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The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow: Prelude to Doom Paperback – March 9, 1999

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The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniakow: Prelude to Doom + Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto + The Diary of Mary Berg: Growing up in the Warsaw Ghetto
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee (March 9, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566632307
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566632300
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 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: #326,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A major event! (Herman Wouk)

A nightmare Alice-in-Wonderland...intensely dramatic entries. The diary makes a deep, deep impression. (Peter Osnos Review Of Higher Education)

Meticulously factual and nonetheless moving. (The New Yorker)

Enormously evocative. (Dorothy Rabinowitz The Wall Street Journal)

Without parallel. (Isaiah Trunk, author of Judenrat)

About the Author

Raul Hilberg is the author of The Destruction of the European Jews and the foremost historian of the Holocaust. Stanislaw Staron, now deceased, taught political science at the University of Vermont. Josef Kermisz was director of archives at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By lisatheratgirl VINE VOICE on March 12, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the daily diary of the man who was the head of the Judenrat (Jewish Council) in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation and most of the ghetto period. Czerniakow was misunderstood by a lot of people, and to avoid this I suggest some background reading about the ghetto first (Emanuel Ringelblum's Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto, Bogdan Wojdowski's Bread for the Departed, John Hersey's The Wall (fiction)). This is because Czerniakow does not give a lot of detail about life in the ghetto (and occupied Warsaw before the ghetto) for the ordinary person. It does not at all mean he was unaware of conditions; he was trying to do an impossible job and please everyone at the same time: the ghetto residents, the other council members, the profiteers, the Polish city administration, the German army, and the SS. That he accomplished any positive goals at all is remarkable and his story must be looked at from that perspective. It comes across clearly that he acted according to his conscience and put his personal concerns last. Without the introductions and the supplementary notes the diary might be difficult to understand, as Czerniakow did not always put down full names or explanations and kept entries brief. It was suggested he may have been afraid of it falling into the wrong hands with good reason. Therefore, I would say it takes a reader with some knowledge of the ghetto period and the Nazi occupation of Poland to get the fullest understanding from this book. I do on that basis give it the highest recommendation.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on March 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
Adam Czerniakow's diary covers the period from the German attack on Poland (early September 1939) through late July 1942. At that time, faced with the prospect of turning over thousands of Jews for the first transports to the death camp at Treblinka, Czerniakow chose to commit suicide instead.

While, of course, focusing on the sufferings of the Jews, Czerniakow never loses sight of the sufferings of the Poles. For instance, he includes an entry on the partial destruction of the Royal Castle and the Church (actually, Cathedral) of St. John, by German artillery (p. 75). He also mentions the massacre of Poles (and some Jews) by the Germans at Wawer (late December, 1939; p. 103). Czerniakow first mentions Treblinka while it had only been used as a forced-labor camp for mostly Poles (p. 316).

The creation of the Warsaw Ghetto by the Germans uprooted a large number of Poles as well as Jews, as described in a report by Czerniakow: "The resettlement, encompassing 700 ethnic Germans, 113,000 Poles, and 138,000 Jews, was carried out at once; 11,567 non-Jewish apartments in the Jewish district and some 13,800 Jewish apartments in the rest of the city were surrendered." (p. 396). Clearly, at that stage of the German occupation, property acquisition was very much a two-way street.

The Germans enclosed the Jews in the ghetto in order to starve them, but both Poles and Jews cooperated to thwart this German intention. In the introduction, Josef Kermisz elaborates on this: "If Warsaw's Jews had had to live on the official bread ration, they would all have died of starvation in the first year. Czerniakow tells stories of smugglers and underground trade...The German plan, to starve the Jews to death quickly, was foiled...Thousands, Jews and non-Jews, were occupied with smuggling." (p.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ron Braithwaite on July 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
This diary is a must read for those who would study the Holocaust. It is a study of a decent man under indecent circumstances. He does what he can to help but, in so doing, he necessarily is complicit with the Nazis. If he had been able to foretell the end result, he may have taken a different path. He couldn't. The Holocaust was a work in progress and didn't, even from the Nazi perspective, start as a plan for annihilation. It started as a plan to contain and control people, many of whom were non-Jews.

Czerniaikow did as much as he could to protect his increasingly confined and crowded people. His success made the end all the more terrible. His document is that of the complexities and irrationality of a system terrible beyond its own expectations. Yes, Czerniakow, as a leader, was complicit but he did as well as he could.

Ron Braithwaite author of novels--"Skull Rack" and "Hummingbird God"--on the Spanish Conquest of Mexico
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Meaghan on August 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
The diary of Adam Czerniakow, who was chairman of the Jews in Warsaw, Poland between 1939 and 1942. A fundamentally decent if unextraordinary man, he committed suicide to avoid having to deport the people of the Warsaw Ghetto to their deaths. Czerniakow's diary is quite laconic -- many entries are just a few sentences long -- but provides many details of his efforts on the behalf of the Warsaw Jews.

Obscure references are demystified in the footnotes. There are also some black and white photographs of ghetto scenes, an appendix of ghetto-related documents and letters, and two introductions totaling seventy pages which provide more information on the life and death of Czerniakow and the story of the Warsaw Ghetto.

This is hardly a gripping read, but it is essential if you want to know the story of the Warsaw Jews. Czerniakow worked as best he could from them, but he and they were lost from the start.
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