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Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  317 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Otto Dov Kulka's Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death, translated by Ralph Mandel and Ina Friedman, is a memoir of astounding literary and emotional power, exploring the permanent and indelible marks left by the Holocaust and a childhood spent in Auschwitz.

As a child the distinguished historian Otto Dov Kulka was sent first to the ghetto of Theresienstadt and then to Ausc
Kindle Edition, 144 pages
Published January 31st 2013 by Penguin (first published January 1st 2013)
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Peter Landau
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Memory not memoir from Kulka, a historian, of his childhood as a prisoner in Auschwitz, succeeds where most memoirs fail in its ability to poetically mirror the funhouse reflections of a subjective past into an experience that can be shared. Illustrated throughout, jumping in time and space from Poland to Israel, the incomprehensible nature of the Holocaust is not made understandable but visceral without exploitation. It is the searching nature of his narrative, the questioning and the quest, wh ...more
Luís Castilho
I must confess that I was expecting a much better book. I don't mean to be disrespectful, it is a powerful and moving story of hardships and survival, but for a memoir I found it very confusing and unfocused. There is no clear narrative (as opposed to Elie Wiesel's grandpiece "Night") nor clear timetable. It is in reality a mere collage of thoughts and flashback on the author's 1 and a half imprisonment in Auchwitz, with little to no dramatization or careful narration. If it wasn't for the brill ...more
Mary Arkless
A bit of an odd book. I bought it a few years ago because it was referenced in something else I read. The subtitle is more descriptive of the book. The author was born in Czechoslovakia, and as a young Jewish boy deported by the Nazis to Theresienstadt and later to the "family camp" at Auschwitz-Birkenau. He survived the war, unlike most of his family, although he was reunited with his father.

Kulka became a renowned historian. His expertise is the history that lead to the Holocaust, and he has s
Mike Clarke
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Prometheus in Hades: silence and desolation from horizon to horizon. Otto Dov Kulka, Czechoslovakian Jew, Holocaust survivor, eminent Israeli historian and memoirist of the cataclysm, writes slowly, sparingly and movingly of a return visit to Auchwitz, and the childhood memories he has been unable to shake off over a long, long life.

It's a risk that in a book so rich and deep that image layers upon image, horror upon horror, until the reader is overwhelmed. Yet the author remains in control, dea
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Otto Dov Kulka is an esteemed historian and also himself an Auschwitz survivor. In this book Kulka, the historian, walks through the gates of Auschwitz and awakens the eleven year old child that he was. It is Kulka, the child-inmate, who takes us back to his metropolis of death. This is a very personal rendition with the historian in the background and the child in the foreground. For those who have read Saul Friedlander's Nazi Germany and the Jews, throughout the two volumes Friedlander always ...more
Mark McKenny
Is it natural to feel strange reviewing a book on the Holocaust? I guess, so I'll keep this as short as possible. In the introduction and first few pages Otto mentions that he never really felt the need to talk about his childhood and what happened, and that a lot of survivors feel the same way.

So what makes some people stand up and speak out? Who knows. Is it good that they do? I think so. What does it offer? I'm not sure. Why do I personally, read books about this dark past? I really don't kno
M.R. Dowsing
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tough one to review, this! It's quite an unusual kind of book - not quite autobiography, not straightforward history, either, but rather an Auschwitz survivor's reflections on his experience and the impact it's had on him, especially on a subconscious level. This is interspersed with photographs and other illustrations, and the book also features three amazing poems written by a young female prisoner who remains unknown.

