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Witness: Voices from the Holocaust Hardcover – April 16, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (April 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684865254
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684865256
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,371,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sometimes at night I lay and I can't believe what my eyes have seen. I really cannot believe it. --Helen K., Auschwitz survivor

So much has been written about the Holocaust, from academic treatises to popular histories, but it's rare to find a book that captures the texture of everyday living in Nazi Germany. Witness is such a gem. Since 1979, Yale University has videotaped testimonies from Holocaust survivors and witnesses. Twenty-seven of these first-person accounts have been woven into Witness, creating a rough narrative of life before, during, and after the Nazi era. The witnesses are a diverse group: Colonel Edmund M.'s unit liberated Mauthausen concentration camp, Robert S. was in the Hitler Youth, Werner R. survived a death march that killed thousands, Celia K. joined the partisans and sabotaged German railways. The editors wisely remain on the fringe; capsule biographies of each witness and brief introductory pieces allow the testimony to take center stage. Herbert J. was an American POW liberated from Mauthausen concentration camp. He describes how local children were encouraged to assault the prisoners as they were marched to the quarry for work. One girl:

...had a barrel stave. She come and she hit me with it, and I was stubborn and I wouldn't fall down right off easy. And she hit me a couple of times, and finally I went down ... and she bent over me, and she's calling me names and whatnot, and she says quietly, "Here! Here!" And so I reach up defensively and she's poking something at me. It was soft, and I put it inside my shirt. Brotenspeck--broiled pork fat between German bread. Every day after that she was there and she'd do the same thing--only it didn't take as many whacks with that barrel stave to get me to fall down. ... And she never got caught. It would have cost her her life.

Abraham P., a Romanian Jew who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald, remembered telling his little brother to stay with their parents when they arrived at Auschwitz. "Little did I know that--that I sent him to the--to the crematorium. I am--I feel like--I killed him [crying]." When Helen K.'s brother died in her arms en route to Majdanek, she made up her mind "that I'm going to defy Hitler. I'm not going to give in. Because he wants me to die, I'm going to live." Many of these accounts are painful to read, but, as noted Holocaust scholar Lawrence L. Langer writes in his foreword, "Without survivor testimony, the human dimension of the catastrophe would remain a subject of speculation." Witness illuminates this dimension, providing a powerful and personal history of the Holocaust. --Sunny Delaney

