Archives par étiquette : deuxième guerre mondiale

THE BOOK SMUGGLERS de David E. Fishman

The Monuments Men” for book lovers

Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis
by David E. Fishman
, October 2017

THE BOOK SMUGGLERS is the nearly unbelievable story of ghetto inmates who daringly rescued thousands of rare books and manuscripts from first the Nazis and then the Soviets, by hiding them on their bodies, burying them in bunkers, and smuggling them across borders. It is a tale of heroism and resistance, of friendship and romance, of unwavering devotion to literature and art, and of readiness to risk one’s life for them. Dr. Johannes Pohl, a Nazi “expert” on the Jews, was dispatched to Vilna to organize the seizure and destruction of the city’s great collections of Jewish books. He marshaled forty ghetto inmates to sort and pack the materials. The group, nick-named “the paper brigade,” was informally led by poet Shmerke Kaczerginski (pronounced Catcher-ginsky), a garrulous, street-smart adventurer who was a master of deception. In a nerve-racking eighteen-month project, the members of the paper brigade slipped artifacts past the German guards. If caught, they faced death by firing-squad. Poet Abraham Sutzkever helped build an underground book-bunker sixty feet underneath the Vilna ghetto. Kaczerginski smuggled both papers and weapons, and purchased arms for the ghetto’s secret partisan organization. The members of the paper brigade were all intellectuals—writers, scholars, educators, and artists. But in other respects they could not have been a more varied group. But despite their differences, the group bonded into a fellowship. Kaczerginski and co-worker Rachel Krinsky became lovers, after having lost their spouses to the Nazi murder machine. Most members of the paper brigade did not survive the war. Kaczerginski and Sutzkever fought as partisans in the forests, and returned to their devastated city with the liberating Red Army in July 1944. Determined to retrieve the cultural remnants of their people, and to finish the rescue-operation that they and their now-murdered colleagues had begun, they dug up troves of the rare books and manuscripts. The poet-duo of Kaczerginski and Sutzkever founded a Jewish museum in Soviet Vilna (now called Vilnius) to preserve the cultural treasures, and fought tooth and nail against the Soviet authorities who wanted to close the museum and seize its collection. Their adversary was a special emissary from Moscow named Mikhail Suslov, who later became the Kremlin’s odious chief of ideology. When officials hauled away and destroyed twenty tons of the museum’s books and papers, Kaczerginski realized he needed to rescue the treasures again, and get them out of the Soviet Union. Smuggling books and papers across the Soviet-Polish border was just as fraught with life-threatening danger as the operation Kaczerginski had led in the ghetto. But once in Łódź, Poland, he reunited with Rachel Krinsky, who had miraculously survived a string of concentration camps. How did the paper brigade succeed in whisking the books and documents to freedom, to New York and Jerusalem? Were Pohl and his fellow plunderers brought to justice after the war? The Book Smugglers answers these questions in an inspiring historical drama that pits men and women of letters again two of the most murderous regimes in history.

David Fishman is Professor of History at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is the foremost expert on the World War II library of the Vilna ghetto.

Rights already licensed:

Italian, Newton Compton
Lithuanian, Baltos Lankos
Dutch, BBNC
Czech, Pistorius & Olšanská
Portuguese (Brazil), Autêntica

A FIFTY-YEAR SILENCE de Miranda Richmond Mouillot

Love, War and a Ruined House in France

by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
Crown, January 2015

a fifty-year silenceIn 1948, Miranda’s grandparents, Armand and Anna, who had survived Nazi-occupied France, bought an old stone house in the south of France. Her grandmother, a physician, and her grandfather, later an interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials, had survived the war in France through a combination of luck and wits. Five years later, Anna packed her bags and walked out on Armand, taking his typewriter and their two children. The two never spoke to each other for the rest of their lives. No one in the family knew why or dared to unravel the mystery, but Mouillot’s curiosity and need to understand her heritage compelled her to break the silence. Why is her grandfather so angry with her grandmother, refusing for 50 years even to utter her name? The intertwined narratives form a seamless whole that touches on some very big issues: how history, family, and the individual inform one another; how we write—and rewrite—history to fulfill our own needs; the danger of being consumed by the past; the burden of history, of secrets and silence; and the limits of knowledge and memory.

The writer and translator Miranda Richmond Mouillot lives in South of France since 2004 and speaks perfect French.