Henryk Grynberg first published Dzieci Syjonu in Polish in 1994. Now, this remarkable collection of Holocaust testimonies is available to an English-reading audience as Children of Zion. In it Grynberg draws from hundreds of interviews of Polish Jewish children to create a unique Holocaust account. As a result of the Sikorski agreement between the Polish government-in-exile and the Soviet Union, these children were evacuated from the Soviet Union to Palestine, but not without tremendous personal and emotional cost. These interviews, conducted in 1943 by representatives of the Polish government-in-exile in Palestine, relay something of their incredible journey.
Arranged chronologically, the children’s testimonies describe their lives before the war, the conditions when the war began, the advance of the Germans, and the later arrival of the Russians. They tell of their haunting experiences in various camps and ghettos, the slave labor they were forced to endure, their loss of family and friends, and finally, their evacuation to Palestine via Tehran.
Grynberg blends their stories in a way that creates a single, powerful voice while simultaneously maintaining each child’s unique account. Each chapter presents testimonies relating to a particular theme. It begins with an introduction to a particular historical event or period, which is then fleshed out with the children’s words.
The preface by the author describes the origin of these testimonies and later, Grynberg includes a listing of the individual names of the 73 children whose words we read, their age at the time of interview, and some brief familial information on each child. Israel Gutman also contributes an historical essay to the work in which he describes the historical background to the children’s evacuation and their complex, three-year journey from the Soviet Union to Palestine by way of the Jewish orphanage in Tehran, Iran.
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