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History Jewish

From the Vilna Ghetto to Nuremberg

Memoir and Testimony

by (author) Abraham Sutzkever

translated by Justin D. Cammy

afterword by Avraham Novershtern

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Jewish, Personal Memoirs, World War II
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
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In 1944, the Yiddish poet Abraham Sutzkever was airlifted to Moscow from the forest where he had spent the winter among partisan fighters. There he was encouraged by Ilya Ehrenburg, the most famous Soviet Jewish writer of his day, to write a memoir of his two years in the Vilna Ghetto. Now, seventy-five years after it appeared in Yiddish in 1946, Justin Cammy provides a full English translation of one of the earliest published memoirs of the destruction of the city known throughout the Jewish world as the Jerusalem of Lithuania.
Based on his own experiences, his conversations with survivors, and his consultation with materials hidden in the ghetto and recovered after the liberation of his hometown, Sutzkever’s memoir rests at the intersection of postwar Holocaust literature and history. He grappled with the responsibility to produce a document that would indict the perpetrators and provide an account of both the horrors and the resilience of Jewish life under Nazi rule. Cammy bases his translation on the two extant versions of the full text of the memoir and includes Sutzkever’s diary notes and full testimony at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946. Fascinating reminiscences of leading Soviet Yiddish cultural figures Sutzkever encountered during his time in Moscow – Ehrenburg, Yiddish modernist poet Peretz Markish, and director of the State Yiddish Theatre Shloyme Mikhoels – reveal the constraints of the political environment in which the memoir was composed.
Both shocking and moving in its intensity, From the Vilna Ghetto to Nuremberg returns readers to a moment when the scale of the Holocaust was first coming into focus, through the eyes of one survivor who attempted to make sense of daily life, resistance, and death in the ghetto.
A Yiddish Book Center Translation

About the authors

Abraham Sutzkever (1913–2010) was an acclaimed Yiddish poet. He achieved international fame/recognition as a young writer in interwar Poland, and then settled in Tel-Aviv where he became a link between the fate of European Jewry and the rebuilding of Jewish life in Israel.

Abraham Sutzkever's profile page

Justin D. Cammy is professor of Jewish studies and world literatures at Smith College.

Justin D. Cammy's profile page

Avraham Novershtern's profile page


  • Short-listed, Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award - Holocaust

Editorial Reviews

From the Vilna Ghetto to Nuremberg acquaints the English-language reader with an important document about the Holocaust. It’s especially worthwhile to read the afterword, which reveals in detail the complicated process of creating this remarkable book, an exemplary scholarly feat.” Forward Reviews

“This book is a must-read for any student and scholar of the Holocaust. It is a captivating documentation of life in the Vilna Ghetto, with valuable additional material about the poet’s Nuremberg testimony and encounters with Soviet Yiddish writers. Cammy and Novershtern’s stellar editing and translation make the book an indispensable tool for delineating the complex historical and political contexts of Sutzkever’s poetry during and after the war.” LA Review of Books

“The appearance of the literary master Abraham Sutzkever’s “Vilna Ghetto” in English is like a bomb detonating in the language of William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Saul Bellow. This translation by a Smith College Jewish Studies professor, Justin Cammy, joins the original Yiddish as well as previous editions in Hebrew, French, Russian, German, and Lithuanian as a clear eyed chronicle of murderous madness. It is a major literary event that reminds a forgetful culture of the things that demand remembrance.” The New York Sun

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