True Tales From a Grotesque Land

By Sara Nomberg-Przytyk, Edited by Eli Pfefferkorn, David H. Hirsch

Translated by Roslyn Hirsch; Edited by Eli Pfefferkorn and David H. Hirsch

197 pp., 6 x 8

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4160-0
    Published: August 1986
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9882-6
    Published: October 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8668-2
    Published: October 2009

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Awards & distinctions

1986 Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association, Young Adults Services Division

1986 Merit of Educational Distinction, International Center for Holocaust Studies, Anti-Defamation League

"From the moment I got to Auschwitz I was completely detached. I disconnected my heart and intellect in an act of self-defense, despair, and hopelessness." With these words Sara Nomberg-Przytyk begins this painful and compelling account of her experiences while imprisoned for two years in the infamous death camp. Writing twenty years after her liberation, she recreates the events of a dark past which, in her own words, would have driven her mad had she tried to relive it sooner. But while she records unimaginable atrocities, she also richly describes the human compassion that stubbornly survived despite the backdrop of camp depersonalization and imminent extermination.

Commemorative in spirit and artistic in form, Auschwitz convincingly portrays the paradoxes of human nature in extreme circumstances. With consummate understatement Nomberg-Przytyk describes the behavior of concentration camp inmates as she relentlessly and pitilessly examines her own motives and feelings. In this world unmitigated cruelty coexisted with nobility, rapacity with self-sacrifice, indifference with selfless compassion. This book offers a chilling view of the human drama that existed in Auschwitz.

From her portraits of camp personalities, an extraordinary and horrifying profile emerges of Dr. Josef Mengele, whose medical experiments resulted in the slaughter of nearly half a million Jews. Nomberg-Przytyk's job as an attendant in Mengle's hospital allowed her to observe this Angel of Death firsthand and to provide us with the most complete description to date of his monstrous activities.

The original Polish manuscript was discovered by Eli Pfefferkorn in 1980 in the Yad Vashem Archive in Jerusalem. Not knowing the fate of the journal's author, Pfefferkorn spent two years searching and finally located Nomberg-Przytyk in Canada. Subsequent interviews revealed the history of the manuscript, the author's background, and brought the journal into perspective.

About the Author

Sara Nomberg-Przytyk died in Canada in 1990. Roslyn Hirsch and David Hirsch have also translated and edited Ghetto Kingdom: Tales of the Lodz Ghetto and, with Eli Pfefferkorn, Justyna's Narrative, by Gusta Davidson Draenger.
For more information about Sara Nomberg-Przytyk, visit the Author Page.


"The unusual attention to the details of human character that emerged under the cruel and extreme conditions of the death camp sets [this book] apart from the many important and moving books written by other survivors."—New York Times Book Review

"There is much to learn here, about Auschwitz and the range of human behavior."—Ruth R. Wisse, McGill University

"The astonishing power of this series of portraits, vignettes, and tales . . . resides in the fact that in the midst of unimaginable treachery, deceit, and cunningly contrived evil, there still existed among the prisoners life-giving remnants of decency, courage, fortitude, and hope."—Robert McAfee Brown, author of Elie Wiesel: Messenger to All Humanity