A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer by Melissa Müller and Reinhard Piechocki; The Diary of Petr Ginz: 1941–1942 by Chava Pressburger (ed), (Translated by Elena Lappin) - review by Jonathan Mirsky

Jonathan Mirsky

Betrayed From Within and Without

A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer


Macmillan 326pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

The Diary of Petr Ginz: 1941–1942


Atlantic Books 192pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

A friend who was a child in Israel in the early Fifties told me that in his school the students were taught to honour Jewish heroes. Theirs was a long history, the teachers said, from Old Testament times to the present, including those who had died in the Warsaw ghetto uprising near the end of the Second World War. They were taught, also, to be embarrassed by the millions of Jews who had perished in the extermination camps, ‘like sheep’, without resisting. In his memoir, Of Blood and Hope (published thirty years ago), Samuel Pisar, who survived four camps, described how when the SS razed the ghetto in his birthplace, Bialystok, many young men and women did fight back. ‘Unarmed, their resistance was futile. They were mowed down.’ He concluded bleakly: ‘Acquiescence, surrender, assimilation, conversion – nothing would ever satisfy our executioners. Simply and indiscriminately, we had to be expunged – our blood was tainted.’ 

Alice Herz-Sommer, one of the 3,500 who survived Theresienstadt (the camp two hours from Prague from which 89,000 inmates were transported to ‘the east’ to be exterminated), made her way to Israel in 1949. She found in the new state an ‘uncomfortable black-and-white thinking … here were the new Israeli

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