This remarkable chronicle of life and death in the Jewish Ghetto of Kovno, Lithuania, from June 1941 to January 1944, was written under conditions of extreme danger by a Ghetto inmate and secretary of the Jewish Council. After the war, in order to escape from Lithuania, the author was forced to entrust the diary to leaders of the Escape movement; eventually it made its way to his new home in Israel.
The diary incorporates Avraham Tory’s collections of official documents, Jewish Council reports, and original photographs and drawings made in the Ghetto. It depicts in grim detail the struggle for survival under Nazi domination, when—if not simply carted off and murdered in a random “action”—Jews were exploited as slave labor while being systematically starved and denied adequate housing and medical care. Through it all, Tory’s overriding purpose was to record the unimaginable events of these years and to memorialize the determination of the Jews to sustain their community life in the midst of the Nazi terror.
Of the surviving diaries originating in the principal European Ghettos of this period, Tory’s is the longest written by an adult, a dramatic and horrifying document that makes an invaluable contribution to contemporary history. Tory provides an insider’s view of the desperate efforts of Ghetto leaders to protect Jews. Martin Gilbert’s masterly introduction establishes the authenticity of the diary, presents its events against the backdrop of the war in Europe, and considers the crucial questions of collaboration and resistance.
The diary is a historical document of major importance.
[This] is a painful document, its pages a collage of retold events, scraps of news, official German directives, firsthand testimonies, whiffs of rumor and terror… The power of this book lies precisely in its lack of poetry, in its refusal to generalize. The more dispassionately told, the more particular the experience, the more terribly each moment stands out in relief.
A grim and harrowing complement to…existing literature of the Holocaust. Written by Avraham Tory, a survivor who today lives in Tel Aviv, it includes a remarkably detailed account of day-to-day life in the ghetto as well as official German documents sent to the Jewish Council… Above all the diary lucidly records the heroic will to survive and to preserve a minimum of decency and morality while subjected to indescribable degradation.
Tory’s diary is an account of the struggle for survival of ordinary men and women who were suddenly thrust into an insane world where none of the ordinary rules applied. It is a tragic chronicle of heroic endeavor.
When the Germans swept through the Baltic states in the summer of 1941, they left behind scores of ghettos, each with its own ‘Elders Council’ answerable to Gestapo overlords. When they came to the Lithuanian city of Kovno, a young Jewish lawyer, Avraham Tory, began writing a diary about the transformation of his city into his prison. The Kovno council made Mr. Tory its secretary; he started adding documents to his collection—as many Nazi decrees and council reports as he could obtain—and buried them, along with installments of his diary, underneath a ghetto workshop. The resulting book, Surviving the Holocaust, benefits from Mr. Tory’s mobility as a council official; he moved freely inside the ghetto and out, meeting as often with German commandants as with members of the council and with the Jewish underground.
- 578 pages
- 6 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
- Notes by Dina Porat
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