One Long Night

A haunting history of modernity’s greatest tragedy: concentration camps.

“Masterly.” —The New Yorker

“A potent, powerful history of cruelty & dehumanization.”  —Kirkus, starred review

One of Smithsonian Magazines Ten Best History books for 2017.

“Andrea Pitzer has a poet’s grace and a documentarian’s breadth, along with the curiosity of a reporter whose shoe leather has long ago frayed. In One Long Night, she also proves her rare ability to translate a century of suffering into a groundbreaking narrative that is fluid, lucid, and throbbing with humanity’s ache. It will make you see the past—and the present—anew.” —Beth Macy, author of Truevine and Factory Man

“Andrea Pitzer’s searing One Long Night proceeds like an epic poem charged with the horror of concentration camps on six continents. It is a tale full of sound and fury, unfortunately signifying plenty. ‘Old camps reopen, new ones are born,’ Pitzer tells us in her clean prose that is cogent, passionate, profound, and profoundly disturbing.” —Peter Davis, Academy Award winner for Hearts and Minds and author of the novel Girl of My Dreams

One Long Night is a don’t-look-away narrative of concentration camps, a fearless and elegant tale of human cruelty but also of human courage. And it’s told with such undaunted moral clarity, that the story serves to remind all of us that it is never too late to stand up for what is right.” —Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Poisoner’s Handbook

For over a hundred years, at least one concentration camp has existed somewhere on Earth. First used for battlefield strategy, camps have evolved with each passing decade, in the scope of their effects and the savage practicality with which governments have employed them. Even today, as we continue to reckon with the magnitude and horror of the Holocaust, history tells us we have broken our own promise of “never again.”

In this harrowing work based on archival records and interviews during travel to four continents, Andrea Pitzer reveals for the first time the human and global story of concentration camps.

Beginning with 1890s Cuba and ending with Guantanamo today, she pinpoints camps around the world. From the Philippines and Southern Africa in the early twentieth century to the Soviet Gulag and detention camps in China and North Korea that took root during the Cold War, camp systems have been used as tools for civilian relocation, political repression, and extermination. Often justified as a measure to protect a nation, or even interned groups themselves, camps have instead served as brutal and dehumanizing sites that have claimed the lives of millions.

Drawing on exclusive testimony, landmark research, and on-site investigation, Pitzer unearths the roots of this appalling phenomenon, exploring the staggering toll of the camps: our greatest atrocities, the extraordinary survivors, and the intimate moments that have also been part of camp life during the past century.

Rebuilt barracks at the former Gurs detention camp in southern France (photo: Andrea Pitzer)