Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Five best Holocaust memoirs

Elliot Perlman is the author of The Reasons I Won't Be Coming, Seven Types of Ambiguity, and The Street Sweeper. He also cowrote the award-winning screenplay for a film version of Three Dollars, his first novel.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of Holocaust memoirs.

One title on the list:
The Last Jew of Treblinka
by Chil Rajchman (2011)

This account comes from one of the very few surviving members of Treblinka's Sonderkommando—those Jews forced on pain of immediate execution to assist with cremating the corpses of their gassed brethren. Approximately 800,000 Jews were gassed at Treblinka. Only at Auschwitz were more killed, but at Auschwitz there was some small possibility that a Jew could be chosen for slave labor and thus delay the time of his or her killing. At Treblinka, a death camp with no slave-labor facilities, almost nobody survived. Chil Rajchman, a Polish Jew, begins his brief but almost unbearably painful account on the day in 1942 that he and his sister arrive at Treblinka station. Within 48 hours, he sees his sister's distinctive dress in a heap that he has been assigned to sort through. He secretly tears off a square of cloth and keeps it with him for the rest of the war. Rajchman escaped along with hundreds of other prisoners during the uprising of 1943 and remained in hiding until the war's end. In 1945, he set down in Yiddish the story of what he had seen at Treblinka, but it was not translated for six decades. His stark, unadorned prose bears harrowing witness to the beatings, torture and pointless humiliations to which the Sonderkommando were subject.
Read about the other titles on the list.

Also see Robert Rozett's list of five essential books to keep in mind for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

--Marshal Zeringue