THE CHRONICLE OF THE LODZ GHETTO, 1941-1944 by Lucjan--Ed. Dobroszycki
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THE CHRONICLE OF THE LODZ GHETTO, 1941-1944

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From January 1941 until its final days in July 1944, a daily record was kept--Suicides, A Concert, Hunger, Workshop News, People Are Saying--of life in the Lodz ghetto: Poland's second largest, the most tightly sealed and highly organized. These 600 pages, the first English version of the Chronicle, constitute about a third of the original--partially published in Polish under the aegis of Dobroszycki, a ghetto-survivor now at New York's YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (and co-author of Image Before My Eyes: A Photographic Record of Jewish Life in Poland, 18641939). His introduction explains the situation of Lodz--an industrial city, absorbed into greater Germany, its ghetto a workshop under the autocratic, Nazi-propitiating rule of the Eldest of the Jews, M. C. Runkowski--and the circumstances of the Chronicle: composed by Runkowski's Department of Archives, hence both authoritative and constrained. The marvels of organization are to shudder at: not only the workshops to outfit the German army and safeguard residents from deportation, but the infrastructure to perform macabre services (the post office through which trickled German-dictated messages, the ""exemplary"" new roads to the cemetery), the minutely-regulated distribution of meager quantities of food. (A major theme becomes the battle for potato peelings.) Transports of Jews arrive from Berlin, Hamburg, Vienna, Prague--""Germans"" subservient to ""uniformed authority,"" more compassionately described descending in half a year from sports-clothed contempt for the locals' squalor to ""skeletons with swollen faces and extremities [leaving] for a further journey on which they were not even allowed to take a knapsack."" (Unemployed, they were natural deportees to the death camp at Chelmno.) During 1942, the ghetto loses its ""autonomy""--the right to manage the workshops, to select deportees; and, before the end, there is word of disillusion, even dispraise of Runkowski. The last roundup, of 17,000 workers, proceeds agonizingly--by cancellation of ration cards, nightly search-and-seizure. As abridged, the Chronicle's later pages also run heavily to ""Sketches of Ghetto Life""--signed impressions, in a more literary vein, of the ghetto's first-and-last Yom Kippur celebration; of the purchase of replacements, by some of the 17,000 ""condemned,"" for two loaves of bread and a kilo of sugar. ""The ghetto dweller's psychology confronts science with problems never before known."" For its documentation, for what's said and unsaid: a singular addition to annals of the Holocaust--timed to the 40th anniversary of the ghetto's liquidation.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1984
ISBN: 0300039247
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press