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New books mark Yom Hashoa observance
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New books mark Yom Hashoa observance

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Each year, dozens of titles about the Holocaust are published across all genre lines: fiction for adults and children, scholarly treatises, poetry, plays, and other types of work provide a constant stream of memories and information.

As we approach observance of Yom Hashoa on April 11, here are some newer titles for consideration:

The Wedding in Auschwitz

by Erich Hackl; translated by Martin Chalmers (Serpent’s Tale, 2010)

This novel was inspired by the true story of Rudi and Marga Friemel, whose wedding took place in Auschwitz in 1944. Hackl imagines a timeline of events leading up to the couple’s historic union and tells their story through narratives, written in the voices of Rudi, Marga, family members, mutual friends, and even bystanders, moving back and forth in time before and after the war.

A Jew Must Die

by Jacques Chessex; translated by Donald Wilson (Bitter Lemon press, 2010)

Based on a true story, Chessex’s novel begins on April 16, 1942, a few days before Hitler’s birthday, when a handful of Swiss Nazis in Payerne lure Arthur Bloch, a Jewish cattle merchant, into a stable and kill him with an iron bar. Europe is in flames, but this is Switzerland, and Payerne, a rural market town of butchers and bankers, is more concerned with unemployment and local bankruptcies than the fate of nations across the border. Fernand Ischi, the leader of the local Nazi cell, blames everything on the Jews and Bloch’s murder is to be an example, a foretaste of what’s to come once the Nazis take over Switzerland.

The Warsaw Ghetto Oyneg Shabes-Ringelblum Archive Catalog and Guide

edited by Robert Moses Shapiro and Tadeusz Epsztein (Indiana University Press, 2010)

Retrieved after World War II from metal boxes and milk cans buried beneath the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Oyneg Shabes-Ringelblum Archive was clandestinely compiled between 1940 and 1943 under the leadership of historian Emaneul Ringlebaum. Members of the secret Oyneg Shabbes organization gathered thousands of pages of testimonies from natives of Warsaw and refuges from many other localities, creating a documentary record of the wartime fate of Polish Jews. Now housed in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and also accessible at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the archive comprises some 35,000 pages, including documents, materials from the underground press, photographs, memoirs, belles lettres, and much more. This first comprehensive description of its contents is meticulously indexed to facilitate location of documents and information. By aiding access to this unique archival treasure, the catalog and guide advance study of the daily lives, struggles, and sufferings of Polish Jews at a crucial time and place in the history of the Holocaust.

Gratitude

by Joseph Kertes (St. Martin’s Press, 2009)

Inspired by the author’s own family story, Gratitude is the dramatic saga of the Beck family, well-to-do educated Jews whose world is abruptly dismantled as the beautiful and privileged life they’ve known is rapidly disappearing around them. It is only through a chance meeting between young Paul Beck and a visiting Swede, Raoul Wallenberg, that the inevitability of the Becks’ fate may be altered. Kertes — who was named the 2009 winner of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem Award, Best Holocaust Novel, Jewish Book Council of Canada — offers a breakthrough novel of Hungary in the final, dramatic days of Word War II as he seamlessly blends fact with fiction. Reminiscent of Giorgio Bassani’s classic, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Gratitude captures hauntingly the last days of a European empire and of a people’s will to love, survive, and endure.

Dove on a Barbed Wire

by Deborah Steiner-van Rooyen (Devora Publishers, 2010)

As an 18-year-old, the author was charged by her grandfather with the responsibility of finding Yonah, a family member seized while but a child by the Nazis in 1939. Carrying a barely legible address on an older envelope with instructions from her grandfather, she discovers a lost family she did not know she had. She spent the next 38 years stitching together Yonah’s memories as she writes about her family’s multigenerational destiny to embrace the remnants of the past.

Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews

by Peter Longerich (Oxford University Press, 2010)

The long-awaited English translation of Longerich’s 1998 Politk der Vernichtung (Politics of Destruction), this history uses an unrivalled range of sources to lay out in clear detail the steps taken by the Nazis that would lead ultimately to the Final Solution. Focusing closely on the perpetrators and exploring the process of decision making, the author shows that anti-Semitism was not a mere by-product of the Nazis’ political mobilization or an attempt to deflect the attention of Germans. Rather, from 1933, anti-Jewish policy was a central tenet of the Nazi movement’s attempts to implement, disseminate, and secure National Socialist rule — and one which crucially shaped Nazi policy decisions.

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