A British activist and writer delves into the phenomenon of "desk killers," the bureaucrats whose safely distant and sterile work enables genocide and other atrocities. Interspersed with historical details about the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity, Gretton offers meditations on his personal life and on-the-ground research.
... it is much more than a history of bureaucratic crime. Rather, Gretton has written himself deeply and intimately into the work, which also serves as a poignant memoir; a travelogue that leads the reader through time and space, history and memory; and an extended exercise in observation and introspection ... Perhaps the most urgent point that Gretton seeks to make, and the one that elevates his book from a work of history and memoir to a manifesto, is that the example of desk killers in the Holocaust must be seen as a moral caution against complacency and complicity in our own lives and our own times.
... an insightful and somewhat terrifying look into the corporate engines behind several of the most significant atrocities of the 20th century ... You would think Gretton’s interlacing of his own story with those of these killers would detract from the intensity of the larger tale, but it does not. Rather, it enhances the commonplaceness of it all. You are carried along by the author in his wanderings and relations, as well as in his litany of terrors. The simplicity of his journey makes starker the choices the desk killers made. If there is one question nagging this daunting work, it is this: Who will take the time to read this impressive book of nightmares? This is only volume one, after all. Gretton has another massive opus ready to go.
... a complex and exceptional book ... very well written and extraordinarily powerful ... often narrated in the first person and richly illustrated with his own photographs, maps, diagrams or facsimile documents. They all feed into an autobiographical travelogue but also a formal examination of Western moral history ... Be warned, the book requires a strong stomach ... Part of the achievement of his book is to abolish any sense of moral exceptionalism about Nazi atrocities and to demonstrate how Treblinka takes its place in a web of cause and effect that links to both Germany’s past but also to a much wider European contemporary commercial landscape ... Dan Gretton’s profound moral effort in this book is...a guarantee that the truth will be heard.