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Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag
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Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  660 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
FROM THE BOOK:"The pit I was ordered to dig had the precise dimensions of a casket. The NKVD officer carefully designed it. He measured my size with a stick, made lines on the forest floor, and told me to dig. He wanted to make sure I'd fit well inside."

In 1941 Janusz Bardach's death sentence was commuted to ten years' hard labor and he was sent to Kolyma—the harshest, col
Paperback, 408 pages
Published September 21st 1999 by University of California Press (first published 1998)
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Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: smirnoff's ice is Russian for beer
Recommended to Mariel by: siberian tigers versus german shepherds
Homo homini lupus. Man is wolf to man. It would have been more appropriate to leave that as the title without the "Surviving the Gulag" part. Janusz Bardach survived, all right. This is a memoir. Memoirs can be self serving, deluded and one sided and I was still surprised to read one that overwhelmingly was all of those things. Like how Janusz Bardach was shocked to be court martialled when fellow soviet soldier blamed him for their tank sinking (despite being ordered to inform on the two fellow ...more
Feb 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, gulag
I've read 4 other books written by people who were in the gulag,
this is by far the worst,
in fact the only bad one.

There are no notes or other sources,
the author is the only source.
And he is recounting events that happened 50-60 years earlier.

He is the biggest liar I've ever seen.

I don't believe the story about his tank tipping over,
inexperienced, he was sent to find a route across a stream by himself?
And in the tank without other crew members?

Gimme a break,
I think he planned to desert and tha
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-reads, 2012
Man Is Wolf to Man is the heart-wrenching story of Bardach's time spent in a Russian gulag. Why was he sent there? As a member of the Red Army, he managed to roll his tank while crossing a stream, and it was feared that the tank would fall into the hands of the enemies, the Germans. He narrowly escaped being shot, and instead was given a ten-year term in the gulag. My mind has such a hard time with that, as I come from a military family. I'm sure my family members and husbands have made errors, ...more
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Next time I'm irritated that the big fancy grocery store is out of my favorite soy creamer, I'll shut the hell up and remember how good I have it.
Josh Trapani
Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Set in the context of Gulag literature, Bardach's memoir is a little rough around the edges: at times, it reads like a personal reminiscence rather than a book. Bardach also came to the Gulag through a somewhat unconventional path: a Polish Jew, he was co-opted into the Red Army after the Nazis and Soviets invaded Poland, then after a battlefield blunder was sent to the camps and ultimately to Kolyma, where he survived through a combination of luck and shrewdness. This roughness, and the outside ...more
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A personal account of a Polish survivor of the Soviet Gulags. It is very informative, but more than that, it is incredibly touching. His descriptions of the events, of the places are fascinating, but his brief encounters with various people, and what they left him is so moving and insightful, make this book stand out also as great literature. I've been reading a lot of books on totalitarian societies, on gulags and slave camps, this one was really a page-turner, without being sensationalistic or ...more
This book was an excellent testament to the human spirit. It was detailed in the account it provided, thus giving the reader a strong vision of the mentality which existed in wartime Russia. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of people that were encountered by the author during his time in the gulags - this varied from those who were helpful and selfless to those only interested in self preservation and who would watch others suffering in order to benefit their own predicament.

The book was also ex
Jeff Lacy
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an outstanding, visceral story of Dr. Bardach's experience in Siberia's Gulags during Stalin's reign of terror. Yes, Hitler's program killed millions of Jews. However, Stalin killed as many of his people as people died during WWI: 20 million. Consider that. The conditions for people who were sent to the Gulags were hellish, most died, only the lucky like Dr. Bardach who got fairly easy inside jobs survived. This is a book well worth reading. It will change the ground you stand on. You wi ...more
Oct 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: communism, russia
One of the best WWII books I've read. Like Eugenia Ginsburg, Janusz has a series of fortunate happenings in his prison sentence in the gulag that allow him to survive. Unlike Eugenia, he hasn't censored any of the gruesome violence in his story, which makes the book hard to recommend to others. The title is an oxymoron, because he manages to maintain his humanity and emotional connections to his family and spouse despite the years of starvation and cruelty experienced in Russia. The story leaves ...more
Lilly Amenson
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-changers
This book. Wow. I truly don't know where to start. My professor warned us it would be brutal. I didn't believe him until I started reading and immediately lost my appetite. This book has made me question what it means to be human, and rightful so. The horrors on every page somehow only get worse. At times, in a book full of sorrow, it is easier to become accustomed to the pain. But here, Bardach succeeds in keeping the reader surprised and wounded at each chapter. Each time I thought things coul ...more
Cathy Wacksman
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a true story and is difficult to read because the true story is so tragic and brutal. He survived imprisonment and torture in a Russian prison camp but his story of survival is worth it.
Evie Wasson
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book gives an insightful look into a man's personal experiences with the soviet union during WWII.
This is a well-written, detailed, and engrossing account of the author's oppression, arrest, and imprisonment at the hands of the Soviet Union during World War 2. It's different from similar accounts since Bardach was a Polish Jew rather than a native Russian. For him, the Soviet Union was a paradise of socialism and equality. That is, until the Soviets controlled his portion of Poland, exported several people to camps (one of the most compelling sections of the book, since he was dragged along ...more
Joanne Parkington
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've read alot of survior stories from World War Two but this is by far the 'best of the bunch' if i can use that phrase for such an horrific subject matter ... although bleak, harrowing, brutal and painfully sad this book doesn't get over emotional or sentimental .. it pretty much tell's it like it is which in many respect's makes it such a hard, yet compelling read .. the sheer injustice doled out to these unfortunate souls is hard to comprehend, especially as it's dealt by their own side .. a ...more
Tom Carter
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Just read "Man Is Wolf To Man" by Janusz Bardach and Kathleen Gleeson for the fifth time. Dr. Bardach survived Kolyma, the worst gulag in Stalinist Russia, to go home to Poland, only to find his family had been killed by Nazis. Eventually, he went to college and medical school becoming a plastic surgeon. He developed the technique used to repair the cleft palate, and was recruited in the early 1970's by the University of Iowa to teach and practice at the hospital. His book is both a graphic desc ...more
Dec 28, 2007 added it
Wow. If anyone has any remaining illusions about the Soviet government and general mindset, this will blow them away. It makes "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" look like a Sunday walk in the park -- not just the unbelievably inhumane conditions for prisoners, political and otherwise, but the horrendously senseless persecution and paranoia. Given the history of Russia over the last 100 years since the Russian Revolution was supposed to finally put an end to the injustices of the czarist s ...more
Mar 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Janusz Bardach was a Jew living in eastern Poland when World War 2 broke out. His home town was in the Russian occupation zone and he was drafted into the Soviet Red Army. At the outset of the German invasion of Russia he fell foul of the NKVD and was sent to Kolyma in the Soviet Far East - a notorious part of the Gulag Archipelago.

