Pilgrim among the Shadows

Overview

Boris Pahor, a Slovene from Trieste, spent the last fourteen months of World War II as a prisoner and medic in the camps at Belsen, Harzungen, Dachau, and Natzweiler. His fellow prisoners comprised a veritable microcosm of Europe - Italians, French, Russians, Dutch, Poles, Germans. Twenty years later, he visits a camp in the Vosges mountains which has been preserved as an historical monument. Images of the camps come back to him: corpses being carried to the ovens; emaciated prisoners, in wooden clogs and ragged,...
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Overview

Boris Pahor, a Slovene from Trieste, spent the last fourteen months of World War II as a prisoner and medic in the camps at Belsen, Harzungen, Dachau, and Natzweiler. His fellow prisoners comprised a veritable microcosm of Europe - Italians, French, Russians, Dutch, Poles, Germans. Twenty years later, he visits a camp in the Vosges mountains which has been preserved as an historical monument. Images of the camps come back to him: corpses being carried to the ovens; emaciated prisoners, in wooden clogs and ragged, zebra-striped clothes, struggling up the steps of a quarry, or standing at roll call in the cold rain; the infirmary, reeking of dysentery and death. Pahor gives a stirring account of his attempts to render medical aid in the face of utter brutality and mass death. And of the ineradicable guilt he feels, having survived when millions did not.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author, a Slovene from Trieste, spent the final 14 months of WWII as an inmate in various German concentration camps, including Dachau and Belsen. Years later, he visited a restored camp in the Vosges Mountains and allowed his memories of the ordeal to come flooding back: journeys in cattle cars from camp to camp; ``the stoker heaving human logs into the fire''; his labors as a medic, treating dying fellow prisoners. Though the memories are starkly vivid, Pahor's account matches the affectless spiel of the tour guide-``Notice how the floor is gently sloped to allow the victims' blood to run off''-and are all the more moving because of it. The gentle ruminations that make up this painful venture into the past are indirect, elegantly crafted and more mournful than horrifying. (Mar.)
Library Journal
A Slovene from Trieste, Italy, Pahor (b. 1913) was a medic/prisoner in several concentration camps during the last year of World War II. This unflinching Holocaust memoir, first published in Slovene in 1967 (under the title Nekropola, "graveyard"), recounts Pahor's 1966 visit to a camp in the Vosges mountains of Eastern France. Pahor's narrative moves seamlessly between 1966, when, for example, a guide in the camp shows how the floor in the "execution room" is sloped to allow the blood to run off, and 1944, when Pahor helplessly watched 108 Resistance fighters being led to their deaths in this room. He recalls relationships with fellow prisoners, the endless procession of the dead and dying, and, explicitly, how it feels to be freezing, starving, and completely dehumanized. This is a difficult book to read, not only for the haunting descriptions of the wretchedness of the camps but also because Pahor offers little hope of the human condition ever improving. Recommended for Holocaust collections.-Diane Gardner Premo, SILS, SUNY at Buffalo
Brian McCombie
Pahor, a survivor of the Holocaust, has written an intelligent and moving memoir. A Slovene, Pahor tells of his 14 months spent in four camps, including Belsen and Dachau. He was witness to the horrors of mass murder, as well as the tyrannies and humiliations of daily life designed to destroy the spirit. As he walks through one of his former camps (now a tourist attraction), Pahor reveals the guilt he carries as a survivor. Why did he live when so many did not? Why, he also wonders, did he and his fellow prisoners not revolt, attack their torturers? The answers are not easy. What grounds this remembrance is the humanity shared between prisoners, something that the camp system tried to eradicate but, ultimately, could not.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780151719587
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/1/1995
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 182
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 7.84 (h) x 0.84 (d)

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