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A Chronicle of the Holocaust
by Abba Kovner

Say to the silence:
My people. Say to the silence: Here is the fire.
The finish but not the end of the Scrolls of Testimony.
"And more than I have told you is written here."
                          (Mishnayot Yoma 7:1)


Scrolls of Testimony is a profoundly moving chronicle of the Holocaust. The author, award-winning Israeli writer Abba Kovner, intended this book as an almost liturgical account of the greatest tragedy to befall the Jewish people, and he wrote it in the Jewish tradition of megillot, or scrolls. Taken together, the pages are reminiscent of the Talmud, with the central text surrounded by notes and excerpts of poetry and prose.

Selections from the Scrolls

The Diary of Leo der Junge

The Trail of Fire and Jewish Brotherhood

Shaul Returns

Does Birkenau Exist?

Passover in the Seventh Block

Crossing the Sea

Never Say There's Only Death

Scrolls of Testimony reads like a suspense novel powerful, dramatic and compelling but it is more than that. It is the testimony of the author woven with others’ eyewitness accounts, diary entries, poems, and even last wills and testaments. Many of these were carefully recorded and hidden during the war at great personal risk to the writers, who desperately wanted to record the unfathomable events unfolding around them.

Regarded by many as one of the great masterpieces of Holocaust literature, Scrolls of Testimony took over ten years to research and write. It is indeed a modern Jewish classic. Kovner worked on the book until his death in 1987, and it remains his final tribute to the courage and dignity of the victims and a fulfillment of his promise to bring their testimony to future generations.

The effort involved in creating the English edition of Megillot Ha-Edut (Scrolls of Testimony) was monumental. The fine translation was undertaken by Dr. Edward Levenston former professor of English linguistics at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Rabbi Irving Greenberg, President of Jewish Life Network and Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, has written the foreword; it is a superb introduction not only to the work, but also to Kovner himself. The haunting paintings of acclaimed artist Samuel Bak, who like Kovner is a son and survivor of the Vilna ghetto, enhance the book.

”You who were unable to save us,
Listen now with all your heart to our testimony;
It is all that remains of our lives:

Try to understand the meaning of destruction,
And what words would have strengthened our
spirit at the moment of parting…

Do you have a spare moment to think of us,
We who are innocent of crime
And unashamed?”



Abba Kovner, Scrolls of Testimony (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2001), translated by Edward Levenston, illustrated by Samuel Bak.

The painting on the cover of Scrolls of Testimony (and subsequent details found throughout this feature):
The Family, 1974, oil painting by Samuel Bak, Courtesy of Pucker Gallery (Boston, MA)



Samuel Bak's Holocaust paintings: Landscapes of Jewish Experience
Paintings by Samuel Bak Essay and commentary: Lawrence L. Langer



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