Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

By Sara Nomberg-Przytyk; Eli Pefferkorn et al. | Go to book overview
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TRANSLATOR'S FOREWORD

The original Polish typescript of this book, dated 1966, is on deposit in the Yad Vashem Archive, where it was discovered by Eli Pfefferkorn. When I first undertook to translate a forty-page segment of typescript, supported by a generous grant from Mr. Sigmund Strochlitz, I knew nothing about the author, not even whether she was still alive. It took no more than a few minutes of reading for me to recognize that I was dealing with an author of unusual talent. It was not that the manuscript broke new ground on the general nature of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death factory, for by the time I started translating, in September 1981, the horrors had already been docu0mented many times over. What struck me about this manuscript was the author's ability to make the characters in the camp emerge as unique individuals, even against the backdrop of camp depersonalization and imminent extermination. Here was a readable, dramatically compelling account, not simply of the author's consciousness, but of the people in the camp who were caught in the meatgrinder of history -- not only prisoners but captors as well.

In May 1982, aided by a travel grant from the American Philosophical Society, I was able to go to Jerusalem and, with the kind assistance of Danuta Dombrowska and Shalmi Barmore of Yad Vashem, obtain a copy of the entire typescript of about two hundred pages. My next step, on returning to the United States, was to determine whether the manuscript had been published in any form. A check of the British Museum Catalogue and of the NUC of the Library of Congress revealed that a Sara Nomberg-Przytyk had published a book entitled Columny Samsona (The Pillars of Samson) in Lublin, Poland, in 1966. After obtaining one of the few copies available in this country, via interlibrary loan, I soon discovered that The Pillars of Samson narrated events in the Bialystok Ghetto up to the time of its liquidation, at which point the author had been transported to the Stutthof concentration camp. Since Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land starts with the author's being transported from Stutthof to Auschwitz, and since

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