Under the Soviet regime, millions of zeks (prisoners) were incarcerated in the forced labor camps, the Gulag. There many died of starvation, disease, and exhaustion, and some were killed by criminals and camp guards. In 1939, as the Nazis and Soviets invaded Poland, many Polish citizens found themselves swept up by the Soviet occupation and sent into the Gulag. One such victim was Julius Margolin, a Pinsk-born Jewish philosopher and writer living in Palestine who was in Poland on family matters.
Margolin's Journey into the Land of the Zeks and Back offers a powerful, first-person account of one of the most shocking chapters of the violent twentieth century. Opening with the outbreak of World War II in Poland, Margolin relates its devastating impact on the Jews and his arrest and imprisonment in the Gulag system. During his incarceration from 1940 to 1945, he nearly died from starvation and overwork but was able to return to Western Europe and rejoin his family in Palestine. With a philosopher's astute analysis of man and society, as well as with humor, his memoir of flight, entrapment, and survival details the choices and dilemmas faced by an individual under extreme duress. Margolin's moving account illuminates universal issues of human rights under a totalitarian regime and ultimately the triumph of human dignity and decency.
This translation by Stefani Hoffman is the first English-language edition of this classic work, originally written in Russian in 1947 and published in an abridged French version in 1949. Circulated in a Russian samizdat version in the USSR, it exerted considerable influence on the formation of the genre of Gulag memoirs and was eagerly read by Soviet dissidents. Timothy Snyder's foreword and Katherine Jolluck's introduction contextualize the creation of this remarkable account of a Jewish world ravaged in the Stalinist empire--and the life of the man who was determined to reveal the horrors of the gulag camps and the plight of the zeks to the world.
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Julius Margolin (1900-1971) was trapped in Poland by the successive Nazi and Soviet invasions in 1939 and was arrested by the Soviets in June 1940 for refusing to accept Soviet citizenship. From 1940 to 1945 he served time in the Soviet Gulag. Upon his return to the West, he wrote his memoirs, Journey to the Land of the Zek, and a description of his return via Europe, The Road to the West.
Stefani Hoffman is the former director of the Mayrock Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Research at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has translated numerous works, including Fear No Evil by Natan Sharansky.
Timothy Snyder is Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University. His award-winning works include The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999; Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin; and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.
Katherine R. Jolluck is Senior Lecturer in History at Stanford University. She is the author of Exile and Identity: Polish Women in the Soviet Union During World War II and the co-author of Gulag Voices: Oral Histories of Soviet Incarceration and Exile.
Foreword by Timothy Snyder
Introduction by Katherine R. Jolluck
Chapter 1 September 1939
Chapter 2 Encircled
Chapter 3 The Story of a Disillusionment
Chapter 4 Pinsk Intermezzo
Chapter 5 Elijah the Prophet
Chapter 6 The Pinsk Prison
Chapter 7 The Wandering Coffin
Chapter 8 BBK [Baltic-White Sea Canal]
Chapter 9 "Square Forty-Eight"
Chapter 10 Rabguzhsila [Man/horsepower]
Chapter 11 Conversations
Chapter 12 Karelin's Brigade
Chapter 13 Dehumanization
Chapter 14 Wood Felling
Chapter 15 The Medical Sector
Chapter 16 My Enemy Labanov
Chapter 17 Gardenberg's Brigade
Chapter 18 Evening in the Barrack
Chapter 19 People at Square 48
Chapter 20 Spring 1941
Chapter 21 Etap
Chapter 22 Amnesty
Chapter 23 "You Must Work"
Chapter 24 Ivan Aleksandrovich Kuznetsov
Chapter 25 A Letter to Ehrenburg
Chapter 26 KVCh [Cultural-Educational Sector]
Chapter 27 Isaac the Fifth
Chapter 28 Camp Neurosis
Chapter 29 In the Bathhouse
Chapter 30 In the Office
Chapter 30a Three
Chapter 31 Maksik
Chapter 32 The Doctrine of Hate
Chapter 33 An Invalid's Lot
Chapter 34 The Brigade Leader of Chronic Invalids
Chapter 35 The Road to the North
Chapter 36 Kotlas
Chapter 37 Block Nine
Chapter 38 Block Five
Chapter 39 Release
Chapter 40 Conclusion
The Road to the West
Chapter 1 Slavgorod
Chapter 2 The Freedom Train
Chapter 3 Non Omnis Moriar
Chapter 4 The End of Maria
Chapter 5 September 1946
Chapter 6 Heliopolis
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