Arnold Daghani's Memories of Mikhailowka
Arnold Daghani (1909-85) came from a German-speaking Jewish family in Suczawa, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Romania. His understated narrative of his experiences in the slave labour camp at Mikhailowka, south west Ukraine (1942-43), presented here in its first English book edition, provides a day-by-day account of the chilling experiences of Jewish slave labourers. It is written in a compelling style and illustrated by watercolours and drawings that Daghani made secretly in captivity and smuggled out of the camp and a Romanian ghetto. It includes an extraordinary account of the couple's escape and the shooting of over three hundred prisoners. The uniqueness of Daghani's Holocaust testimony lies in his role as an artist which led to his (and his wife's) escape from the camp and their survival. The camps in Ukraine have been under-investigated and the diary provides significant material. It was used as the basis of investigations in the 1960s into war crimes in the slave labour camps in Ukraine, helping to bring attention to the region and providing some form of recognition for those who suffered there. This richly illustrated and scrupulously edited book is distinguished from more conventional Holocaust memoirs by focusing on fundamental questions of historical testimony and the problems of representation in both words and images. Daghani's diary is contextualized on the basis of wide-ranging new historical, archival and art historical research in essays that document the artist's attempts to achieve justice and reconciliation. They locate the diary in relation to contemporary issues on migration and statelessness, genocide and trauma, self-reflection and memory. The diary is both art and document, addressing how we understand and construct history. It enables readers to engage with the Holocaust via the viewpoint of an individual, making statistics more meaningful and history less distant.
Publication Date: 2/10/2009