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Witness: Voices from the Holocaust

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Fifty-five years after the end of World War II, the Holocaust continues to cast a dark shadow. For the past two decades, the Fortunoff Video Archive at Yale University has sought to preserve the human side of this inhuman era by videotaping testimonies from those who lived through the Nazi regime, a project that has led to an acclaimed documentary film and this extraordinary book. The Wall Street Journal called the documentary "eloquent and unsparing," and Daily Variety said it was "a staggeringly powerful record." The Washington Times said that Witness "gives new meaning to the term documentary. [It is] as pure a document as I have ever seen on television." In Witness: Voices from the Holocaust, Joshua M. Greene and Shiva Kumar weave a single and compelling narrative from the first-person accounts of twenty-seven witnesses, including camp survivors, American military personnel, a member of the Hitler Youth, a Jesuit priest, and resistance fighters. The vivid and detailed memories of these witnesses testify to the continuing impact of this human catastrophe, and their impassioned words lend immediacy to events that resonate to this day.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2000

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About the author

Joshua M. Greene

31 books48 followers
Joshua M. Greene earned his M.A. at Hofstra University, where he taught Hinduism and Holocaust history until his retirement in 2013. His books on war crimes trials and survivor testimony have been published in six languages. He has spoken at the Pentagon, the Judge Advocates College, the New York Public Library Distinguished Author series, and lectures frequently before state bar associations. In 1969, he was initiated as Yogesvara Das by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and spent 13 years in Krishna temples, serving as director of ISKCON’s European publishing office. His books on spirituality include Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison and Gita Wisdom: An Introduction to India’s Essential Yoga Text. His most recent book is a biography of Srila Prabhupada, titled Swami in a Strange Land: How Krishna Came to the West. Greene is also a filmmaker whose Holocaust documentaries have aired on PBS, The Disney Channel, and Discovery.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for Lori.
1,390 reviews
September 8, 2016
Witness comes from the interviews of many Holocaust survivors and what they went through during this horrific time in history. Most of the interviews were given in the 1980s. Each person talks of their experiences,before the Holocaust, when it was starting, during the War, and afterwards. The chapter touch on when they started witnessing and enduring the prejudice against a person who was Jewish, how things started to change. the outbreak of War. Getting taken out of their homes and to a "Ghetto to live" Trying to hide and resist. Then taken to the concentration camps and what they endured there. A couple chapters focuses on the after the War. What became of them. Many felt very lonely since their relatives had been murdered. They felt going home was hard since there was no home. There were many interviews given for this book and many different voices to share about their experiences during this terrible time in history.
Profile Image for Andy.
7 reviews2 followers
July 10, 2010
if you could read this book without shedding a tear then you must be dead inside. ive read countless books on murder, war and the holocaust. This book comes across as so much more personal. There's so much more then dates, places and stats. Theres feeling and emotion, real words from real people. And its also extremely interesting. In all the books I've read on this subject i dont think i ever realized just how much a lot of these survivors still had to deal with after the liberation of the camps. A must read.
June 2, 2012
If you could read this book without shedding a tear then you must be dead inside. I've read countless books on murder, war and the holocaust. This book comes across as so much more personal. There's so much more then dates, places and stats. There's feeling and emotion, real words from real people. And its also extremely interesting. In all the books I've read on this subject i don't think i ever realized just how much a lot of these survivors still had to deal with after the liberation of the camps. A must read.
Profile Image for Marianne.
212 reviews9 followers
January 20, 2012
This book could easily be compared to a "Cliffs Notes" version of the Holocaust. With a concise chronological layout and salient points throughout, it is a fairly short read. But don't think because it won't take a month to read that it doesn't have substance; it does. For those seeking insight into what life was like for the Jews of Europe during the conquest of the Third Reich, this is an unvarnished record of the fear, the terror, and the resilience of those people. The recollections of survivors are graphic, poignant, and thought-provoking. This is an excellent resource to round out any study of World War II but, though many of the survivors were between the ages of 8 and 11 when they were interned, the horrific cruelty described makes this book inappropriate for children. Parents should review the book first and, if I may suggest, read it aloud and discuss. It's important that this not be forgotten.
Profile Image for Amy Leigh.
268 reviews1 follower
October 27, 2019
This book is hard to read. First of all, it follows a large number of people. It tells the stories in little snippets from each person, rather than an extended narrative for any one witness. I found that format a bit difficult, but it does pull together the commonality of their experiences and show different views of the same events or aspects of life during the Holocaust.

