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This review is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.

PARADOX OF TESTIMONY CHARLES REZNIKOFF Holocaust (Black Sparrow Books) $15.95

Holocaust, Charles Reznikoff's final work, consists of edited descriptive statements from the translated transcripts of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal (fifteen volumes published 1949-53) and the later Adolf Eichmann trial and appeal in Jerusalem (six volumes published 1961-2). These were official publications which Reznikoff read through, excerpting testimonies which detail specific events and actions, rearranging and sometimes rephrasing that speech into short narrative poems of varying line lengths.

They gathered some twenty Hasidic Jews from their homes,
in the robes these wear,
wearing their prayer shawls, too,
and holding prayer books in their hands.
They were led up a hill.
Here they were told to chant their prayers
and raise their hands for help to God
and, as they did so,
the officers poured kerosene under them
and set it on fire.

The choice of detail and the slow rhythm of statement creates a reading experience which doesn't resile from the pain of these narratives. These short poems are then collected under particular headings, 'Deportation', 'Invasion', 'Research', through to 'Massacres', 'Marches' and 'Escapes', where the testimony of survivors and of German officers is intermixed.

Charles Reznikoff was born in Brooklyn in 1894. His parents were emigrants to America who fled the 1881 pogroms. He studied law and wrote poetry, founding, with Zukofsky, the Objectivist Press in 1933. He also published novels, family history and dramas. A short career at ...

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