Nine Suitcases

NineSuitcases BelaZsolt
One of the first – and greatest – memoirs of the Holocaust ever written.

First appearing in May 1946 at a time when there was, of course, no “Holocaust literature,” Nine Suitcases appeared in weekly installments in Haladás. Concentrating on his experiences in the ghetto of Nagyvárad and as a forced labourer in the Ukraine, Zsolt provides not only a rare insight into Hungarian fascism, but a shocking exposure of the cruelty, selfishness, cowardice and betrayal of which human beings – the victims no less than the perpetrators – are capable of in extreme circumstances.

Apart from being one of the earliest writers on the Holocaust, Zsolt is also one of the most powerful: he bears comparison with Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel or Imre Kertész. Nine Suitcases is a horror story but, sadly, a true one. Zsolt was both a journalist and an accomplished novelist. He reports and analyzes the appalling events almost immediately after they occurred, with a devastating blend of despair and cool detachment. Yet for all the imaginative qualities of the writing, the crucial facts are authentic.

Set in a very dark period of modern European history, interspersed with moments of grotesque farce, grim irony and occasional memories of human kindness, Zsolt’s nightmarish but meticulously realistic chronicle of smaller and larger crimes against humanity is as riveting as it is horrifying.

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