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July 28, 1989 - Image 58

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-07-28

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

BOOKS

A foreboding photograph of the barbed wire surrounding the Auschwitz death camp is reproduced on the cover of
the prospectus for Macmillan's Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.

Books Of A Thousand Horrors

Almost ready for release the Encyclopedia Of
The Holocaust, published by Macmillan, is
intended as the definitive reference work on the
century's most tragic era.

NANCY WARTIK

Special to The Jewish News

T

he listing of entries in
Macmillan Publish-
ing's newest encyclo-
pedia is systematic and
ordered, as in any good
reference work: "Eichmann,
Adolf," "Frank, Anna" "Gas
Chambers." "Physicians,
Nazi." "SS." "Treblinka."
There are almost 1,000 of
them.
But the scholarly format of
this reference source is in odd
contrast to its horrific subject
matter. This is the four-
volume Encyclopedia of the
Holocaust, intended by its
publisher as the ultimate
reference source on the topic.
It's currently being marketed
for release by Macmillan at
the end of this year, and a
Hebrew edition is slated for
publication in Israel. With
hundreds of maps, diagrams
and photographs, the set in-

58

FRIDAY, JULY 28, 1989

eludes articles by more than
100 scholars from around the
world, some Holocaust sur-
vivors themselves. The
language of the Encyclopedia
is meant to be clear and sim-
ple enough for both adult and
child readers to understand.
"There's no doubt it's the
definitive work," says Charles
Smith, who was president of
Macmillan's reference divi-
sion while the Encyclopedia
was taking shape. Smith, who
is not Jewish himself, says
this never diminished his in-
volvement with the book: "I
never thought of it as a
Jewish project," he says. "As
far as I'm concerned, it
transcends all that. It was
just a story that had to be
told. The Encyclopedia gives
irrefutable testimony for all
time to come, about the most
important event of the 20th
century. I've had people say
to me, 'How can you do this
work when there's an argu-
ment about whether the

Holocaust even occurred?'
The evidence presented here
— the evidence is overwhelm-
ing."

The ambitious venture is
actually the fruit of one man's
long-held dream. This was
Israeli publisher Tsvi Ranaan,
whose company, Sifriat
Poalim in Thl Aviv, is the
publishing arm of Israel's kib-
butz movement. (Ranaan
himself lives on a kibbutz
which he founded 50 years
ago in northeastern Israel.)
About three years ago, Ra-
naan buttonholed Smith and
Macmillan's then-chairman
Jeremiah Kaplan, at the
Frankfurt Book Fair. He ex-
plained to them that for
years, he had been interested
in doing a comprehensive
reference work on the
Holocaust. But he needed ex-
pertise in the area of en-
cyclopedias — which Mac-
millan had — as well as finan-
cial backing.

"It just seemed like such a
natural idea, we were im-
mediately taken, - recalls
Smith. "I went back to my
hotel room that night and sat
there wondering why I hadn't
thought of it myself."
Macmillan agreed to work
jointly with Sifriat Poalim,
which would publish the
Hebrew version of the En-
cyclopedia while Macmillan
published the English one.
Work began almost im-
mediately. The Israeli arm of
the production, under Editor-
in-Chief Yisrael Gutman of
Hebrew University in
Jerusalem, put a research
team to work. A collection of
distinguished scholars
representing universities and
research centers from Israel
to Australia was rounded up,
then set to writing.
Not all of the scholars
originally wrote their pieces
in English: articles written in
Polish, German, French or
Hebrew were translated and
sent on to Macmillan in New
York, where copy editors
pored over the text, pin-
pointed confusion resulting
from translation errors, then
bounced questions back to
Israel. By the time the En-
cyclopedia is released here,
the editorial staff in New
York will have worked on it
for almost two years.
Both the painfully familiar
and the lesser-known aspects
of the Nazi reign mingle in
the Encyclopedia. There are
articles on over 80 of the
camps — including concen-
tration, extermination, and
prisoner-of-war camps — and
on about 40 countries in-
volved in the Holocaust.
There are complete entries on
Zyklon-B, a deadly gas used
at Auschwitz; on the Ein-
satzgruppen or Mobile Kill-
ing Units, and on specific
camp commanders.

A 10,000 word piece on
Hitler by eminent Holocaust
scholar Karl Schleunes: an ar-
ticle on Nazi physicians co-
written by noted sociologist
Robert Jay Lifton; pieces on
Nuremberg, Roosevelt, and
Kurt Waldheim, are inter-
leaved with articles like
"Nutrition in the Ghettos,"
"Parachutists, Jewish,"
"Homosexuality and the
Third Reich" and "Arrendt
Controversy" (the debate over
philosopher Hannah Ar-
rendt's viewpoint on the Nazi
regime).
Some of the pieces indicate
that this encyclopedia isn't
always bound by traditional
rules of its genre, as when

flagrant irony marks the com-
mentary in the article
"American Press and the
Holocaust," author Deborah
Lipstadt starts out, "The
treatment accorded by the
American press to the
destruction of the Jews dur-
ing World War II can best be
described as a 'sidebar,' the
name given by journalists to
a story that is ancillary to the
main story. -
Other entries take a de-
tached, factual tone and let
the information speak for
itself, as in an entry on Babi
Yar, a ravine in northwestern
Kiev where Ukrainian Jews
were systematically exter-
minated: `! . As the Jews ap-
proached the ravine, they
were forced to hand over all
the valuables in their posses-
sion, to take off all their
clothes, and to advance
toward the ravine edge, in
groups of ten. When they
reached the edge, they were
gunned down by automatic
fire. The shooting was done
by several squads [of securi-
ty police]. . . the squads reliev-
ing one another every few
hours. When the day ended,
the bodies were covered with
a thin layer of soil. According
to official reports of the Ein-
satzgruppe, in two days of
shooting (September 29 and
30), 33,771 Jews were
murdered."

"There's no doubt
it's the definitive
work. I never
thought of it as a
Jewish project
. . . it transcends
all that."

Macmillan's U.S. project
editor (who prefers that her
name not be used) says those
who worked closely on the
Encyclopedia couldn't help
but be personally affected by
its content. For her, the work
took on far more than a pro-
fessional meaning: "There've
been a couple of times where
I had to close my office door,
because I was crying," she
says. "This project is very
close to my heart, very impor-
tant to me. I'm involved at
every level. It really feels like
nothing that I do is enough.
I've been doing a lot of this on
my own time, on my
weekends.
"Going through all the
photographs to sort out what
we were going to use — when
you look through hundreds of

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