More than sixty years ago, fear gripped the Auschwitz Sonderkommandant – Jewish slave laborers sentenced to work in the gas chambers and the crematoria. Fear not just for their own lives, but for their people. Some of these men wrote of murders, of the number of Jews killed, of their pain and terror. They wrote on scraps of paper, pushed into bottles they sealed with wax and buried in the camp grounds. They left these bottles because they wanted the world to know of Auschwitz, they wanted their testimony to survive even if their people perished. They were afraid, truly afraid, that no Jew would live to tell the world what they had experienced.
Yet the Jews survived, and the voices of men in the shadow of the crematoria came to be joined by thousands of others. A welter of Holocaust literature has poured from printing presses in recent decades. Witness to History is the result of the best of this literature. A fusion of solid scholarly research and riveting first-person narrative, Witness to History’s innovative approach provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of both the causes and the events that shaped the Holocaust. Five units cover the era from World War I through liberation in 1945 and, finally, contemporary views of the Holocaust.
The text interweaves academic content with personal accounts from a cross-section of eyewitnesses: ghetto-dwellers and resistance fighters, learned rabbis and innocent children, non-Jewish collaborators and rescuers all add their voices to the book. This volume provides unique coverage of little-discussed historical events, such as the fate of Sephardic Jews and the unique Holocaust experience of religious Jews. The eyewitness accounts, together with nearly a thousand pictures and dozens of maps, bring history to vivid life. Witness to History transforms the Holocaust from a tragedy of the past to a living experience, changing the reader’s perception of history, the Jewish spirit, and the power of faith in times of adversity.
Produced by Project Witness, an organization directed by Ruth Lichtenstein and dedicated Holocaust education and awareness, Witness to History is the product of a team of historians, researchers, rabbinical scholars and editors. Ruth Lichtenstein, editor-in-chief, is a publisher, an international Holocaust lecturer and the author of the Hebrew language Edut, a Holocaust textbook designed for Orthodox Israeli schools.
The book is accompanied by a multi-media DVD, with coverage of Holocaust-era music, art and poetry; an animated timeline and maps; and personal testimonies of survivors and children of survivors. A Teacher’s Guide, developed with education specialists and Holocaust scholars, is available to aid educators in effectively planning a Holocaust-studies curriculum.