'Labour is the ROCK OF ZION! Labour the FOUNDATION OF MY STATE! HARD, PUNISHING LABOUR!',
This review is from: The Emperor of Lies (Paperback)
An amazing and horrific account of life in the Lodz Jewish ghetto - second largest in Poland. The head of the ghetto, Chaim Rumkowski, set to turning 'his' town into an industrial centre that would become invaluable to the Nazis, and so- he hoped- save the inhabitants. Certainly it was the longest lasting ghetto, surviving in part at least until 1944. Yet at the same time Rumkowski definitely feathered his nest on the proceeds, living comfortably and eating well while the rest starved.
Not a consecutive narrative, but a series of 'snapshots' of the wartime experiences of the inhabitants, perhaps most terribly the regular demands by the Nazis that the ghetto periodically hand over set numbers of its people to go to 'work camps'.
"They demand that we give them the very things most valuable to us- our children and our old people....I must now reach out my hands and ask: Brothers and sisters, give them to me. Give me your children!"
Perhaps the part that will remain most vividly with me is the heartbreaking final section where one of the young men hides from transportation and attempts to live out a Polish winter with almost no food or heat in an almost deserted ghetto.
The author doesn't attempt to solve the controversy that has always persisted about Rumkowski; I didn't finish the book with a 100% certainty of what I felt about him. Sem-Sandberg doesn't describe 'the Emperor's' feelings as he does other characters, and while he had huge personal failings, he was in an impossible political position.