Holocaust survivor stories need to be kept alive. Every year, survivors with unique testimonies are passing away. This means that we will soon no longer be able to hear first-hand from the people who survived the Holocaust. Books and video testimonials by survivors will be the only ways to get to know their moving stories.
The sons of Joseph Schupack (1922 – 1989) have decided to republish their father’s testimonial, The Dead Years, in order to keep his memory alive by giving it better exposure.
Amsterdam Publishers is very pleased to have released the revised and augmented edition. The Dead Years is our fourth Holocaust memoir, and we are committed to continue to bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The Dead Years is different from most Holocaust Survivor stories. Not only is it a testimony of the years wasted before the second world war in Poland and subsequently in the concentrationcamps of Majdanek, Auschwitz, Dora / Nordhausen and Bergen-Belsen in Germany and Poland, but it also serves as a witness statement. Although it has been written years after the events took place, the author has tried to mention as many names, places and dates as humanly possible. It contains a wealth of information for researchers and people interested in the era, or coming from Radzyn-Podlaski and surroundings.
The Dead Years is a deeply personal book. Schupack saw how people in the depths of misery shared their last morsel of food, how they were prepared for any sacrifice. There were many examples of brotherly love that grew out of empathetic pain.
Schupack describes the rampant anti-Semitism he encountered when he tried to reclaim his possessions in Poland after the end of the war. For the Poles in his home town, the best Jews were the ones who did not return. A new, strictly anti-Semitic organization had been founded and its primary goal was the liquidation of all Jews returning from hiding or concentration camps.
After the war the author confronted his demons, mentally scarred by his experiences, and suffering from a chronic anxiety about the future and a permanent feeling of insecurity. It is a miracle how he has come to terms with his memories. We are deeply grateful that he confided his memoirs to the paper, so we never forget.
An excerpt from The Dead Years
Like a stranded man among the stranded, like a sufferer bound to all sufferers, I stood alone in front of the shambles of my life which had stopped when I was seventeen years old and from which nothing could be salvaged or repaired.
My own Holocaust had started almost five years before. I was very young then, but in the meantime had aged much more than those five years. The time of youth, when the basis for a human being is created and his personality is formed, the time of cheerful memories, of school, of first love – this period of laughter and pranks from which everyone derives pleasure for a lifetime – this period did not exist for me and my contemporaries. It was taken from us because we were born Jews. We spent this period in a hell among devils in human form. Those years were dead years.
No nightmare, no horror story, no fantasy can be compared to life in that inferno. Those five years seemed like a lifetime to me; I thought that I had been born and always lived there. Sometimes I would strain my memory to remember the time before 1939.
Then, my world was comprised only of Jews and non-Jews. I saw the world divided into the persecuted and the persecutors, the tortured and the torturers: on the one side, the beaten and the dead, on the other, the sadists and murderers. We Jews were always given the role of the persecuted. Even after the liberation I did not dare to think of changing roles, although I had wished it before: just once I wanted to play the other part and then die. The outrageous injustices committed against us hurt us more than all the resulting suffering. I could forgive neither God nor mankind for what I had witnessed and experienced during the extermination of our people. There is a lot of injustice in the world, but for that kind there is no consolation. Like a wounded animal I thought that I had to show my wounds to the world with its morals, political parties, organizations and religions so that not only the crimes of the murderers, but also the injustices committed against us Jews would be recognized.
To wake up from this trauma, conscious of the necessity to see and judge the world and people differently, to overcome the past was my problem and that of all my fellow sufferers.
The Dead Years is a poignant story offering a unique perspective on the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations