws on the testimonies of victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. Hunting through archives throughout the world, Daniel Blatman sets out to explain—to the extent that is possible—the effort invested by mankind’s most lethal regime in liquidating the remnants of the enemies of the “Aryan race” before it abandoned the stage of history. What were the characteristics of this last Nazi genocide? How was it linked to the earlier stages, the slaughter of millions in concentration camps? How did the prevailing chaos help to create the conditions that made the final murderous rampage possible?

In its exploration of a topic nearly neglected in the current history of the Shoah, this book offers unusual insight into the workings, and the unraveling, of the Nazi regime. It combines micro-historical accounts of representative massacres with an overall analysis of the collapse of the Third Reich, helping us to understand a seemingly inexplicable chapter in history.


  • Blatman’s book is to be welcomed, not least as the subject of the death marches has rarely featured in the long historiography of the Third Reich. He sets out not only to explain and contextualise, but also to correct a few misconceptions… The Death Marches is an excellent history. Blatman has researched assiduously, using trial records and survivor testimonies. He presents his research in a very accessible way. He is scrupulously even-handed, giving due credit to those Polish, Czech and German civilians who gave succour to the unfortunates, as well as highlighting the actions of those who did not. In particular Blatman deserves praise for providing a highly nuanced interpretation of events: one that avoids the assumption that the death marches simply constituted the final stage of the Holocaust. The gruesome chapter that he outlines was clearly in large part the result of the mentality and the practices that had brought about the genocide against the Jews. Yet by 1945 the murders surrounding the death marches formed part of a much wider phenomenon—no less brutal and scarcely less exterminatory—but one in which Jews were no longer the primary victims.

    —Roger Moorhouse, History Today


  • Daniel Blatman is Max and Rita Haber Professor of Contemporary Jewry at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Book Details

  • 592 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press