But mostly, the book is hard to read because of the pain. You can feel the pain these people experienced, not just in the concentration camps, but in the decades since. There is very little sense of triumph that they survived, more of overwhelming loss for all that was taken from them.

I've read about the camps and what the Nazis and SS officers did, so the witness accounts of their behavior wasn't shocking. What did surprise me was how cruel some of the ordinary people, friends and neighbors of Jews, turned out to be, and the pervasive antisemitism that persisted after the war. There were moments of kindness, righteous people among all that evil, but there were far too few.

This book is important because of its testimony of an entire nation devolved into evil. The witness accounts show us all that we can't deny the level of cruelty man is capable of. It happened. It could happen again. It is up to all of humanity to ensure that it doesn't. Not to the Jews. Not to anyone.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,167 reviews25 followers
September 17, 2017
This book was stunning. Unbelievably powerful, it these stories pierced my soul. I captured the horror of the victims of the Holocaust (and even some of the bystanders) in a way I've never experienced it before. I did not "enjoy" the book, but it was incredibly powerful and heartbreaking. Every person on earth should read this.
Profile Image for Judith.
43 reviews6 followers
December 17, 2018
The stories told from personal experiences and memories give us penetrating voices of what it was like to live as a Jew and to die as a Jew in Nazi Europe. This is a personal portrait of those who experienced the terrors of the Holocaust.
Profile Image for Cherie.
3,265 reviews23 followers
July 13, 2017
Basically quotes and profiles of people in the Holocaust. I've read other things, but nothing gets quite so horrifying, real, graphic, horrendous. Powerful and sad and disturbing.
Profile Image for Pamela.
575 reviews
February 19, 2018
I like reading first-hand accounts for the survivors of the Holocaust. This was a compilation of so many. Very moving and gut-wrenching. God bless these warrior survivors.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,103 reviews
January 1, 2022
Interviews from the Fortunoff Archive at Yale. Upsetting was the man who told people his memories until they asked him one day to tell another of his “bullshit stories”. He never told another.
452 reviews59 followers
January 29, 2020
I would give “Witness: Voices From the Holocaust” by Joshua M. Greene and Shiva Kumar a 4 out of 5 stars. This book was nonfiction which is not something I normally read, but I surprisingly enjoyed it. I thought that all the testimonies were interesting to read because normally the Holocaust books I read are historical fiction. It was interesting to see how all of the different people’s lives intermingled. It was also really shocking to read about the terrible and inhumane events that the Jews had to face. I overall enjoyed the book, but sometimes got bored. I think that I would have enjoyed the book more if I could have listened to the original testimonies while following along in the book. I still would recommend this book to those who aren’t fans of nonfiction, but want to give it a try.
13 reviews
May 20, 2019
Chilling nonfiction book. It really gives the reader a better glimpse into that horror of history.
March 23, 2015
"They made me an animal and I'll act like animal" (Martin S., 156). This quote represents the dark times of the Holocaust. The fiction book I read was Witness: Voices from the Holocaust written by Joshua M. Greene and Shiva Kumar. This book shows over 60 different point of views from the Holocaust and investigates the lives of victims. Each point of view is unique and gives many different ways on the life of a Jew, P.O.W, and German citizen and solider. This book will keep you reading all the way to the end because of its horrific and suspenseful stories of the Jewish people.

These stories take place all over Europe and gives a good description on how harsh life was back then for the Jews. The Holocaust began after WW1 when the Germans lost. Hitler needed an excuse so he blames the Jews for their lost. This gave Hitler higher power which allowed him to become the füher (father in German). The book shows how Hitler dealt with the Jews. It also shows the little rights they had and how they were treated by people around them. I though this book was amazing and I could not put it down. Every story keeps you in suspense and makes you want to keep reading. I also like this book because it gives you more of a background on what the Holocaust was and how it all rolled out on what it had become.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes learning about history, likes suspense, irony, or horror. It really keeps you engaged and makes you wonder what you would have done in that situation. This book was great and really gives detail into the victims of the Holocaust. The book paints a stirring personal portrait of those who were in the Holocaust. This is my most favorite fiction book that I have ever read. I encourage you to pick it up and read it.

