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Soldiers and Slaves


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About the Author

Roger Cohen writes on foreign affairs for The New York Times, where he has worked since 1990, primarily as Paris correspondent, bureau chief in the Balkans and Berlin, and foreign editor. He also writes a twice-weekly column for the International Herald Tribune. His book on Bosnia, Hearts Grown Brutal, based on his prizewinning coverage of the war there, was cited for its excellence by the Overseas Press Club. He is married to the sculptor, Frida Baranek, has four children and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


An untold story of World War II comes brutally to life in Cohen's (Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo '98) book about 350 largely Jewish American prisoners captured during the Battle of the Bulge. In February 1945, the prisoners were shipped to eastern Germany to work as slave laborers building a planned synthetic fuel factory. Seventy of these soldiers were worked to death in this meeting between Americans and Hitler's Final Solution. Cohen interviewed many of the survivors and provides nearly a firsthand historical narrative by the people who lived through these events. More than just another Holocaust memoir, this book recounts the cover-up by the U.S. government and its failure to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes and to compensate or even recognize the victims for decades after the fact. Recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.]-David Lee Poremba, Detroit P.L. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Meticulously reported and passionately felt. . . . Haunting." -Tom Brokaw, The New York Times "Cohen's contributions are large. . . . We at last know something human, something personal, about these GIs, and can remember and mourn them by name, with the sorrow and honor they deserve."
The New York Times Book Review "A powerful account of a chapter of the war that was long suppressed." -The New Yorker

"Roger Cohen has brought us a jewel of a book -- a chilling, deeply felt, and powerfully written account of an astonishing episode at the climax of World War II that speaks volumes about human nature, justice, and memory." -Michael Beschloss "Roger Cohen, who has already written one profoundly moving book on the Bosnian war and provides some of the best American journalism about Europe, understands that huge tragedies are constituted by microhistories of suffering. In Soldiers and Slaves he follows the fate of Jewish American soldiers, captured in the Battle of the Bulge and thrown into the vortex of the crumbling Third Reich as brutalized slave laborers and death-march victims alongside the remnants of surviving Central European Jewery. This is a beautifully crafted narrative of cruelty, heroism, dismaying postwar indifference, and finally, at last, memory redeemed."
-Charles Maier, Saltonstall Professor of History, Harvard University "Before reading Soldiers and Slaves, I had never heard of concentration camp Berga, 'an ephemeral little hell' within the larger hell of World War II. But I know it now and won't ever forget it, thanks to Roger Cohen's masterful account, wonderfully reported and written."
-Ward Just "This story of American POWs at Berga-their suffering, their pain, their hope, their memories-has surprisingly been forgotten or inadequately recalled by historians. Roger Cohen is to be thanked for revealing to the public its profound human drama with talent, sensitivity, and a commitment to truth."
-Elie Wiesel "In this extraordinary book Roger Cohen has brought to light a long-concealed story of Nazi savagery. It brought me to tears-and understanding."
-Anthony Lewis

A former Balkans bureau chief for the New York Times, Cohen last explored atrocity in Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo; he now steps back 60 years and moves a few hundred kilometers west to recount the fate of 550 American POWs shipped into eastern Germany during the winter of 1944-1945. Most were Jewish-or appeared Jewish enough to satisfy Nazi officials, who needed to meet labor quotas the dying concentration camp inmates were no longer fit to handle. Cohen's interviews with survivors show that the POWs met nearly as dire a fate, as they dug underground to build a synthetic fuel plant, with 20% of them dying and others being crippled for life by rock falls, dust, starvation and by the brutal treatment from the guards. Postwar, the camp fell within what became East Germany, where the investigation into the Holocaust was less rigorously pursued than in the West. The guards got off lightly; the commandant was sentenced to only eight years. Following Germany's reunification, exploration into the methods and motives of the Third Reich has been losing support, Cohen shows; his outrage is plain when he encounters a German environmentalist who wants the surviving caves turned into a bird sanctuary. The book is well organized, but the writing style is not always smooth; it's Cohen's level of detail that makes this journalistic history come alive. 75,000-copy first printing. Agent, Amanda Urban. 7-city author tour. (Apr. 27) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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