cover image Survival


Ita Dimant, trans. from the Polish by Teresa Pollin. Cherry Orchard, $19.95 trade paper (210p) ISBN 979-8-887192-33-8

In this posthumous soul-wrenching memoir, Dimant (1918–2010) reconstructs and expands a diary she’d kept during the Nazi occupation of the Warsaw Ghetto, from 1939 to 1942. After her mother died young, Dimant became estranged from her rabbi father and in her teens went to live in Warsaw, which turned into a living hell after the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. The author vividly describes “the confiscation of [Jewish] shops and goods [and] roundups for forced labor” as bombs rained down, felling buildings “like houses of cards,” and typhoid fever spread. Before the ghetto was liquidated in 1943, Dimant escaped by posing as a Catholic, but she was caught by the Gestapo and sent to work as a farm laborer in the German countryside, where she rewrote the diary (she’d burned the original version before she left Warsaw). Included here are also portions of a summary of the diary the author wrote and published in 1993 as A Diary of the Holocaust. There’s a palpable urgency to Dimant’s writing, which is haunted by the specter of almost unbearable regret: in one especially heartbreaking passage, she laments working desperately to save her father from typhus, wishing she’d spared him from the violent death he likely endured in Treblinka or en route there, after she was forced to leave him behind. This standout survivor’s account will move and inform even those well versed in the inhumanity of the Shoah. (Sept.)