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From February 1942 to July 1944, Oskar Rosenfeld served in the Statistical Office of the Lodz ghetto. A Jewish playwright and journalist from Vienna, he kept his own records -- meticulous and harrowing notes on life and conditions in the ghetto -- storing observations for the historical and fictionalized account he hoped to write someday. Upon the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto, he and the nearly eighty thousand remaining inhabitants were deported to Auschwitz, where he perished.
Rosenfeld's notebooks offer a wrenching view of life in the ghetto, the day-to-day struggle for survival of what was, in the beginning, a population of more than one hundred thousand, cramped into a narrow space, ringed with barbed wire and sealed off completely from the outside world. The diary pages are filled with descriptions of ever-present hunger, forced labor, disease, degradation, and deportations juxtaposed with those describing attempts to maintain a cultural, social, and religious life and to preserve human dignity. Writing in an often fragmentary style that underlines his sense of urgency to record this crime against humanity, Rosenfeld's keen observations and his vivid narration of the stories of his fellow sufferers have the haunting immediacy of eyewitness testimony. Again and again, he ponders the question of what human mind could create such horrors. He is driven to recast all of human history because what he sees and lives is something unprecedented, something so completely new that he concludes ironically, "In the beginning God created the ghetto".
This English translation of Oskar Rosenfeld's notebooks projects his voice to a wider world, as he had hoped; it also marks one of the mostimportant new publications documenting the unspeakable cruelty and inhumanity of the Holocaust and the indomitable spirit of its victims.