April 12, 2007
Call to ‘write and record’ brings new books on Shoah
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"Michelangelo in Ravensbruck: One Woman's War Against the Nazis," by Countess Karolina Lanckoronska, with a preface by Eva Hoffman (Da Capo), is an unusually gripping story. The author was an aristocrat with a cosmopolitan background who, when the war broke out, was teaching Renaissance Italian art in Lvov. Although she could have used her connections to leave the country, the Polish patriot chose instead to become involved in the resistance.
When she was arrested, sentenced to death and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, the resilient countess read Shakespeare and wrote about Michelangelo; she taught art history to women at the camp, bolstering their spirits and their vision, even though they knew, as she did, that they were on the edge of life. She also helped the women with nursing care and procured extra food for those most needy.
One month before the end of the war, she was freed through the intervention of Red Cross officials. She wrote this memoir about daily life in Ravensbruck following her liberation. The countess lived to be 104, making Rome her home in exile.
"The Diary of Petr Ginz, 1941 -1942," edited by Chava Pressburger, with an introduction by Jonathan Safran Foer (Atlantic Monthly Press), showcases the writing and drawing talents of the thoughtful and energetic young man who lived in Prague in the early 1940s. Ginz wrote and also painted beautifully. In Theresienstadt, he was very involved with the underground newspaper, Vedem, and he continued to draw and paint in the camp. He was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.
The diary was discovered in a Prague attic, soon after Ginz's name was in the news following the 2003 explosion of the Columbia space shuttle. Ilan Ramon had taken a painting by Ginz with him on board to honor the memory of the Holocaust. Pressburger, Ginz's sister who lives in Israel and remembered the small exercise books her artistic brother used as diaries, then made efforts to publish the book internationally.
Sandee Brawarsky is book critic for The Jewish Week.
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