The Wartime Diary of Edmund Kessler (Lwow, Poland, 1942–1944)

The Wartime Diary of Edmund Kessler (Lwow, Poland, 1942–1944)

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Edmund Kessler
Edited by Renata Kessler

Series: Jews of Poland
ISBN: 9781934843987 (hardcover) / 9781934843994 (paper)
Pages: 160 pp.
Publication Date: February 2010

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Edmund Kessler, a Jewish attorney from Lwow, Poland, gives an eyewitness account of the Holocaust through the events recorded in his diary between the years 1942 and 1944. In vivid, raw, documentary style, he describes his experiences in the Lwow Ghetto, in the Janowska Concentration Camp, and in an underground bunker where he and twenty-three other Jews were hidden by a courageous Polish farmer and his family. The book includes a chapter written by Kazimierz Kalwinski, who as a teenager was a caretaker for the hidden Jews on his family’s farm. Edmund’s daughter, Renata Kessler, coordinated the book and has written an epilogue about her search for the story, which has taken her to Israel, Poland, and Lviv, Ukraine. Renowned scholar Antony Polonsky contributes an insightful historical overview of the times in which the book takes place. This volume is a tremendous resource for historians, scholars, and those interested in the Holocaust.

Edmund Kessler attended the Jan Kazimierz School of Law in Lwow, Poland. He graduated with an advanced degree in law in 1931 and was registered with the bar association in Krakow and Lwow. After emigrating to the United States, he completed a master’s degree in business administration from New York University in 1958. He worked as an accountant for the New York City Rent and Rehabilitation Commission until his retirement. Mr. Kessler began translating his diary himself shortly before his death. However, he was not able to finish the task that became his daughter’s legacy.

The Wartime Diary of Edmund Kessler is a slim volume with considerable power. In prose and poetry, Kessler describes the conditions of Jewish life in the large but understudied ghetto of Lwow, Poland. His observations are keen, precise, his tone reserved and understated. He writes simply: ‘needless to say, conditions were difficult.’ Elsewhere he says: ‘I owe my survival to the fact that admirable people are still in the world.’
— Michael Berenbaum, director, Sigi Ziering Institute; professor of Jewish studies, American Jewish University
The Wartime Diary of Edmund Kessler is not only a gripping account of the fate of Lwow Jewry during the war but also a unique mirror of the parallel perspectives of the rescued and their rescuers. This rich collection includes Kessler’s wartime diary, his wartime poetry, and a 1998 memoir by Kazimierz Kalwinski, the son of the Polish couple who hid Kessler, his wife and 22 other Jews on their farm. . . . It is especially important that this collection includes Kalwinski’s memoirs. To hide Jews in German occupied Poland was to expose oneself and one’s family to the risk of execution. It was not so easy to procure food and to secure a hiding place from the scrutiny of prying eyes at a time when Germans were conducting constant searches for food and for hidden arms. How does one do this for 24 people? This book is indeed an important addition to our knowledge of the Holocaust.
— Samuel Kassow, Trinity College, author of Who Will Write Our History?
The preface to this joint memoir asks rhetorically if the world needs yet another Holocaust memoir. The answer is emphatically yes. Each one is a unique witness to the experiences of millions who did not survive to tell their stories. . . . The blending of the voices telling this story creates a powerful hymn to human determination and decency.
— Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

Table of Contents

Continuation Renata Kessler
Preface David M. Bossman
Foreword Leon Wells

Part I
Introduction Antony Polonsky
The Kessler Family of Lwow Renata Kessler
Autobiographical Statement Edmund Kessler
Life in America Renata Kessler
Part II Our People Edmund Kessler
Terror in Lwow
Life in the Camps
Part III Salvation Kazimierz Kalwinski
Our Bunker in Lwow
Lusia’s Letter Lusia Sicher
Part IV Epilogue
The Search Renata Kessler
Afterword Sarah Shapiro
Part V
Biographical Statements
Part VI Appendix