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At the Edge of the Abyss: A Concentration Camp Diary, 1943-1944 Hardcover – March 29, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A single book can earn a writer a permanent place in literature, but to do that it has to be exceptional . . .I do not think that, after reading the book, anyone will dispute that Dagboek geschreven in Vught fulfills that condition."--Ivan Sitniakowsky, Telegraaf, writing about the Dutch edition

"This powerful diary deserves to take its place among the small number of such journals, notably that of Anne Frank, that elucidate the evil of the Nazi war against the Jews."--Jewish Book World

"Dutch Jew David Koker’s extraordinary diary, a clear-eyed and sensitive account of life inside a concentration camp, is finally available in English" --Tablet

About the Author

David Koker was transported to the Vught Concentration Camp in 1943. During his time in Vught, David recorded on an almost daily basis his observations, thoughts and feelings. Unlike Anne Frank, who had a purposefully made diary book available in her hiding place, David did not have such a luxury in the camp. He wrote his entries on whatever scraps of paper he was able to find. Most of the paper was the rolling paper for cigarettes-available as the result of a lack of cigarette tobacco. Until early February 1944, David was able to smuggle some 73,000 words from the camp to his best friend Karel van het Reeve, a non-Jew. The part of the diary that David kept between 8 February 1944 and June 1944, when he was deported to Poland, did not survive the war.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; First Edition edition (March 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810126362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810126367
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,352,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By William Garrison Jr. VINE VOICE on March 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"At the Edge of the Abyss: A Concentration Camp Diary, 1943-1944" by David Koker, first English publication in March 2012. (From partial comments by Jordan M. Smith in a review in the 28 March 2012 Tablet online magazine): The author, a Dutch Jew, was arrested in February 1943 and died in early 1945. "Before he died, however, Koker authored what may be the most extraordinary diary ever written inside a concentration camp. "In my opinion, it's considerably more interesting than Anne Frank's diary," said Michiel Horn, a historian at Toronto's York University and the book's translator. . . [The author] " ingratiated himself with the chief camp clerk and his wife, which provided him with a relatively privileged position. In addition to keeping a diary, he was also able to write and receive letters, some of which are excerpted in the book. . . [This book is] the only first-person report of an encounter between a Jew and Heinrich Himmler, head Nazi and overseer of all the camps. On Feb. 4, 1944, Koker records that on the previous day he had looked directly at the man responsible for the Final Solution. The haunting entry reads as follows: [nope, not gonna reprint here; those comments await reading in the book -- BG]. . . "What makes this passage remarkable is not just the fact of the encounter but Koker's careful, emotionally attuned attention to detail. Koker notices not just Himmler but the deference of his supplicants. He observes with nonchalance, as if he were encountering not a genocidal murderer--and the person who keeps Koker in a concentration camp--but an ordinary man on the street. . . .Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I have read literally hundreds of books about the Holocaust, but of all the personal accounts I've read, this somehow was absolutely the most devastating, perhaps because it wasn't a memoir, but an account of events at the very time they happened. David Koker was no saint, but he was a brilliant soul. Besides the human cruelty and devastation, the thing that hit me the hardest was to realize that by killing 6,000,000 innocent men, women and children, the Nazis killed so much potential: brilliant minds in the arts, sciences, and medicine. Perhaps they killed the cure for cancer when they killed doctors and researchers; perhaps they killed the next Mozart or Beethoven when they killed the musicians; perhaps they killed the next Picasso when they killed the artists; really, the toll of killed potential and subsequent loss is so vast it's immeasurable Clearly if these people had lived, our world would have been a different place today. One feels absolutely sickened during and after reading this book, and it's a very very hard book to read; but it's an important read and necessary to honor the memory of all the David Kokers of that time whose inspiring and future lives were cut short so prematurely and perniciously.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is such a touching book, I can't give it five stars and say I loved it. I read it and it made me quite upset at times. I thought about the contents of the book, the diary of David Koker, long after I finished reading it.
I donated my copy to the local library, so more people would read it and get to know and understand what happened to people during the Holocaust. David was a poet by nature, he was brave and courageous. The story isn't about him, it is more about the people he was imprisoned with, we find out their personal story and destiny. David wrote about the friends and family outside the internment camp who supported him and others.
A humbling book about a man who ended up living in hell. This book ought to be on the syllabus of our school and universities.
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As the son of a survivor of Camp Vught, this insight was deeply moving. Although not meant for the public originally, I would have to think that Mr Koker would have wanted us to read it, as his aim was after all to tell someone on the outside what life was like in the camp.
It's hard to "love" or "enjoy" a book like this. As noted by another reviewer, it starkly points out the reality of the Shoah. That we lost more than a given number of lives. In this case, we lost a (very young) 22 year old brilliant author.
I will not spoil one of the most poignant moment in the diary, suffice to say that it was the one time the author, hardened as he was by life in Vught, allowed us to share his deepest gut feelings, and I still felt that 70 years later.
Kudos too to the translators of the original works. I am so glad that you have accorded an entire new group of people the opportunity to read about this period.
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