NIGHT by Edgar Hilsenrath


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It's hard to think of any account of the concentration or extermination camps which is as appallingly or probably as authentically (Hilsenrath survived an experience such as this) brutal as this diary-documentary of a Ukrainian ghetto in 1942. There, in the flyblown filth, the inmates attempt to stay halfway alive--""That's the law of our time."" Speaking is Ranek, who defies the actuarial statistics more successfully than most--at least for the months which are spent here, fighting for a place to sleep under a table, trafficking in teeth taken from corpses for food, waiting out the razzias (round-ups). There are unspeakable scenes--in the whorehouse, in the latrine, of the old woman who lets two men take her in order to have her son's corpse removed, of a man found alive--barely--in a litter pile of cadavers, etc. etc. Ranek's story involves others: the woman Sarah who attaches herself to him to die of food (garbage) poisoning; of Deborah, his brother's wife who turns up, having seen his parents killed, Deborah who alone can stir a little feeling in Ranek, who dies, at the close as typhus completes these annals of genocide within the ghetto. The readership may well be a reluctant one since compassion is almost overwhelmed by revulsion. By comparison, and in terms of unrelenting realism, Hersey's Wall crumbles.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1966
Publisher: Doubleday