- Paperback: 408 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; Revised ed. edition (September 21, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520221524
- ISBN-13: 978-0520221529
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag Revised ed. Edition
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In 1941, accidentally rolling a Soviet tank while fording a river was considered a death offense by the Red Army. Unfortunately for young Janusz Bardach, he committed just such an error; lucky for him that an old acquaintance from his hometown in Poland had enough rank and influence to commute the court-martial penalty from death to 10 years hard labor in Siberia. For the next four years, Bardach endured hellish conditions in various labor camps--first a logging camp, then a gold mine in the frozen north. Frigid temperatures, inadequate food and clothing combined with physical and spiritual malaise to bring prisoners first to the edge of despair and then to the brink of suicide. Bardach survived by turning his mind off, by refusing to remember happier times or to anticipate the future. He became, simply, a beast of burden, shuffling through the hours of his slavery until he could fall into the brief oblivion of sleep.
Ironically, it was a near brush with death that proved to be Bardach's salvation. After surviving an explosion, he was sent to a prison hospital where he managed to talk his way into a job as a medical assistant. There he gained both a new lease on life and a future profession. Released from his sentence early, in 1945, Bardach went on to become a surgeon. His memoir, Man Is Wolf to Man, is more than just an account of his sufferings in a Russian labor camp; it is also a meditation on the will to survive in the face of hopelessness, the occasional kindnesses of strangers in unexpected places, and above all, the struggle to remain human under the most inhumane conditions. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
When the Red Army first arrived in the Polish town of Wlodzimierz-Wolynski in 1939, Bardach, a Polish Jew, was overjoyed believing that this army from the brave, new Soviet society was there to fight the Germans. He little dreamed that Poland would be partitioned in accord with the Hitler-Stalin nonaggression pact. After witnessing deportations and gratuitous brutality, Bardach was rather more skeptical by the time he was drafted into the Red Army in 1940. Soon after, he was sentenced to 10 years in a Soviet prison, and it's here in the labyrinthine world of the Soviet gulag that Bardach's gripping but matter-of-fact memoir really begins. Shipped from camp to camp, Bardach ends up as a zek, a prison laborer, at the gold mines of Kolyma in Far Eastern Russia. Along the way, he encounters the random cruelty of Soviet prison life and the almost incomprehensible combination of harsh conditions and constant death that can break the human spirit. But even in these desensitizing conditions, certain individuals retained their humanity, such as Efim Polzun, a fellow Jew and Soviet officer, who got Bardach's sentence commuted, or Dr. Piasetsky, who let Bardach lie his way into a job as a clinic assistant. More than many such memoirs, this volume clearly manifests the constant struggle between maintaining one's life and maintaining one's humanity in inhumane situations. A fascinating history, this compelling memoir is also a story of inner resolve and the will to keep going. It's a worthy companion to such accounts as Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago and Natalya Ginzburg's Journey into the Whirlwind. 26 b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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- the realization of how quickly educated, hard working, honest families were massacred by both the Nazis and the Soviets.
- the difference between political theory and reality and the importance of understanding how our ideas actually play out in the real world.
- the escape from the prison transport.
- the extreme use of fear as a weapon in Communist society.
- the attack on female prisoners on the ship to Kolyma stuck with me due to the brutality.
- the commutation of Janusz's death sentence from a "chance" encounter with an officer who knew his family.
- the missed opportunity to escape after turning over the tank.
- the strained relationship between Janusz and his brother Julek.
- Janusz's return to Wlodzimierz-Wolynski after his release.
- the revelation of his family's fate. The book tells it swiftly and without much fanfare. I think it translated the pain Janusz must've felt very explicitly.
Americans have never really appreciated the horrors visited upon the Soviet people by Lenin and completed by Stalin and Beria. Is twenty million dead an accurate number? How about thirty? The numbers are impossible for the mind to register. Dr. Bardach brings one of these experiences vividly into the reader's frame of references. I wondered several times during my reading, with an awful feeling of foreboding terror, whether it could ever happen here.
Dr. Bardack's book is more than simply shocking. I am perfectly convinced that the author, by simple use of understatement, refrained from amplifying his personal set of horrors. His use of contrasting descriptions of beautiful scenes while on route-beaches, forests, mountain steppes-forces us to carefully reassess how men of reason could generate such hostility.
This book is not light reading, yet it is difficult to put down. The writing style is excellent and is a pleasure-if one can describe terror as "pleasure." It is a forceful commentary, an unique historical document, and Dr. Bardach should be congratulated for his willingness to relive and present it to us.
Maybe I just need to finish the book but I couldn't take the stupidity.