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March 10, 1989 - Image 97

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-03-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BOOKS

Life In The
Warsaw Ghetto

Yeshiva University is inaugurating its
Holocaust literature series with a newly
translated record written by Shimon
Huberband, an Orthodox rabbi who did
not survive.

RHONDA COHEN

Special to The Jewish News

or the first time, the
words of Shimon Hu-
berband, an Orthodox
rabbi who recorded events in
the Warsaw Ghetto and who
died at the age of 33 in the
Nazi concentration camp of
Treblinka, are available in
English. Huberband's record,
originally written in Yiddish,
has been edited into a book,
Kiddush Hashem: Jewish
Religious and Cultural Life in
Poland During the Holocaust,
by Yeshiva University's Dr.
Jeffrey Gurock, one of the na-
tion's leading authorities on
American Jewish history.
Gurock, the author of two
books himself, When Harlem
Was Jewish: 1870-1930 and
American Jewish History: A
Bibliographical Guide, turned
into book form what was es-
sentially a personal record of
events and conditions in war-
time Poland, written against
a backdrop of terror, illness
and deprivation.
"When I first got the book,
Kiddush Hashem, it wasn't
really a book. It was made up
of fragments," says Gurock,
who was interviewed in his of-
fice at Yeshiva University in
Manhattan, where he is an
associate professor at the
Bernard Revel Graduate
School. "Huberband had col-
lected them in Warsaw and
stored them in milk cartons
which were buried before the
destruction of the (Warsaw)
ghetto."

Kiddush Hashem was
published by Yeshiva Univer-
sity Press and Ktav Publish-
ing House. The book is the
first volume of the Heritage
of Modern European Jewry
Series, sponsored by Yeshiva
University's Holocaust
Studies Program.
Huberband's manuscripts
were discovered in 1946 and
were part of the secret ghet-
to archives codenamed "Oneg
Shabbos". lbday, they are
known collectively as the
Ringelblum Archives, after
Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, the
archives' founder, • organizer
and director who, like Huber-
band, did not survive the
Holocaust.
Ringelblum considered
Huberband one of his closest
associates, writing that "in
the first months of my in-

"Huberband
depicts Jews who
were able to rise
above the
occasion and
sometimes
couldn't, and he
describes it as it
unfolds, which is
what gives it its
greatest power."

volvement in the Oneg Shab-
bos project, I attracted a
number of people to work
with me, but had little luck
with them. Only when the
young historian Rabbi
Shimon Huberband was

drawn into the work did Oneg
Shabbos gain one of its best
collaborators."
After its discovery, the
Huberband material was sent
to the Yad Vashem Holocaust
Museum in Israel, where a
Hebrew translation was pre-
pared by Dr. Joseph Kermish
of Yad Vashem. And Dr.
David Fishman, a Yeshiva
University alumnus who is
now an assistant professor of
East European Jewish his-
tory and culture at Brandeis
University, in Waltham, spent
two years translating the
original Yiddish material in-
to English — the first such
version and one that contains
material not published.
"It was my job to edit the
language, although Fishman
did a pretty good job, and
more importantly, I had to
make it into a book," says
Gurock, who spent 18
months on the editing task.
"One of the major editorial
questions I had to figure out
was if we should publish the
book in its entirety, with
many redundancies in the
text. I decided it was impor-
tant for people who read it to
have the entire document,
just so they could see how he
(Huberband) recorded
things."
Gurock worked with frag-
ments, some with headings
and some without. The frag-
ments varied from autobio-
graphical information to
eyewitness accounts. Not on-
ly did he have to put the
fragments into an organized
framework, but Gurock tried

Jeffrey Gurock, whose latest book, The Men and Women of Yeshiva was
published for Yeshiva University's centennial, is the nation's leading
authority on American Jewish history.

to illustrate what kind of ex-
periences Huberband had
endured.
The fragments were organ-
ized into 39 chapters, divided
into four major headings:
"Autobiographical Mater-
ials," "Daily Life and Death
in the Warsaw Ghetto,"
"Jewish Religious Life in
Nazi-Occupied Europe" and
"On the Destruction of East
European Jewry."
"You can really get a feeling
for what day-to-day life is, the
daily struggle for survival in
the ghettos, of Jews sent to
death camps, and the nature
of the brutality toward Jews,"
Gurock says. "Huberband
depicts Jews who were able to
rise above the occasion and
sometimes couldn't, and he
describes it as it unfolds,
which is what gives it • its
greatest power," he says.
What surprised Gurock is
Huberband's lack of emotion

in his descriptions.
"He writes, for instance,
about the loss of his wife dur-
ing the early part of the war,
and he writes with lack of
anger, dispassion, no re-
morse," Gurock notes. "He
really sees himself as an
historian, although he's in the
middle of this thing, and he
can step back and record
these things for posterity."
That ability is something
Gurock, as an historian, can
understand. "You get a sense
of this man being professional
until the very end, and for me,
he is a very attractive figure.
I ended up becoming pretty
close to him as a subject and
when the book was com-
pleted, I found it to be a very
chilling experience. Hopeful-
ly, it will show others what an
important and strong histor-
ical figure he was."
Others involved in the pro-
ject were equally impressed

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

97

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