Ponary Diary, 1941-1943


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A Bystander’s Account of a Mass Murder

Kazimierz Sakowicz; Edited by Yitzhak Arad; Translated by Laurence Weinbaum

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A chilling wartime diary of the destruction of the Lithuanian/Polish Jews, recorded by a non-Jew

About sixty thousand Jews from Wilno (Vilnius, Jewish Vilna) and surrounding townships in present-day Lithuania were murdered by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators in huge pits on the outskirts of Ponary. Over a period of several years, Kazimierz Sakowicz, a Polish journalist who lived in the village of Ponary, was an eyewitness to the murder of these Jews as well as to the murders of thousands of non-Jews on an almost daily basis. He chronicled these events in a diary that he kept at great personal risk.

Written as a simple account of what Sakowicz witnessed, the diary is devoid of personal involvement or identification with the victims. It is thus a unique document: testimony from a bystander, an “objective” observer without an emotional or a political agenda, to the extermination of the Jews of the city known as “the Jerusalem of Lithuania.”

Sakowicz did not survive the war, but much of his diary did. Painstakingly pieced together by Rahel Margolis from scraps of paper hidden in various locations, the diary was published in Polish in 1999. It is here published in English for the first time, extensively annotated by Yitzhak Arad to guide readers through the events at Ponary.

YITZHAK ARAD is the author of Ghetto in Flames: The Struggle and Destruction of the Jews in Vilna and former chairman of the Directorate of Yad Vashem.

“[A] superb introduction… Arad’s notes are exemplary: clear, erudite, full of essential information. Sakowicz has no illusions about the sadism he witnesses but he writes with extraordinary restraint. … He has a writer’s eye for the telling detail… His account is important as history.” - David Herman, Jewish Chronicle

"This remarkable diary, written by a sympathetic Polish observer, gives a graphic and harrowing account of the mass murder of between fifty and sixty thousand Lithuanian Jews in the forest of Ponary just outside Vilna. It is a unique contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust."—Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University

"Ponary Diary is a vivid, intimate account of mass murder, and chilling in its relentless detail. The Holocaust has few more compelling witnesses than Kazimierz Sakowicz."—Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast Regional Director, Amnesty International USA

“The wartime diary of Kazimierz Sakowicz [is] to this day the only written account of an atrocity recorded by a non-Jew. . . . It is a chilling account of man’s inhumanity to man. . . .Sakowicz witnessed the murders of tens of thousands of Jews, and in Ponary Diary, he records these heinous crimes for posterity.”—Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News

“Shocking and powerful. . . . Ponary Diary is one of the few documents that succeeds in making evil concrete, right down to the license plate number of the Gestapo staff car that accompanied the victims. For Sakowicz to keep such a diary, not knowing whether it could ever be shared or published, was an act of heroic dedication to the truth. To read it is our almost unbearable duty.”—Adam Kirsch, New York Sun (Best of 2005)

ISBN: 9780300108538
Publication Date: December 10, 2005
176 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4