Janusz could and should have died several times over during his prison sentence, but by amazing luck and not a little animal cunning he managed to survive. His accoun
Thomas Lang
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
This book does have some mature content, so it may not be for everyone. But its real.
This book addresses two main themes in my opinion. How can you maintain a moral code and continue to care for others, when you are surrounded in a society that has lost all humanity. And, how small, seemingly insignificant events can shape an entire life.
Although the author doesnt believe, at least as stated in the book, that any of the events in his life had anything to do with God or a higher power. It seeme
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The story of the Russian Gulags is one that is often neglected and undermined. Beginning under Lenin and then continued under Stalin, these working camps were designed to push humans to their breaking point. Ultimately, millions died due to this horrendous cruelty.

Janusz Bardach tells the uncensored story of his own experience as a Polish Jew who was imprisoned by the very country he had admired. In his youth he had revered the Communist Party and was optimistic about its future. The devastatin
Fairlyfeisty Dragonwagon
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
A must-read memoir. My God, what human beings do to each other! But also, my God, what people can survive! Why and how the author did this in the most extreme and brutal of accidental circumstances is horrifying, fascinating, and will provoke deep and considered thinking on any student of human nature, history, fate and the world. Ultimately triumphant and poignant in equal measures, Man is Wolf testifies to homo sapiens extraordinary brilliance, all while giving an intimate picture of a univers ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Horrific, traumatic, unbelievable, criminal, confronting do not even come close to describing the atrocious events of Janusz Bardach's life in the 1940's. Knowing that he survived to become a remarkable surgeon and lead an exemplary life, helped me deal with the horror that he experienced at the hands of men. A remarkable book for those studying modern history and in particular, WWII, and those studying the horrors of war.
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
one of the best books i've ever read. this man's story is absolutely incredible and it's amazing that he even survived. this book is about a man who survived the worst Russian Gulag during World War II- 80% of the people who went to this Gulag died. The way he survived horrendous conditions is amazing and makes you appreciate everything that you have.
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Captivating story, with unique perspectives on the struggles of surviving multiple GULAG camps. Best of many I have read, and highly recommended for those interested in this subject matter. If this interests you, a little known but also well worthwhile read is Siberian Odyssey, by Richard Lysakowski. As well, consider "The Ice Road", another excellent read.
daphny drucilla delight david
harrowing. had to read through it as fast as possible so i wouldnt have to think about all the horrible things that happened to this person while they were in the gulag

subject of this book had the absolute worst and best luck at the same time, i kept yelling OH GOD SOMETHING -WORSE- HAPPENED because all the bad keeps stacking and its horrible but really well told

Feb 10, 2014 rated it liked it
This is another good portrait of the conditions in a Soviet state and in the gulag system. The author was proudly pro-Communism, feeling that the world would be so much better if Stalin prevailed...until he found out the truth. This book should be required reading for all those who think socialism is a good thing. (It is not!).
Dec 30, 2010 rated it liked it
I loved the story, it was very intriguing and fascinating. But this book was so bad. Horrible language and some horrible graphic sexual situations. There is no way I could recommend this book to anyone unless you read my now edited copy. It is too bad really, because it is such an incredible story, which was well written.
Apr 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I have read on the gulag in Russia. It was almost a more terrifying place than the Concentration camps. I have no idea how the author was lucky enough to survive this!

This is the only book I have read about the gulag although I have ready plenty on the concentration camps. I'm not sure which fate is worse.
Oct 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really liked this memoir of the gulag, but found myself projecting survivor's guilt-- how did this guy survive such awfulness intact with all the suffering going on around him? I struggled with being angry with him for being so lucky and feeling guilty for that feeling. Weird.
Mar 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this memoir of the gulag, but found myself projecting survivor's guilt-- how did this guy survive such awfulness intact with all the suffering going on around him? I struggled with being angry with him for being so lucky and feeling guilty for that feeling. Weird.
Dawn Striegel
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a biography about a Jewish boy from Poland that joined the Soviet army to fight Germany. He unfortunately wrecked a tank and was sent to the Gulag. The book follows him on his journey and his fight for survival. It is an amazing story!
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Janusz Barach was born in Odessa to Polish Jews Ottylia and Mark Bardach. At the age of one, his father Mark moved the family back to Wlodzimierz-Wolynski, Poland (now Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Ukraine). Mark Bardach was a dentist, and his uncle, Jakov Julievich Bardach, was a doctor. Janusz grew up in Poland as a secular Jew and inherited from his mother a strong support of the Soviet Union. As a teen ...more
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