A searing set of memoirs that illuminates life in a twentieth century shtetl and the Jewish struggle for survival in wartime Łódź and in the camps. Yermiyahu Ahron Taub’s sensitive translation provides English-language readers with an opportunity to wander the same memoryscapes that Yiddish readers of Rachmil Bryks have long inhabited.
–Justin Cammy, Associate Professor of Yiddish and World Literatures, Smith College
May God Avenge Their Blood isn’t the same as other Holocaust memoirs. Rachmil Bryks describes his experiences in the camps but also offers an evocative description of the Jewish community destroyed by the Nazis. Bryks’ warm portrayal of Jewish life in Skarżysko-Kamienna reveals a society rich in tradition while in the midst of significant change. Tales of Talmud study stand alongside stories of elopement and entrepreneurship. Bryks’ depiction of the first weeks of the war, the second and longest section of this triptych, is unforgettable. Notably, Bryks describes everyone he encounters – Jews, Poles, Germans, peasants, writers, and others – with a deep empathy. May God Avenge Their Blood is perhaps most useful for anyone interested in interpersonal relations. Bryks’s stories often confirm the deep antisemitism among many Poles but they also show many examples of human kindness. Bryks offers no analysis or final judgements, simply a description of what happened. Taub’s achievement as a translator is more than the rendering of a text into a language more of us understand; it is an offering of a neglected source as a guide to a tragic past.
–Sean Martin, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio
Rachmil Bryks was one of the most talented young poets and authors who survived the Łódź ghetto and concentration camps. Author of poetry and short stories, Bryks uses his writing to recreate and evoke the beauty, struggle, humor and tragedy of Jewish life in prewar and wartime Poland. Describing the numerous members of his extended family and their neighbors, he paints them realistically and warmly and not uncritically, so that the reader becomes invested in those hardworking, talkative, pious, humorous and argumentative Jews, who were virtually all brutally and cruelly murdered by the Germans and their henchmen. This is a short, but very worthy sampling of Bryks’s writings that have not been previously available in English. Highly recommended.
–Robert Moses Shapiro, Brooklyn College, translator of Isaiah Trunk, Łódź Ghetto: A History
Rachmil Bryks’s memoirs contain masterful story telling about the author’s experiences during the Second World War ranging from meeting with the famed lyricist and poet Mordecai Gebirtig to dark depictions of his days in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. He shares not only his own story but also that of countless other individuals who he encountered during the war. Yermiyahu Ahron Taub has rendered a beautiful translation, which really retains the lyrical quality of Rachmil Bryks’s writing.
–Helene Sinnreich, Director of the Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies, University Of Tennessee, Knoxville