Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Surviving the Holocaust

Surviving the Holocaust

The Kovno Ghetto Diary

Avraham Tory

Edited by Martin Gilbert
Translated by Jerzy Michalowicz

ISBN 9780674858114

Publication date: 09/01/1991

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  • The diary is a historical document of major importance.

    —István Deák, New York Review of Books


  • Avraham Tory is a lawyer in Tel Aviv and secretary-general of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.
  • Martin Gilbert is a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford.
  • Dina Porat is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University and the chief historian of Yad Vashem.

Book Details

  • 578 pages
  • 6 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press
  • Notes by Dina Porat