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A Jewish Kapo in Auschwitz
History, Memory, and the Politics of Survival
Tuvia Friling; Haim Watzman, trans.

The Schusterman Series in Israel Studies

2014 • 344 pp. 6 1/8 x 9 1/4"
Jewish Studies / Holocaust Studies / Jewish History

$40.00 Paperback, 978-1-61168-587-9
$85.00 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-576-3

$39.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-577-0

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

(Hardcover is un-jacketed.
Cover illustration is for paperback edition only)

“Tuvia Friling writes well and with deep feeling . . . offers us an all-embracing and fair presentation of some of the painful pages of our history.”—Jerusalem Post Magazine

Intriguing biography of Eliezer Gruenbaum, the communist Jewish Kapo whose controversy-ridden story spans Europe and Israel

Eliezer Gruenbaum (1908–1948) was a Polish Jew denounced for serving as a Kapo while interned at Auschwitz. He was the communist son of Itzhak Gruenbaum, the most prominent secular leader of interwar Polish Jewry who later became the chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Rescue Committee during the Holocaust and Israel’s first minister of the interior. In light of the father’s high placement in both Polish and Israeli politics, the denunciation of the younger Gruenbaum and his suspicious death during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war add intrigue to a controversy that really centers on the question of what constitutes—and how do we evaluate—moral behavior in Auschwitz.

Gruenbaum—a Jewish Kapo, a communist, an anti-Zionist, a secularist, and the son of a polarizing Zionist leader—became a symbol exploited by opponents of the movements to which he was linked. Sorting through this Rashomon-like story within the cultural and political contexts in which Gruenbaum operated, Friling illuminates key debates that rent the Jewish community in Europe and Israel from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

"Exceptional in many ways. . . . A Jewish Kapo in Auschwitz is a sensitive but penetrating account of the adult life and death of Eliezer Gruenbaum. Friling offers a new enlightened view. . . . Not just a re-creation of historical events but rather a new conception of history. . . . The reader can glimpse a historian of profound humanism.” —Journal of Modern Jewish Studies

“Gripping and disturbing. . . . One of the great strengths of this extremely well-researched book is that it provides an extensive account of this investigation based on the records in the Polish Archiwum Akt Nowych.”—American Historical Review

“Competent and graceful. . . Friling presents a solid study that should be required reading. . . . The scholarly contribution of this study is substantial, but it is potentially useful for professors of historical methodology courses as well. For example, Friling’s analysis of the inquiries conducted could serve as a case study of the inherent biases of sources, of the evolution of witness testimony over time, and of the need to sift through conflicting reports to approximate the past.” —Holocaust and Genocide Studies

“Remarkable. . . Better than any other work I have seen, [Friling] investigates the murky gray zone of the Nazi camps, where prisoner functionaries—Jews and non-Jews alike—acting as accomplices in Nazi persecution, used their positions for good or ill in a moral world that defies full comprehension.”—
Israel Studies Review

“An astonishingly excellent work of historical reconstruction and interpretation . . . [By] combining deep and creative research, conceptual sophistication, and deep humanity, [Friling] offers us what should become a classic, important, and enduring work of history.”—Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland

“Tuvia Friling expertly weaves together Jewish history, European history, and the history of Israel. . . A fascinating read.”—Richard Breitman, American University

“An important, innovative, and fascinating book.”—Shlomo Aronson, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“Leafing through this research, one is persistently gripped by the wealth of perspectives, the enthralling and skillful weaving of the story, and the breathtaking effort to exhaust all sources.”—Matityahu Mintz, Tel Aviv University

TUVIA FRILING is a professor of modern Jewish history at the Ben Gurion Research Institute, Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:08:25 -0500