Prior to reading this, I did not know that the camp authorities had kept
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A necessary addition to the Literature of the Holocaust. Kulka, a professor of Jewish History, had until writing this collection of memories, kept his personal experience as a survivor of Terezín and Auschwitz compartmentalized and separate. The chapters are written as fragments of memory, each one a prose poem, each one a bubbling up of the images, emotions, and sensory details of life in the camps. With brutal honesty and frank clarity, he allows us inside the terrain of his early life. At tim ...more
I feel a not-inconsequential amount of guilt for giving this book two stars, given that it is a memoir of a man who lived in Auschwitz as a boy, but I couldn't connect with this at all. I found it oddly disjointed & detached, and was almost like a stream of consciousness style of writing (which I don't enjoy). I found that I felt nothing during or after reading this, unlike Night. (Also, I feel like he threw a bit of shade on that and other Holocaust memoirs at one point in the book, although I ...more
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I personally feel that many other books about the holocaust and experiences in Auschwitz will be very different from this one, though I have not read much on the subject. However, judging from what I have read this book is organized in a very intentional manner.
In the first section, the author recounts the main parts of the book, remaining objective in his subjectivity, and does his best to portray truth.
The following section of his diary entries showed a more vulnerable side, and is more subjec
Steve Cunningham
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is in many ways a rather odd book. It has no over-arching narrative structure, and offers no interpretation of the events recounted within. The main body of the book is drawn from memories the author dictated on to cassettes over a period of several decades, resulting in a fragmented, disconnected and in places dream-like narrative voice. However this does not diminish the book, but rather enhances its power. It is intensely personal, and that also serves to heighten the horror contained wi ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I've read more than a few Holocaust histories and memoirs. They are unfailingly wrenching. The journey from the ghetto to the crematorium is always a study in the systematic degradation of a people, and the gamut of abuse runs from the petty to the horrendous. The Nazis created and managed a method of monstrous behavior unparalleled in history. I'm squarely on the side that it should be required in the modern history curriculum of every school - as long as we have curricula and schools, and the ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All so that those who deny such things took place can be rightly vilified
Recommended to Pirate by: Chris in Daunts
On a par with Primo Levi's account of the unimagnable horrors of innocents being thrust into the nihilistic concentration/death camps. Different style and though a short tome the subject matter alone makes it a long read. Extremely moving -- the trip back to discover what happened to his mother especially so -- and by the end his father who also survived gets short shrift from a Rabbi in Israel when he understandably questions 'where was God?' amidst so much cruelty and misery. The Rabbi -- who ...more
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, ww2-history
This book was recommended as part of a reading spa I booked as a birthday treat. Although I read a lot of WW2 & holocaust fiction & non fiction, this small volume (100 pages) isn't something I would've picked up. It is a strange book, but rather profound. It has a poetic quality and the format changes including text, dreams, diary entries and poetry. Written by a holocaust survivor it doesn't try to tell a linear story. Instead it's a collection of thoughts, memories and reflections. The voice o ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A strange and disquieting reading experience, about a subset of Auschwitz that isn't well known. Perhaps the slightly rambling, dream-like approach reflects the authors inability to reconcile his private experience in the children's camp with the more famous experiences in the rest of the camp, as related by other authors. This dissonance permeates the text, making for a strangely ethereal -- but nevertheless fascinating -- memoir.
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half of the book was very moving and disturbing. The second part I found more difficult to get through, partially because the language became increasingly academic and unnecessarily difficult. Still, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the holocaust from an individual's perspective.
Memoir very clearly written by a historian. Honest and dry. Very unfocused narrative.
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This really is an incredible book. I will try to write some sort of review/blog post but I'm sure I won't be able to do it justice!
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
DISCLAIMER: I received a free review copy of this title from the publisher in my day job capacity as a reviewer for Cheshire Today...

Beauty in the midst of Auschwitz must seem a strange concept, but that is one of the many apparent paradoxes one might perceive in Otto Dov Kulka’s personal testament to the Holocaust.

Certainly, as Kulka himself relays in ‘Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death’, the author is himself struck by the strangeness of the observation, yet as his own words testify “the bl
John Bleasdale
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it

Poetry is not supposed to be possible following the Holocaust according to Adorno, but perhaps narrative is even more problematic. The structure that narrative gives, the teleological tendency belies the senselessness of the Holocaust. Even the word Holocaust gives a supplement of meaning which is an insult to the moral chaos of the event. Kulka's personal account of his experience I'm the children's block insists on its own discrete reality and validity. He wants to speak for no one
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Historian Otto Dov Kulka's reflections add measurably to the body of first person accounts of Shoah-experience. Distinct from traditional memoir, the author separates his work from both historical sciences and true memoir, but shares measured memories and meditations from his perspective as an older adult. The craft of the work alone and the subject matter alone are reasons to read, creating a space for the reader to seek understanding and to join in meditating upon Auschwitz-Birkenau, Theresien ...more
Apr 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather than produce a straightforward memoir, Dov Kulka has attempted to recreate the memories and images which haunt him in a poetic and stream of consciousness manner. It's an interesting and personal approach to the subject matter which I felt the author didn't quite pull off convincingly, resulting in a disjointed and uneven work. Still, there are some powerful passages and recollections from the mind of a 10 year old thrown into the most horrifying of situations, and the effect that Auschwi ...more
Eva Ortmark
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazingly light book about the worst. An elderly Jewish scholar happens to be close to the death camp where he spent time during his adolescence. He decides to return for the first time. And this is his story. Beautifully written, extremely distanced and yet emotional. But never sentimental or heavy. I recommend this book warmly to everyone!
Topping & Company Booksellers of Ely
'Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death' is a beautifully written journey through Otto Dov Kulka's mind and experience. Tragic and moving, it is easily comparable to Primo Levi's work, but it's informal style somehow makes the story more personal. Unique, this is 99 pages of purely intimate rawness.

Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
It was strange but completely unsurprising to turn a page and encounter an image from Austerlitz - this book is essentially the unspoken negative space at the heart of Sebald's work. It's short but incredibly powerful. ...more
Nicholas Hedges
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A stunning book by a man imprisoned in Auschwitz as a child. The chapter titled 'The Blue Skies of Summer' in which he describes his 'beautiful' childhood landscape in Birkenau is particularly arresting.
Amanda Lynn
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Landscapes of The Metropolis of Death is very deep and moving. I am grateful my professor assigned this book. Many books bought for school are left sold at the end of each semester, but I will keep this in my heart and on my shelves to read and share with others for years to come.
Peter Washer
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
an account of trying to come to terms with the author's experiences in Auchwitz as a 10 year old. beautifully written, dream like, fragments of memories.
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Searing, visceral. A great addition to the canon of work that the Holocaust has generated.
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in February - and think it is probably my book of 2013! Fragments and memories - vivid and haunting! I will remember it for a long time.
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