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The Terezín Album of Mariánka Zadikow

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The Terezín Album of Mariánka Zadikow

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The Terezín Album of Mariánka Zadikow
Edited and with an Introduction by Debórah Dwork
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago: 2008
ISBN 10: 0-226-51186-3
ISBN 13: 978-0-226-51186-3.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - December 29, 2008

During the Holocaust, the Terezín (Theresientstadt) concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, was heralded, by the Nazis, as a model camp. It was filled with prominent Jews from Western Europe, Jewish-German World War I veterans, some elderly Jews from Germany, and Czech Jews. Terezín was touted as a permanent Jewish settlement. In reality, it was anything but. Terezín was a transit camp, and periodic deportations of large segments of the camp's population, to more deadly concentration camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, helped to keep the camp's population relatively low. When the Red Cross decided to visit the 'camp' thousands were deported to death camps and the 'city' cleaned up, so only healthy, clean faces greeted the inspectors, who gave the camp a rousing thumbs up!

Within this maze of deceit and death Mariánka Zadikow was given a unique gift. In the fall of 1944, mass deportations from Terezín were in full swing, and just before being deported to Auschwitz, a bookbinder and fellow inmate, gave Zadikow a small photo album (Poesiealbum). Zadikow turned this tiny book into a scrapbook of sorts, collecting signatures, sketches, short inscriptions, staves of music, and verse composed by her fellow prisoners. The end result is an intimate portrait of life in Terezín, told from a variety of viewpoints.

The Terezín Album of Mariánka Zadikow is more than just a facsimile of this unique book. The various authors who contributed to her book, wrote in a variety of languages. Zadikow, with the help of Tatyana Macaulay, has translated the album into English, trying to be as accurate to the meaning, feelings, and memories that Zadikow has of the actual author of each entry. According to a note in the book, a few entries from the original book have been omitted in this edition, but these omissions are not noticeable.

Debórah Dwork is a noted Holocaust scholar, the Rose Professor of Holocaust History and the Director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, and she has brought her years of experience and in-depth knowledge of the Holocaust to the editing of this book and to her edifying commentaries on the various entries. In addition, she has included a detailed account of Zadikow's life in the years leading up to her imprisonment in Terezín, her life in the camp, and a brief overview of what happened to her family afterwards. Dwork has also provided historical and biographical details about the various authors and their entries, which makes this book accessible to all readers.

Zadikow, now known as Marianne Zadikow May, was twenty-one-years-old when she received her precious gift and by pure chance, she managed to survive the horrors of the Holocaust. Many of those who contributed to her Poesiealbum, did not. This book, which features the entries from the album on the right side of the page, and on the facing page a transcription of the entry, its English translation, and Dwork's annotations, serves as a unique Holocaust memoir. It can be read as an anthology of literary and artistic works, as a social history of life in Terezín, or as the unique memoir it is - not only of the fear, terror, and death that daily haunted the writers, but also of the hope they felt, their will to survive, and the strength they gained from their fellow inmates. This is an unforgettable book that is sure to become a classic of Holocaust literature.

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