Laurence Rees

Laurence Rees

Laurence Rees is Creative Director of History Programs for the BBC and author of five books, including The Nazis: A Warning from History and Horror in the East: Japan and the Atrocities of World War II. He lives in London.

"Laurence Rees casts new light on how Auschwitz was created and developed into the ultimate place of horror, the lasting symbol of Nazi inhumanity. This admirable book deserves to be widely read. " —Ian Kershaw, Author of Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris and Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis


Laurence's new book, World War II: Behind Closed Doors, is now available from Vintage in paperback.  It was also broadcast as a multipart series on PBS, and is now availalbe on DVD.  He's currently working on another book about World War II  for Pantheon.


Laurence Rees official website



Auschwitz-Birkenau is the site of the largest mass murder in human history. Yet its story is not fully known. In Auschwitz, Laurence Rees reveals new insights from more than 100 original interviews with Auschwitz survivors and Nazi perpetrators who speak on the record for the first time. Their testimonies provide a portrait of the inner workings of the camp in unrivaled detail—from the techniques of mass murder, to the politics and gossip mill that turned between guards and prisoners, to the on-camp brothel in which the lines between those guards and prisoners became surprisingly blurred.

Rees examines the strategic decisions that led the Nazi leadership to prescribe Auschwitz as its primary site for the extinction of Europe's Jews—their "Final Solution." He concludes that many of the horrors that were perpetrated in Auschwitz were driven not just by ideological inevitability but as a "practical" response to a war in the East that had begun to go wrong for Germany. A terrible immoral pragmatism characterizes many of the decisions that determined what happened at Auschwitz. Thus the story of the camp becomes a morality tale, too, in which evil is shown to proceed in a series of deft, almost noiseless incremental steps until it produces the overwhelming horror of the industrial scale slaughter that was inflicted in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

(Public Affairs, June 2008)

WWII: Behind Closed Doors

In this revelatory chronicle of World War II, Laurence Rees documents the dramatic and secret deals that helped make the war possible and prompted some of the most crucial decisions made during the conflict.

Drawing on material available only since the opening of archives in Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as amazing new testimony from nearly a hundred separate witnesses from the period, Rees reexamines the key choices made by Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt during the war, and presents, in a compelling and fresh way, the reasons why the people of Poland, the Baltic states, and other European countries simply swapped the rule of one tyrant for another.  Surprising, incisive, and endlessly intriguing, World War II: Behind Closed Doors will change the way we think about the Second World War. 

(Pantheon, April 2009)