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Vera Gran-The Accused Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 26, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Vera Gran (1916–2007) was a star cabaret singer who chose to live in the Warsaw Ghetto after Germany invaded Poland. There she continued her career, escaping before the ghetto’s destruction, in 1943. Whether she collaborated with the Nazis or, conversely, organized and raised money for shelters for starving ghetto orphans became matters of controversy that she felt hindered her postwar career in Paris, where she was favorably compared to Piaf, and pushed her into reclusiveness and near madness in her last decades. Her erstwhile accompanist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, the subject of Roman Polanski’s film The Pianist, was her principal accuser. She in turn accused him. No charges against her were ever proven. Tuszynska, who’s written several biographies, says this book isn’t one. Based on Gran’s words to her, it’s more an oral history, in which Gran is disputed and supported by other ghetto survivors and put in perspective by Tuszynska’s evaluations of her candor. Though it doesn’t conclusively exculpate Gran, the book powerfully communicates how living in fear disables factual as well as moral judgment. --Ray Olson


“Tuszynska’s poetic narrative with its tortured antiheroine grabbed me hard… deeply moving.”
—Louise Steinman, Los Angeles Review of Books
“A call for the idea that the last word, where clarity has never come, should linger as a question if it can’t be an answer… captivating.”
—Tracy McNicoll, Newsweek
“Vigorous and tender… A book of extraordinary depth and power that sets one tormented individual on a lifelong struggle across the moral cloudland.”
—Richard Eder, The Boston Globe
“A startling, searing portrait.”
More Magazine
“Agata Tuszyńska sheds light into the dark corners [Vera Gran] had kept hidden, even from herself… In the end, the reader is left to decipher the truths of what really happened, as everyone, especially Vera, seeks shelter from their own painful recollections. We can define, for ourselves, what is the meaning of ‘collaborator’ in a world gone so dreadfully awry that the line blurs between daily compromises and buying time… A book to read slowly and think about.”
—Anne Porter, The Globe and Mail
“Agata Tuszyńska has written a fiery portrayal of lives lived in horror as well as an exploration of the profound question of who really did collaborate with the Nazis… evocative and succinct… [Vera Gran] reflects upon every aspect of humanity, from apprehension, persecution and sadism to compassion, courage, and trust… an excellent interpretation of life as a talented Jewish vocalist in the Warsaw ghetto and the extent to which people will go to survive.”
—Charles Weinblatt,
“Darkly absorbing . . . shrewd . . . a probing, atmospheric study of the ghetto’s moral ambiguities . . . sharply etched . . . In Charles Ruas’s skillful translation, Tuszynska’s prose conveys Gran’s story in brisk, evocative montage while, appropriately, leaving open enigmatic gaps. She finds no bright line of truth—just subtle shades of gray that are revealing of a nightmarish time.”
Publishers Weekly
“Renders the World War II years in great detail, but the meat of the book lies in the accusation that Gran collaborated with the occupied forces in Warsaw and her vigorous, lifelong self-defense. . . . A great choice for Gran devotees or World War II enthusiasts.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st US edition (February 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307269124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307269126
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,714,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tom on March 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Throughout the period of its short, brutal existence, from 1940 to 1943, the goal of the majority of the inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto was simply to stay alive. However, there were oases in the ghetto for those with money. Vera Gran (Weronika Grynberg) had become a popular singer in Warsaw prior to the war and she continued entertaining audiences in ghetto cabarets. Many of those who could afford to frequent such clubs had connections to the black market or the German occupiers. Rumors swirled throughout the ghetto that Gran was a Nazi collaborator and those rumors took on a life of their own. She escaped the ghetto in August 1942 and survived the war in a small town near Warsaw but allegations that she was a collaborator dogged her from Poland to Israel and then to France where she was able to revive her career to a limited extent but always under a shadow of accusation. By the time she was interviewed for this book she had become an isolated, paranoid, bitter person fading into dementia. Wladyslaw Szpilman, the subject of the Oscar-winning film, The Pianist, and Gran's former accompanist had been one of her accusers. When it was reported in 2010 that "Vera Gran: The Accused" would include Gran's counteraccusations against Szpilman, claiming he loaded Jews onto the trains bound for Treblinka as a member of the Jewish ghetto police, Szpilman's son attempted to legally block the book from publication.

