SURVIVING THE HOLOCAUST: The Kovno Ghetto Diary by Avraham Tory


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A thorough documentation of life--and massive loss of life--in one the major wartime Jewish ghettos. Tory, the deputy secretary of the Jewish Council of the Kovno ghetto, survived the Nazi Holocaust along with three of his five buried crates of journal and archival materials. In the competent hands of Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert, the resultant diary compares well with those already published on the major ghettos of Warsaw, Lodz, and Bialystock. Maps, photographs, illustrations and ample notes reinforce a journal text that occasionally drags on with endless details of how many people and machines are employed in which work station. There are profound and disturbing passages too; some of which touch on the classic ghetto dilemma of trying to best serve the inmate population without doing the Nazis' dirty work. The book lacks, however, the dominant personality and conflict to propel it to the heights of literature. One significant theme that emerges is the victims' refusal to believe that the Nazis meant to murder them all--this despite the deportees that were never heard from, the work details that never returned, and the occasional testimony of escapees from the various extermination facilities around their Slobodka ghetto in central Lithuania. The ""last testament"" of the ghetto's Oberjude (Chief Jew) is especially moving, and toward the diary's conclusion there is a breathtaking description of an escape from the Ninth Fort, where tens of thousands of Jewish victims lay in huge burial pits. A handful of those 60 escapees survive today. Because of the similarly miraculous survival of this diary, we may add to our knowledge of even the administrative machinations of perpetrators and victims of state-run genocide.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1990
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press