From Publishers Weekly

Textbooks and historical accounts can provide a broad view of the Holocaust, but nothing can come close to the power of the testimony of those who were there. As Holocaust scholar Lawrence Langer writes in his introduction to this collage of first-hand accounts, "Without survivor testimony, the human dimension of the catastrophe would remain a subject of speculation." For more than two decades, the Fortunoff Video Archive at Yale University has been videotaping the oral histories of Holocaust survivors and eyewitnesses. This extraordinary project has resulted in a documentary that will air on PBS in April and in this companion book. Editors Greene, a filmmaker, and Kumar, a scholar specializing in ethics and morality in global TV production, have woven together the testimonies of 27 individuals into an unforgettable narrative of the Holocaust: starting with pre-WWII Jewish life, they go on to describe the war's outbreak, ghettos, resistance and hiding, death camps, death marches, liberation and life after the Holocaust. Through careful selection and sequencing, the editors have succeeded in their goal: "to edit without editorializing." These painfully sad testimonies speak for themselves, providing the horrific details of people's experiences. The common link among these speakers is the eternal scars they bear. One survivor concludes his remarks with the haunting words: "I can't tell you everything in an interview. I couldn't even describe one day in the ghetto. I don't want to live with that pain, but it's there. It's there. It forms its own entity and it surfaces whenever it wants to." These voices bring us a step closer to comprehending the lasting anguish of the Nazi genocide. Photos. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is the best book I have ever read on the witnesses of the Holocaust.
Marcia J. Wise
It ony made me think that for every story I heard there are literally millions of other stories unaccounted for that we will never know.
A reader
Witness does a great job of telling about the memories that the survivor's in the Holocaust have had for many years.
Amy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By N. Lee on May 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book in a local bookstore one afternoon, not planning to buy it, just to glance through since I'm very interested in the Holocaust. I was late picking my mother up from work because I became so caught up in it. What I appreciated most about Witness was the many different viewpoints presented, I can't remember another time where I was able to read a Hitler Youth's account of the happenings, and I had not read all that many accounts by American POWs. I spent an entire afternoon and late into the night reading the book straight through, and it was definitely time well spent. I agree with the previous reviewer in that the stories arent' quite so graphic as many I have come across, and yet I think since it is in each of the witnesses own words, nothing altered, not even grammar, it is so much more poignant. I would definitely recommend Witness to anyone searching for a greater knowledge of what occured in the camps and throughout Germany and Poland during this horrific time.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Witness: Voices from the Holocaust gives a very detailed account of the Holocsust, beginning in the early 1930's of Europe. Twenty-seven individuals are interviewed in the first person. Jews, Gentiles, Hitler Youth, priests, and others tell their story of their life and memories during these years. I found the book to be very educational and informative. It is not too graphic even though it does give you a very realistic view of life as it was when Hitler was controlling Germany.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tim Johnson on June 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
As opposed to earlier commentators I do not come from a background rich in readings on the subject of the Holocaust and therefore Witness came as a unexpected mine of memories of people that had experienced the unimaginable.
My knowledge of the events of the Holocaust were almost exclusively from video documentaries and those documentaries had left many unanswered questions: questions about the Transportation, about the Marches after the camps closed late in the war, about the closing of the ghettos, about the long-term hiding, about the massive anti-semitism that greeted the survivors after the war upon returning "home" and finally the Jewish guerrilla bands that sprang up throughout eastern Europe.
The remarkable thing about this great exercise is the broadness of the interviews that compose the book: the authors assembled a very wide ranging collection of these interviews that spoke about all the topics that I had only heard snatches about in the video documentaries. It was all the more remarkable because these were all primary sources-they were not what somebody had interpreted but the memories of the people that lived the experience and because of this the book had an enormous impact on this reader.
I am a slow reader and the book absorbed me totally and I finished it in a matter of days.
If you read no other book about the Holocaust-read this one.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lori Orchow Haney on April 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
After reading some 100 Holocaust-related books, I find this to be one of the best actual survivor compilations. Though the last names are not used throughout the book, each "author" has a distinct personality, which really makes the reader feel the different accounts in a truly different way. From the poor girl whose parents were deaf to the American soldier wrongly arrested and interned, this book allows those who lived the hell of the Shoah to tell their own words in their own way. I literally did not put this book down until I finished every page. It made me cry, and again question how the world stood by and allowed this to happen.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Martin on December 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I read this book several years ago and it had a profound affect on me. It is divided into three sections: life before, life during, and life after the holocaust for Jewish survivors. All the accounts are first-person narratives by the survivors themselves. I believe they were all interviewed on tape for a documentary. And then they put it into print to create this book. Something that surprised me was how prevalent anti-semitism was in the years before the Holocaust. Sometimes we think Hitler suddenly arose out of nowhere with his anti-semitism. But he was actually just "riding a wave" of hatred of the Jews. The Polish people were in particular very hateful of the Jews. It really surprised me how much they had to endure before WWII even began! This book was a compelling read - true accounts directly from those who survived the greatest horror of the 20th Century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amy on April 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This great, compelling story of historical drama and is told from many points of view from that time in history, the 1940's. The book is set all over in Germany and is told by many different characters. I really liked how the authors described in detail what they felt when,they were being taken to a concentration camp or taken away from their loved ones. This book is a collection of many autobiographies of the survivors in the Holocaust. I loved how this author put together these autobiographies in chronological order, so it was easy to follow. Witness does a great job of telling about the memories that the survivor's in the Holocaust have had for many years. It also helps you understand what is was like for the Jewish citizens and the huge impact the Germans had on people around the world. This book is for every person that wants to know what it was like in the life of a Jewish man, woman, or child during that horrible time in history.
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