Almost miraculously, Holocaust survivor Stiffel was able to keep a diary through the hells of Treblinka and Auschwitz; and his testimony is filled with turns of fate--all dark--and corresponding redemptions (of luck and intelligence). Studying poetry and medicine abroad in 1939, Franek (Frank) returned to his native Lvov to join the hapless Polish army in fighting Hitler's invasion. Then for a few weeks he was in the Soviet army until it made peace with the Germans, exposing the Jews of Poland first to Ukrainian pogroms, then the depredations of the SS. With his family, Franek made for Warsaw, the Ghetto; but his parents were taken away, then his brother Martin, and finally himself--all to Treblinka. Still, Franek was spiritually bolstered by a ring belonging to his mother. And his subsequent experiences were extraordinary: he escaped Treblinka, returned to Warsaw, was recaptured and sent to Auschwitz--where he survived by working in the Krankendau (hospital) until liberation. What gives this Holocaust memoir a special fascination is Stiffel's precise registration of the differentiation among the damned: the social classes within the camps, the hierarchy of jobs, privileges, and punishments. His prose, too, is distinctive--with a strongly beaten-out narrative rhythm. In all: a harrowing yet oddly exhilarating tale of suffering and amazing survival; the second winner of Pushcart's Editors' Prize.