Profile Image for Jennifer.
26 reviews
October 17, 2012
I've always been interested in the Holocaust, but after visiting the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D. C., I've picked up several books recounting the stories of survivors. This book includes bits and pieces of several survivors' stories, in chronoligical order. It was heartbreaking to read true accounts of the cruelty these people endured, but I also found the determination of these individuals in the face of such degradation very encouraging. This (and any survivor's) account of these events prove that the human spirit can endure a crushing weight and still be able to fly.
Profile Image for Paul.
3 reviews1 follower
January 3, 2012
I thought the book was very heart touching. To hear first person accounts of the horror that went on in the camps is horrifying. Many of the entries you can put yourself and just catch a glimpse of what they had to go through. No matter what you wouldn't get the full feel that they felt unless it happened to you. The authors purpose was felt all throught the book, for these people's voices to be heard and for the public to actually know what happened to this whole group of people.
Profile Image for LindaD.
51 reviews2 followers
March 31, 2012
I know I can never understand the depth of what was recorded in this book. I feel the need to try to face it, because some people can't or won't. I have to try to understand even though it's incomprehensible. I can't possibly help ease the burden by just reading or listening to this, can I? Well, I feel compelled to continue my reading and study of this period. Maybe I can be a better human being. Thank you for recording these tapes and publishing the book from the tapes. I needed to hear.
Profile Image for Vickie.
46 reviews13 followers
April 24, 2013
Chilling. Disturbing. No one should hide their heads in the sand or deny what happened in Europe to the Jews and anyone who dared to help them. I never thought much about what happened after the Jews were liberated. People went through it shared this time period as well. It was not a happy reunion for them and the people they knew in their hometowns. They were outcasts. They were killed. They were beaten. They were shunned. Liberation was not as wonderful as I had imagined.
Profile Image for Sonja.
5 reviews
June 23, 2013
Riveting first-hand accounts from all walks of life, Jews, Nazi Youth, German and Polish citizens, telling the many horrific stories of the holocaust. It begins with pre-war life, to the Ghetto, then to boxcars, camps and death marches, on through to liberation. The final chapter covers the post-war trauma of the survivors and their collective need to tell the story of what happened to them and their families.
Profile Image for Ana Itza.
149 reviews9 followers
May 16, 2016
Demasiado crudo, muy real. Conocía la historia, los hechos en general, pero desconocía la deshumanización, los límites. Es un libro que engloba las experiencias por momentos y lugares, desde la forma de vida previo a la guerra, la propaganda, los guettos, los campos, las marchas y sobre todo, después de la liberación. Te permite entender más allá de los libros de historia el sufrimiento de miles provocado por unos cuantos.

Un libro que todos deberíamos leer.
Profile Image for Debbie.
14 reviews3 followers
October 6, 2008
First-person accounts of the Holocaust from 27 witnesses, including camp survivors, American military personnel, resistance fighters, and a member of Hitler's Youth Squad.
If you are interested in the Holocaust, for whatever reason, this book is a must read. Quite disturbing!
These poor people must have thought the world was coming to it's end!
Profile Image for Tara.
32 reviews2 followers
September 21, 2012
Wow. This book was riveting! It's impossible to even comprehend what the Holocaust victims went through but this book gives a very passionate firsthand view. This book is incredibly sad but important to read. The survivors were incredibly brave to give testimony to what they went through and it's important for everyone to read this book and be informed about the tradgedy.
6 reviews1 follower
March 6, 2008
Excellent collection of first hand accounts from across Europe during the Second World War. Short stories make for an easy read for someone too busy to sit and spend hours on the book. Pictures of survivors and those that perished throughout.
Profile Image for Courtney Himes.
24 reviews1 follower
November 20, 2008
If you can handle stories from survivors of death camps, then I would suggest this book. For anyone who enjoys history, this is a book for you as well. I really enjoyed this book because it makes you appreciate a free life.
10 reviews
October 29, 2011
It is a collection of a a handful of survivors accounts' which have been included in the Yale Oral Testimonies collection. It is wanting of more historical and geographical background and is not always chronological.
Profile Image for Olivia Riddell.
51 reviews
August 15, 2013
I love this book! An amazing primary source filled with stories from Holocaust survivors. I actually used this book for a couple of papers that I did for University. Excellent source, and very touching/unbelievable stories...
Profile Image for Alison.
591 reviews
December 4, 2016
I read about the Holocaust a lot. This is one of the best books I have read on the subject. I think that is because it has so many voices in it. This book talks about before, during, and the aftermath of the horrible occurrences. Definitely worth the read!
Profile Image for Kat.
38 reviews6 followers
November 30, 2007
I stopped reading this because it was really emotionaly draining. And i'm just reading the book i can't imagine how these people managed to live through it
Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews

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