Nikolaus Wachsmann’s 863-page history of the Nazi concentration camps has won this year’s £4,000 Jewish Quarterly Wingate literary prize.
KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps (Little, Brown), is a “unique” and comprehensive chronicle of the concentration camps, spanning the 12 years of the Third Reich.
It fended off competition from other shortlisted titles Ishmael’s Oranges by Claire Hajaj (Oneworld); J by Howard Jacobson (Vintage); The Life of Saul Bellow by Zachary Leader (Jonathan Cape); Between Gods by Alison Pick (Tinder Press); The Impossible Exile by George Prochnik (Granta) and The Liberation of the Camps (Yale University Press) by Dan Stone to win the prize.
Chair of judges Samantha Ellis said: "The rise of Nazism will always be of Jewish interest but that is not why we have chosen KL. We think it is a book everyone should read.
“It is a work of immense scholarship and of vivid humanity, as Nikolaus Wachsmann marshals many new primary sources, and thousands of individual testimonies, showing how the concentration camps were used against many different people, from political opponents of the regime to those considered racially unfit.”
Nikolaus Wachsmann holds his winning book alongside judges Tahmima Anam, Hugo Rifkind and Samantha Ellis.
Wachsmann, said he was “greatly honoured” to accept the prize.
“When writing this history of the Nazi concentration camps, I kept thinking about a message buried by a Jewish victim near the Auschwitz crematorium ‘may the world at least behold a fraction of this tragic world in which we lived’," he said. "I hope my book makes a small contribution to this endeavour, to help us see and understand the tragic world of the Nazi camps a little clearer.”
Along with Ellis, columnist Hugo Rifkind, Granta Top 20 Young Novelist Tahmima Anam and Senior Masorti Judaism Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg also judged the prize.
Established in 1977, the annual JQ Wingate prize, run in partnership with JW3, is awarded to the best book – fiction or non fiction – of Jewish interest for the general reader.
Previous winners include Amos Oz, Zadie Smith, Oliver Sacks, Otto Dov Kulka, David Grossman, Thomas Harding and W.G. Sebald.