Numbered Days


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Diaries and the Holocaust

Alexandra Garbarini

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As the Nazis swept across Europe during World War II, Jewish victims wrote diaries in which they grappled with the terror unfolding around them.  Some wrote simply to process the contradictory bits of news they received; some wrote so that their children, already safe in another country, might one day understand what had happened to their parents; and some wrote to furnish unknown readers in the outside world with evidence against the Nazi regime.
Were these diarists resisters, or did the process of writing make the ravages of the Holocaust even more difficult to bear? Drawing on an astonishing array of unpublished and published diaries from all over German-occupied Europe, historian Alexandra Garbarini explores the multiple roles that diary writing played in the lives of these ordinary women and men. A story of hope and hopelessness, Numbered Days offers a powerful examination of the complex interplay of writing and mourning. And in these heartbreaking diaries, we see the first glimpses of a question that would haunt the twentieth century: Can such unimaginable horror be represented at all?

Alexandra Garbarini is assistant professor, Department of History, Williams College. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

“A brilliant, thoughtful, and groundbreaking study of adult diarists writing during the Holocaust.”—Alexandra Zapruder, author of Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust


"This book provides an important insight into the inner world of Jews as they suffered through the Holocaust. It moved me time and again."—Michael Berenbaum, author of The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

“Alexandra Garbarini's Numbered Days is a path-breaking study.  Based essentially on unpublished diaries written by Jews during the Holocaust in several occupied European countries, East and West, Garbarini brilliantly demonstrates how important such testimonies are not only for our understanding of individual fate, but also as sources for the history of the collective fate of European Jews during those years.  This book will appeal to both the general reader and historians for many years to come.”—Saul Friedlander, UCLA

"This is an insightful and excellent addition to this genre with many valuable notes and bibliographical entries."—Jewish Book World

"A rich resource for the ongoing analysis of Jewish responses to the Holocaust."—Steve Hochstadt, German Studies Review

"Excellent."—Peter Fritzsche, Journal of Modern History

"The author's approach is to examine the diaries—most of which were largely unpublished, written amid the atrocities by authors who eventually perished—within the broader context of European history. . . . Questions of emotions—hope, despair, anger, defiance—dominate the way in which Garbarini analyzes the hundred diaries she studied. . . . The painful diary entries and the lessons drawn from them serve to remind readers that the pen is mightier than the sword. A fine book. Recommended."—Choice

Runner-up for the 2006 National Jewish Book Award in the Holocaust category
ISBN: 9780300112528
Publication Date: October 18, 2006
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4