In Kitty Hart's ''Return to Auschwitz'' we have a valuable memoir of the experience of a Jew in Nazi-occupied Poland. The book came about in conjunction with the author's collaboration with the BBC in its documentary of the same name; it is a reminiscence of her days in this infamous Nazi concentration camp.
To have been a Jew within the reach of the S.S. was an extreme challenge, but it is one which Kitty Hart faced with courage and determination. There were so many times when she might have met her end, but each time she managed to escape, sometimes because of the quirks of bureaucracy, but often through her own considerable ingenuity.
She seems to have regarded the things that happened to her as part of the adventure of living. ''Never obey (the Nazis)'' became her motto. She describes this attitude of perseverance as ''the sheer refusal to be defeated, saying to yourself over and over, no, no, no.''
Kitty Hart's writing is subdued, but powerful. The most astonishing thing about this book is that, while it has an emotional intensity, it passes virtually no judgment on the Nazis. Kitty Hart is not a preacher; she is a reporter.
Life in a Nazi death camp could hardly have failed to have a impact on the one interned there, and for Kitty Hart the experience was a profound one. The horrors she experienced in Auschwitz caused her to renounce any of her previous religious views, and her life there conditioned the way she has looked at the world since.
''I still see the features and routines of Auschwitz everywhere,'' she writes. ''Everyone I have met since the war slots in my mind into an Auschwitz setting. I know within a few minutes who they would have been and how they would have behaved, especially when the chips were down. There may not be the same undisguised physical brutality in our contemporary surroundings, but the pattern is the same: personal viciousness, greed for power, love of manipulation and humiliation.'' It is a lesson for us all.
''A History of the Holocaust'' by Yehuda Bauer attempts to mention all the historical issues central to the Holocaust question. Although this makes it a useful book, in this case comprehensiveness seems to have been undertaken at the expense of reflectiveness. There are some enlightening quotations from those who were there, which add interest to this study, but on the whole the prose tends toward the leaden. It is an acceptable introduction, but it does not quite reach the quality of such earlier studies as those of Lucy Davidowitz, Raul Hilberg, and Gerald Reitlinger.
Leo Kuper's ''Genocide: Its Political Use in the Twentieth Century'' is a careful and reasoned study that is concerned a good deal with the mental atmosphere of genocide--that is, with the kinds of views of the world and of one's fellow humans which bring it about.
Mr. Kuper focuses on two acts of genocide: the fight against the Jews conducted by Hitler from the mid-1930s to the conclusion of World War II and an earlier genocide, that of the Turks against the Armenians in 1915.Although there are once or twice some shocking and frank portions of text, the author's tone is not sensationalistic.
Surprisingly, one subject not covered by the author is how genocide might be averted. Mr. Kuper critiques, negatively, the attempts of the United Nations to deal with genocide, but unfortunately he fails to suggest a better way of meeting the problem. It is clear from this book that a concrete program is needed, and it seems to me that one could reasonably have expected the author to bring forward such a plan.