David Cesarani

The Sky over Auschwitz

Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination


Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 127pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

In 1946 two Czech survivors of Auschwitz living in Prague published a history of the camp. Ota Kraus was among the few who escaped its clutches during the war; his co-writer, Erich Kulka, was a Jew imprisoned by the Nazis as a political opponent. Their book, The Death Factory, was an immediate success and went through five printings by 1959. It was translated into several languages and eventually sold over a million copies. An English edition appeared in 1966 and, despite the clanking Marxist explanation for Nazi genocide, it remains a serviceable account. One chapter is devoted to the ‘Family Camp’, where successive transports of Czech Jews from the Theresienstadt ghetto, each numbering approximately five thousand, were held for six months before they were murdered in the gas chambers. Kulka did not mention that his wife and son arrived there in March 1944. She survived Auschwitz but perished on a ‘death march’ from the Stutthof concentration camp, where she had been transferred. The boy, ten years old when he entered Auschwitz, was reunited with his father and both made it out alive.

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