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The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir [Kindle Edition]

Chil Rajchman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Quickly becoming a cornerstone of Holocaust historiography—a devastatingly stark memoir from one of the lone survivors of Treblinka
 

Why do some live while so many others perish? Tiny children, old men, beautiful girls. In the gas chambers of Treblinka, all are equal. The Nazis kept the fires of Treblinka burning night and day, a central cog in the wheel of the Final Solution.
 
In the tradition of Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s Survival at Auschwitz and The Drowned and the Saved, Rajchman provides the only survivors’ record of Treblinka. Originally written in Yiddish in 1945 without hope or agenda other than to bear witness, Rajchman’s tale shows that sometimes the bravest and most painful act of all is to remember.
 


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The extermination center Treblinka was located approximately 50 miles from Warsaw and became operational in June 1942. The sole purpose of the camp was the murder of Jews, a process which began immediately following disembarkation from the railway cars. The Nazis kept a few Jews temporarily alive to assist them in advancing the machinery of death. Rajchman was sent to Treblinka in 1942 at age 28. Until his escape 11 months later, he survived by working as a “barber” who shaved the hair of victims and as a “dentist” extracting gold teeth from corpses. His memoir, originally in Yiddish, is a hellish, heartbreaking account, as expected. Guards are consistently brutal and sadistic as they beat helpless victims on their way to the gas chambers. Rajchman presents horrifying, almost surreal images of piles of corpses, sand saturated with blood, and protruding bone fragments. At times, his descriptions are clinical and curiously detached; at others, rage at his oppressors surfaces. He eventually emigrated to Uruguay, where he died in 2004, leaving a memorable contribution to Holocaust scholarship. --Jay Freeman

Review

“An important, heart-rending contribution to our search for truth.” —Elie Wiesel
 
“The author wrote this book in Yiddish in 1945, and he lived to give evidence against ‘Ivan the Terrible,’ one of the most notorious guards at Treblinka. Rajchman’s searing story, frequently narrated in the present tense, has a powerful authenticity and should not be forgotten. A Holocaust testament of heart-rending immediacy.” —Kirkus Reviews
 
“This memoir, originally in Yiddish, is a hellish, heart-breaking account. A memorable contribution to Holocaust scholarship.” —Booklist

Product Details

  • File Size: 534 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books (May 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007RJ9QLG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,233 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The author describes his deportation on a train bound for Treblinka, during which he hears assurances that the Jews are being transported to a work camp in the Ukraine. Upon arrival, he describes the scene at Treblinka, including the fake railroad station. The Germans pull him out of the line to the gas chambers, and recruit him as a barber. His job is to shave the heads of people before their gassing. The victims know what awaits them. Some women vainly hope that the men will not be gassed, so that their sons will survive and eventually avenge the crime.

Rajchman writes: "Treblinka is guarded by 144 Ukrainians and about a hundred SS men." (p. 111). The gassing of a train transport of several thousand people could be finished within an hour. (p. 36). Any Jews working not quickly enough, or not moving fast enough to the gas chambers, were savagely whipped by Germans and Ukrainians.

In common with some other Treblinka escapees, Rajchman believes that the Spring-1943 Germans' switch from mass burial to mass cremation of corpses developed because of the incriminating nature of the discovery of the bodies of murdered Polish officers at Katyn. (p. 85). At Treblinka, hundreds of thousands of decomposing corpses had to be exhumed and burned. To this, fresh bodies from newly arrived gassed victims were added. The massive pyres, however, did not always burn bodies completely, leaving behind charred heads, feet, large bones, etc. The Jewish prisoners were forced to pulverize the cremains to a small enough size to pass through a net. The burial of pulverized cremains and ash, in deep pits, in alternating layers of sand and with a 2-meter "cap" of sand just below the surface, took place.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A voice from the past March 9, 2011
Format:Hardcover
It is hard to imagine what human beings can become, the things they can do and the punishment they can absorb. The first person witnesses to the Holocaust are rapidly aging and vanishing. Chil Rajchman's story of surviving Treblinka is a chilling and horrid account of a killing camp; its' express purpose to kill as many Jews as possible.

The story tells what he did to survive. It is almost written in journal fashion with little emotion - telling what he witnessed and what happened to him. There is little philosophizing or even bemoaning of his fate. It is what life was. He describes the people around him, the words of those who knew they were about to die. He tells of the constant beatings and what he had to do to live to tell what happened there. The actions of the camp guards are depicted and how they set out to accomplish the goal of a killing camp...so successfully that consequently, so many bodies would be buried that blood would seep to the surface, and then the solution of how to burn all these corpses and how it was done is told. It is not a book for the faint of heart or soul. It is appalling in its recollections..
It is left to the reader to think...What is done to survive?... to think what would you have done? Why do some live?

