I sometimes read a book that becomes very dear to me. So dear that I am afraid to write a review in case I would not give it justice. Medallions by Zofia Nalkowska is one of those books. I have read it and reread it many times. It is a compilation of short, non-fiction stories in a form of documentaries. Each person and each story is a true testament to what happened in Poland during the WWII Nazi genocide. All I can say is that this book is shocking, heartbreaking and eye-opening. But because I am in so much awe of it, instead of writing a review, I am letting the book speak for itself in a form of selected quotes.
"People dealt this fate to people" p.47
"What's worse is that they [the Jewish] can't be saved...They kill them on the spot if they defend themselves. And those who don't, they transport just as surely as to their death. They set them on fire and lock them up in their homes. The mothers wrap up their children in anything soft and throw them out the window onto the pavement below. Then they jump too. Some even jump holding the youngest child." p.21
"Reality is bearable if something prevents us from knowing it completely. It draws near in fragmented events, in tattered reports. We know of the peaceful death marches of unresisting people. Of the leaps into flame, of the leaps into the abyss. But then, we are on this side of the wall." p.21
"I'll tell you: I wanted to live. I don't know why. Because I didn't have a husband or family, no one, and I wanted to live. Why? I'll tell you why: to tell everything just like I'm telling you now. To let the world know what they did." p.32
"The utilization of burned bones for manure, of fat for soap, of skin for leather goods, of hair for mattresses - these were only the by-products of the huge state-run industry that hauled in massive revenues over the course of years.
This constant dividend flowed from human suffering and human fear, from human degradation and crime, and it became the essential economic rationale for the spectacle of the camps. The ideological postulate of exterminating races and nations served this goal, became its justification." p. 46
Medallions by Zofia Nalkowska; Northwestern University Press, pub. 2000