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Ponary Diary, 1941-1943: A Bystander’s Account of a Mass Murder Hardcover – Dec 10 2005

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Product Description


"This remarkable diary, written by a sympathetic Polish observer, gives a graphic and harrowing account of the mass murder of between fifty and sixty thousand Lithuanian Jews in the forest of Ponary just outside Vilna. It is a unique contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust."—Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University

(Antony Polonsky)

"Ponary Diary is a vivid, intimate account of mass murder, and chilling in its relentless detail. The Holocaust has few more compelling witnesses than Kazimierz Sakowicz."—Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast Regional Director, Amnesty International USA

(Joshua Rubenstein)

“[The Ponary Diary] is a chilling account of man’s inhumanity to man.”—Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News

(Sheldon Kirschner Canadian Jewish News)

About the Author

YITZHAK ARAD is the author of Ghetto in Flames: The Struggle and Destruction of the Jews in Vilna and former chairman of the Directorate of Yad Vashem.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Shocking document Feb. 4 2007
By cccp - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've decided to read this book because I visited Vilnius (Lithuania) last month and there I visited the KGB museum. The museum is very impressive, but where it does show a lot of wrongs of the KGB (when the Soviets were in power in Lith.), it hardly mentions anything at all about the significant role local Lithuanians played in the Holocaust during WW II. I stumbled upon this title by surfing Amazon, and then decided to order it. The 'Ponary Diary' is hard to digest realy. It is an almost casual diary of a Polish journalist who lived in the area of the infamous killing fields of Ponary. What I found so hard to digest, is the matter-of-fact style in which the entries are written. There is no emotion whatsoever, Sakowicz could have been describing the local cattle slaugther-house. But maybe it is a good thing he writes in such a distanced way, so the facts (the things he actually witnessed with his very own eyes) don't get blurred. I'm glad I read this book, but I would not want to read it again. It is that hard to take. (What bothered me also a bit, was the fact that nothing was written by way of an epilogue, of what happened to those sadistic Lithuanian and German mass-murderers. They remain nameless and faceless for the most part).
On "lack of emotions": response to cccp May 15 2015
By aile.verte - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I would like to focus my review on responding to cccp's review comment regarding the lack of emotion in the book. This is an important point to raise, and no doubt other readers may have had a similar impression. However, we must consider this: the emotion of the bystander has to do with the "I" of the writer, and not with the horror he is witnessing. I take it as a sign of respect towards the victims, as utmost care in recording the facts as objectively as possible, that the writer uses a style that may seem almost "clinical", but which is in fact taut with hidden emotion -- the reader's own reaction to the book, one's own emotion, testifies to the horror that the writer must have experienced. That he does not overtly express it, only goes to his credit: he doesn't want to talk about himself, about what *he* feels: anything he might say of his own reaction would be incommensurate with the crime he witnessed. Had he written about his emotion, we would be right to judge his writing as self-indulgent. If, as a witness to the horror, I speak of my own emotions, of what I feel, am I not feeling sorry for myself rather than the victims? We mustn't confuse lack of dramatized emotionality (sentimentality) with indifference (an indifferent, unfeeling bystander does not bear witness at all...). Another thing we mustn't forget in reading this account is that it was written under extremely difficult conditions: this is no leisurely writing in the comfort and safety of the writer's home. Recording the events he witnessed was dangerous. Were he caught with these notes in his possession, they would be destroyed and he killed. Hence the need to record, as accurately as possible, the objective facts witnessed, then to hide the notes in multiple hiding places. Sakowicz is acting as a journalist in the true sense of the word: he sees his own person as unimportant, as one who happened to be put in the position of a witness and whose duty it is to describe what he sees. And it is up to us to think, to understand, and ... to feel. This is a sort of book that precludes passive reading: as readers, we too, need to do some work. And we also need to put ourselves in the writer's shoes: if we do that, and let our imagination guide our empathy, we won't doubt that the last thing Sakowicz was was "unfeeling".
Excellent May 2 2012
By Franks here - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've read many, probably too many, books on the holocaust.
I've written more than a few papers on the subject.
This book does stand out from the rest, not necessarily better than, but different than.
It is an excellent book, and it should be required reading for anyone interested in how "average citizens" ( the Lithuanians) could become the lapdogs of the Nazi machine.
Hatred is a powerful thing, and this book explains the banality of the power when an entire society succumbs to it.
Chilling and frightening March 19 2014
By LoveHarryPotter - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I grew up with the Holocaust. I would wonder how people could let such things happen but came to realize how those who stood up were killed. Though this man could have done something to help those who were being killed, he made, at cost to his life, a record of what he saw and thus, what could have been considered a lie is truth. He detaches himself from what he saw and to protect his sanity. How would anyone believe such things happen.
Chilling view from an attic near the woods July 30 2015
By Elaine M. Silverstrim - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A meticulous account of Vilna Jewish extermination by a local observer. Sadly the author of the carefully hidden scraps of paper was killed on last day of Nazi occupation, possibly by stray fire as Russians retook area. For Holocaust serious readers, a must read.