The time of these horrors, in this place has passed and soon all will be gone. There will only be these chronicles that need to be read to remember a history, so that perhaps humanity will never sink to these depths again.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
In spare and Spartan-like language, the author renders a first person account of one of the most infamous icons of the Holocaust. Because Treblinka has not been as well chronicled as places such as Auschwitz and Dachau, and because its sole function was to serve as an industrial killing machine, this memoir has a singular impact on the human psyche. A slender volume that is easily read in one sitting, the experience of reading the book was akin to viewing a disturbing film in black and white, with a haunting violin solo as a score. The irrefutable immediacey of human evil simply takes one's breath away. Those who read this book may experience a disquieting chill the next time they set foot on German, Polish or Ukrainian soil. Delivered like a needle to the heart, it effectively conveys our humanity (or lack thereof), utilizing little reflection or emotion. As such, this book will soon attain the canonical status of other works in this genre such as Elie Wiesel's Night and Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz. May Raichman's soul rest in peace.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, with a few quibbles concerning the photos April 12, 2011
Format:Hardcover
I first became interested in Treblinka after reading Vasily Grossman's essay about this death camp in the recent compilation "A Writer at War" edited by Antony Beevor. Those killed at Treblinka numbered in the hundreds of thousands; those who survived numbered in the dozens. Having Raichman's extraordinarily moving memoir available to future generations is nothing less than a gift to history.

I do have a few quibbles with whoever edited and captioned the included photographs. The ones of Raichman and his family are not the problem -- it's obvious they come from the author himself. Since Raichman died before this was published, it's obvious the editor or the publisher supplied the rest of the photos.

The worst problem is that there is a photo of Hitler and Himmler with the caption "Hitler and Himmler inspect Treblinka." That Himmler visited Treblinka there is no doubt -- Raichman (and other survivors) recalled the visit. Someone with expertise correct me if I'm wrong, but I am pretty sure there is no evidence that Hitler himself ever went to Treblinka. Since no source is given for this photo, it's impossible to track down what event is really being pictured.

On one page, the caption is for three photos of the leaders of the August 1943 uprising, but there are only two photos provided, so we don't know which named person is shown in each picture.

The publisher has included a number of fascinating photos taken by Treblinka's SS commandant Kurt Franz, and these are included and explained -- no problem with these.

There is one picture which, if the caption is correct, would be the most extraordinary one provided: "Smoke rising from Treblinka during the uprising.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars enlightening
This story has showed me just how bad the holocaust really was! I never could stand to learn about it in school, but now I understand what they went through
Published 1 month ago by Amanda
4.0 out of 5 stars It is a very good book. Chil Rajchman did a great job telling ...
It is a very good book. Chil Rajchman did a great job telling in details the horror of the holocaust.
Published 2 months ago by lucia anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good story doesn't tell the whole story of Treblinka.
Published 4 months ago by Catherine Klimenkov
5.0 out of 5 stars Book that should be introduced as mandatory high school reading
Chil Rajchman was born in 1914 year in Łódź, idyllic town in central Poland, and was deported to Treblinka 1942 with his younger sister and several other relatives;... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Denis Vukosav
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you
This book is an amazing reflection to what a Jewish person had to go through and I thank you for the book
Published 5 months ago by christina velderman
4.0 out of 5 stars very descriptive
It is very informational and the accounts of his life while in there is similar to the accounts of other survivor from Sobibor and other concentration camps. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Carmen
5.0 out of 5 stars we will never forget
my father died in Auschwitz at the age of 29 I never knew him I was .
I can not visualize the torment he went thru
the train ride from Drancy the arrival to the camp and... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Denny Cohn
4.0 out of 5 stars A troubling read
Man's infinite capacity for cruelty never ceases to amaze me. I have read several Holocaust memoirs, but this is the first from a Treblinka victim. Read more
Published 9 months ago by T. Street
5.0 out of 5 stars A story that has to be told. Emotionally draining to read.
The pure extermination camps: Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and Chelmo existed solely for the purpose killing all Jews - not forced labour, not political prisons, just extermination. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Dergie
5.0 out of 5 stars Treblinka
This genre of books can never been called fun or entertaining; that said it was very well written and quite informative. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Richard Rossbach
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