Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Valerie McClanahan
Indiana University Press

Last modified: Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Unknown Black Book: powerful testimonies by Holocaust survivors in Nazi-occupied areas of the US

Jan. 31, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, more than 2.5 million died in territories controlled by the Soviet Union during World War II. The vast majority of this populace was murdered in open-air massacres, carried out in the very towns and cities where they had been living.

The Unknown Black Book: The Holocaust in the German-Occupied Soviet Territories, edited by Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman, provides a revelatory compilation of testimonies from Jews who survived these massacres and other atrocities enforced by the Germans and their allies.

The book was published this month by Indiana University Press in association with the United States Holocaust Museum. It includes introductions by Rubenstein, Altman and Yitzhak Arad and is translated by Christopher Morris and Rubenstein.

The book's testimonies, from residents of cities, small towns and rural areas, are first-hand accounts by survivors of work camps, ghettos, forced marches, beatings, starvation and disease. Collected under the direction of two renowned Soviet Jewish journalists, Vasily Grossman and Ilya Ehrenburg, they tell of Jews who lived in pits, walled-off corners of apartments, attics and basement dugouts, unable to emerge due to fear that their neighbors would betray them.

Included are accounts of how non-Jewish residents of Lithuania, Belarus and other Soviet areas joined advancing German troops in the slaughter of their Jewish neighbors. Other residents, however, including desperately poor peasants, risked their lives to shelter survivors.

The Unknown Black Book "makes for very disturbing reading," writes Omer Bartov, professor of European history and German studies at Brown University, in a review in the Wall Street Journal. "But these accounts from those who saw what happened convey very clearly what we cannot learn from official documents about the nature of this vast criminal enterprise, in which hundreds of thousands were transformed into monsters … and millions of others became helpless, dehumanized, mutilated and finally forgotten victims."

About the editors

Joshua Rubenstein is northeast regional director of Amnesty International USA; he lives in Brookline, Mass. Ilya Altman is director of the Center for Holocaust Research and Education in Moscow; he lives in Moscow, Russia. Yitzhak Arad is former director of Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial; he lives in Ramat Hasharon, Israel.