A holocaust memoir, this is the painfully honest and unsentimental account of one physician's experience in the Warsaw Ghetto. The author, who was a Jewish medical student of 22 when Germany invaded Poland, remained from 1940 through most of 1943, serving as caretaker of sick or orphaned children in a ghetto hospital. During this time, she tells the reader, she made some decisions she has never been able to fully reconcile-- such as to perform multiple acts of euthanasia involving adults as well as children when the waves of slaughter and deportation increased in brutality and frequency.

Eventually, the writer joined the active resistance and was a part of the movement which ended with the complete razing of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1944. After the liberation of Poland, Blady Szwajger resumed her interrupted career in pediatric chest diseases. Only after 45 years did she choose to write of her experiences and, in her introduction, she articulates her reasons for remaining silent and for her ultimate decision to speak out.


Although the writing style is often choppy and the structure of the work as a whole is a bit confusing, the images created have a powerful impact. The reader can also make some significant observations about the effect of time and pain on the clarity of memory, a feature of the work that the author readily admits.

There are gaps and shadows in the narrative which raises the question of narrator reliability; however, this flaw lends a poignant fogginess to the events which makes them more tolerable for the sensitive reader. The work serves, among many other things, to remind us that extraordinary circumstances are potentially capable of pressing rational and moral humans to behave in extraordinary ways.


First published by Collins Harvill, London, 1990. Translated by Tasja Darowska & Danusia Stok.


Simon & Schuster: Touchstone

Place Published

New York



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