The late Michal Grynberg, an associate of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, devoted decades of his life to compiling and publishing firsthand accounts from ghettos throughout Poland.
The 29 never-before-published diaries, letters and personal accounts in the late historian Grynberg' s vital collection offer a devastating portrait of life in the Warsaw Ghetto between 1940 and 1943. Less than 1% of the almost 500,000 Jews confined there survived the disease, malnutrition and deportation to concentration camps; a handful of the contributors escaped the ghetto by navigating the sewer system to the Aryan side of Warsaw. Historian Emanuel Ringelblum' s noted journals provided an exhaustive, firsthand record of the Warsaw Ghetto, but these skillfully translated records by shopkeepers and doctors, dentists and schoolgirls are more powerful. Ghetto residents write of needing to get permission to bake matzoh, longing for the patter of autumn rain or hiding in a room with 200 stifling, hot, dirty, stinking people; two cases of full-blown tuberculosis; one of measles. Several of the diarists are members of the Jewish police, who express the agony of trying to provide for their families while collaborating with the enemy. The diversity of the contributors' cultural and economic backgrounds adds to the mural of a variegated Jewish Warsaw during Nazi occupation; mostly translated from Polish, the different voices include assimilationists, traditionalists, communists, socialists and Zionists. Some are despairing; others, like the brilliant Helena Midler, whose parodic Bunker Weekly stuck out its tongue at hardship, find ways to laugh. Many of the accounts note the meticulous planning behind the Nazis' dizzying regulations, and the editor adds relevant data, including maps and detailed rosters of laborers. If one can read only one book on the Warsaw Ghetto, this is it. (Oct. 2) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"Tells the story in a new way, with riveting immediacy. . . The Diary of Anne Frank was a poignant solo piece for cello. Words to Outlive Us is a work of full orchestral anguish." --Time "One can hardly imagine anything more authentic than these testimonials.. . .One has at times an almost theatrical sense of the many narrators stepping out individually from the darkness, each telling a piece of his or her story and then stepping back again." --Los Angeles Times "One comes away from the book stunned by the remarkable energy and willingness to resist that so many demonstrated but haunted by the recognition of how little that resistance availed." --The New Yorker "A devastating portrait. . . If one can read only one book on the Warsaw Ghetto, this is it." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)