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Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imaginationby Otto Dov Kulka
Synopses & Reviews
Historian Otto Dov Kulka has dedicated his life to studying and writing about Nazism and the Holocaust. Until now he has always set to one side his personal experiences as a child inmate at Auschwitz. Breaking years of silence, Kulka brings together the personal and historical, in a devastating, at times poetic, account of the concentration camps and the private mythology one man constructed around his experiences.
Auschwitz is for the author a vast repository of images, memories, and reveries: "the Metropolis of Death" over which rules the immutable Law of Death. Between 1991 and 2001, Kulka made audio recordings of these memories as they welled up, and in Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death he sifts through these fragments, attempting to make sense of them. He describes the Family Camp's children's choir in which he and others performed "Ode to Joy" within yards of the crematoria, his final, indelible parting from his mother when the camp was liquidated, and the "black stains" along the roadside during the winter death march. Amidst so much death Kulka finds moments of haunting, almost unbearable beauty (for beauty, too, Kulka says, is an inescapable law).
As the author maps his interior world, readers gain a new sense of what it was to experience the Shoah from inside the camps--both at the time, and long afterward. Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death is a unique and powerful experiment in how one man has tried to understand his past, and our shared history.
"Personal accounts of the Holocaust face the difficult task of bringing fresh perspective to one of the most well-documented events in modern history. Jewish History professor Kulka delivers his own tale with a refreshing mix of immediacy, imagery, and adroit historicism, a combination which masterfully depicts the mental gymnastics he's gone through to understand this seminal time in his past. Kulka draws from his own journal entries and audio monologues in describing his time at family camps inside Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, places he considers part of the Metropolis of Death. Having spent his professional career on Naziism and Holocaust studies, Kulka wrestles with the elusive nature of perception and recollection, questioning why his memories vary so drastically from others who experienced this landscape firsthand. These reflections, while a testament to the strength of the human spirit, seem intended for the author alone — an intellectual record of his journey toward personal reconciliation. Despite surviving, he is still trapped in the past, held there by the 'immutable law' of beauty and death. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In a life dedicated to studying and writing about Nazism and the Holocaust, Otto Dov Kulka has set to one side his experiences as a child inmate at Auschwitz. Breaking years of silence, Kulka brings together the personal and historical in a devastating, at times poetic, account of the concentration camps and the private mythology he constructed.
2014 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize
About the Author
Otto Dov Kulka is Rosenbloom Professor Emeritus of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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