The life of Vera Gran is fascinating story but this effort is not up to the task. Poet Agata Tuszynska employs a staccato, stream-of-consciousness style that distracts the reader and detracts from the subject. Gran and the complex topic of collaboration within the ghetto would have been much better served by an accomplished historian or biographer.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By F. Brauer on March 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many remember The Pianist, Roman Polansky's Oscar-winning movie about the renowned Polish concert pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, who, against all odds, survived the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto. The movie was based on a book of the same name written by Szpilamn himself. The book, which is among the most moving memoires of survival in the Holocaust era, misses one captivating story from the Ghetto.

The story of a young singer Vera Gran, a rising star of Polish cabaret and Polish motion pictures, is a story of another survival which, however, didn't have such an emotionally uplifting end, as that of Szpilman's. Like the rest of the Warsaw Jews, Vera Gran and her family were moved to the Ghetto shortly after the beginning of Nazi occupation. But, unlike the most of Ghetto inhabitants, she was able to support herself singing in few remaining cafes of the Ghetto zone. Among them was a stint in cafe Sztuka were she was accompanied by Wladysalw Szpilman. A young, striking woman with a sexy low voice, Vera Gran attracted a lot of attention, evoked desires and aroused envy of her less fortunate neighbors. She would show herself off in furs long after furs disappeared from the streets of the Ghetto. She had enough food to run, as she later claimed, an orphanage at her apartment. But nobody seemed to remember that fact after the war. What was not forgotten, however, was that Vera Gran was invited to sing in parties thrown by members of the notorious "Group Thirteen", the Nazi collaborators also known as the Jewish Gestapo. Refusing to sing there meant deportation to Treblinka death camp with the next transport.
Eventually, with the help of her Polish husband, Vera Gran escaped from the Ghetto. The couple was hiding under adopted name in a Warsaw suburb till the Liberation.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JJB on May 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a tough read. I really wanted to enjoy this book but it's so poorly written. I would suggest not purchasing the book. Check it out at your local library so you don't waste your money.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stern on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Cosmopolitan review by Irene Tomaszewski and Tecia Werbowski on June 25, 2013 at 10:50 am
...No new evidence is uncovered, nothing is resolved; the architects of this tragedy - the Germans - are largely absent from the story...
...And therein is the problem with the book. Must the victims still be set one against the other? Must we continue to humiliate them? The Nazis had already done that; no need to attract new voyeurs....

New York Times 3.5.2013 by James Lasdun's
...Whether or not she was guilty, the recriminatory atmosphere of the immediate postwar period worked against her. There may also have been personal animosity involved in some of the accusations. But as time passed many of her detractors, including Szpilman, seemed to want to let the matter drop.
Gran, however, wasn't so inclined to forget or forgive. In 1980 she self-published a memoir in which she attempted to turn the tables on Szpilman, making the sensational claim that he was a member of the Jewish police, and that she had seen him, in uniform, dragging women by their hair to one of the selections.
As Tuszynska acknowledges, there is zero evidence of this from any other source. Given the acute postwar interest in punishing collaborators (illustrated by Gran's own story), this total absence of corroborating testimony makes it unlikely to be true. So does the fact that Gran said nothing about it at the time, waiting almost 40 years to drop (or invent) her bombshell. So do her many delusions, lapses of memory and outright lies, all documented by Tuszynska. Szpilman was far from Gran's most ardent accuser, but his fame seems to have vested him with overwhelming symbolic power in her eyes...
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