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Theresienstadt: Hitler's Gift to the Jews is a gripping account of one man's experiences in the most deceptive of all the places in which the Nazis incarcerated the Jews during the Holocaust: Hitler's "model" ghetto, Theresienstadt.Norbert Troller's memoir recounts his two years in Theresienstadt from early 1942 until September 1944, when he was deported to Auschwitz after the Nazis discovered he and other artists were smuggling out drawings that revealed the horrors of Theresienstadt. Miraculously preserved by his friends, Troller's drawings and watercolors of life inside Theresienstadt add a compelling dimension to his story and are published here for the first time.Troller, a Czech Jew from a prominent family of businessmen, was a trained architect. His keen observations of human nature, of the experiences of his fellow prisoners, and of his own existence are embedded within a powerful history of the Theresienstadt atrocities. He records his painful journey to and arrival at the ghetto; his first weeks there, his futile efforts to protect his relatives; and his arrest and incarceration in the dreaded "Little Fortress" where he almost died before being deported to Auschwitz.His narrative also reveals the horrors beneath the facade of an "autonomous" Jewish government, which the Nazis used to conceal their plans to exterminate the Jewish population that was supposedly meant for the "elite" of central Europe. In reality, Theresienstadt was nothing more than a convenient collection location for transports to "the East": Auschwitz-Birkenau. The terrible burden of filling the transports with the required number of victims was put on the members of the Elder Council, the Jewish administrative body. Troller says "With devilish baseness and cunning [the Nazis] did dictate the number of victims to be sent east, but they put the burden of selection on the Jews themselves; to select their own coreligionists, relatives, their friends. In the end this unbearable, desperate, cynical burden destroyed the community leaders who were forced to make the selections."Although many narratives have written about life in the Nazi concentration camps, Troller's account, combining his intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Theresienstadt and his drawings, is unique in Holocaust studies.
About the Author
Norbert Troller (1896-1981), a Czech Jew from a prominent family of businessmen, was a trained architect. Susan E. Cernyak-Spatz, author of German Holocaust Literature, is associate professor emerita of foreign languages at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Joel Shatzky is professor of English at the State University of New York, Cortland.
What People are Saying About This
The history of Theresienstadt is solidly augmented by Norbert Troller's autobiography, translated by Susan E. Cernyak-Spatz, herself a Theresienstadt survivor, and edited by Joel Shatzky.Judaica Book News
This edition of Norbert Troller's Theresienstadt memoirs is an outstanding contribution to our knowledge of the Holocaust. It is a chilling and eloquent account of daily life in the Theresienstadt ghetto as well as a heroic story of survival. The memoir is well edited and tells a compelling story, enhanced by careful explanatory notes. The book has no current rivals in its field.Sybil Milton
A vivid document of a dark time.Library Journal