The first five volumes of the Holocaust Library, a series of books created and selected by survivors of the Holocaust, were introduced at a private reception here last week.
Alexander Donat, chairman of the Advisory Board which manages the non-profit organization, explained that with the first five volumes now published, four paperback reprints of classics in Holocaust history and one original hardcover autobiography have now been made available to the public.
The members of the Board were handpicked by Donat to share the responsibility of choosing books for the Library. Those members, “whose intention it is to have started a circle of books that will continue indefinitely,” according to Donat, are Sam E. Bloch, Secretary General of the Federation of Bergen Belsen Associations; Hadassah Rosensaft, who by the management of the Central Committee of the British occupational Zone of Germany, saved hundreds of children after World War II; William H. Donat, child survivor of the Holocaust; Lean G. Wells, author of “The Death Brigade,” one of the first five volumes reprinted in the series; and author-lecturer Elie Wiesel, survivor of the Holocaust.
BOOKS OUT OF PRINT
Four of the five volumes first published for the series were chosen, Donat explained, because they were out of print and the “urgent demand for them” in schools and universities was not being met. The first original work in the series, “Ghetto Diary” by Janusz Korczak, was chosen to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his birth, presently being celebrated by the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Korczak, a Warsaw pediatrician revealed in his diary his dedication to the children of an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto. Hadassah Rosensaft, who introduced his book at the reception, explained that Korczak chose to die with the children at Trbelinka rather than leave Poland. “He became a symbol of great courage, great love for children,” she explained. “He spared them the fear, agony and knowledge of death.”
Gideon Hausner, Attorney General of Israel at the time Adolf Eichmann was captured, in his book “Justice in Jerusalem” related not only the story of the Eichmann trial but “the whole history of the Holocaust,” said Donat. “We feel,” he added, “that it should be made required reading” in schools. “The Death Brigade” by Leon W. Wells is his autobiographical account of two escapes from German captivity, once from the group whose job it was to obliterate traces of the mass executions of inmates of concentration camps and whose name has been lent to the title of the volume.
In “Their Brothers’ Keepers,” Philip Friedman gives an account of Christian rescues of Jews during World War II. Friedman documents the acts of “Christians who put their lives on the line to allow a handful of Jews to survive.” explained William Donat, son of Alexander, who was saved from extermination in that way. His father’s book, “The Holocaust Kingdom,” also introduced into the series, relates the survival of his Polish-Jewish family in the Warsaw Ghetto and describes the circumstances which led the elder Donat to give up his son to a non-Jewish family not knowing they would someday be reunited.
FIVE MORE VOLUMES PLANNED
The Holocaust Library was established “to offer to the reading public authentic material not readily available, and to preserve the memory of our martyrs and heroes untainted by arbitrary or inadvertent distortions,” reads the inside cover of each volume. It has been financed with funds left by Benjamin and Stefa Wald, set up in a trust, with additional funds coming from organizations, donations, the sales of the books, and the first-printing royalties all of the authors have agreed to donate to the Library.
The series is being distributed by Schocken Books to bookstores and trade channels and also through many Jewish organizations, according to Donat. The Advisory Board is currently planning a series of five other titles, including volumes on the Warsaw Ghetto and Jewish resistance, some of which will be reprinted works and others originals.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.