I Saw It

Ilya Selvinsky and the Legacy of Bearing Witness to the Shoah

I Saw It: Ilya Selvinsky
and the Legacy of
Bearing Witness to the Shoah

by Maxim D. Shrayer
340 pages

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Cloth: 978-1-61811-169-2
eBook: 978-1-61811-191-3
Paper: 978-1-61811-307-8

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In this ground-breaking book, based on archival and field research and previously unknown historical evidence, Maxim D. Shrayer introduces the work of Ilya Selvinsky, the first Jewish-Russian poet to depict the Holocaust (Shoah) in the occupied Soviet territories. In January 1942, while serving as a military journalist, Selvinsky witnessed the immediate aftermath of the massacre of thousands of Jews outside the Crimean city of Kerch, and thereafter composed and published poems about it. Shrayer painstakingly reconstructs the details of the Nazi atrocities witnessed by Selvinsky, and shows that in 1943, as Stalin's regime increasingly refused to report the annihilation of Jews in the occupied territories, Selvinsky paid a high price for his writings and actions. This book features more than 60 rare photographs and illustrations, and includes translations of Selvinsky's principal Shoah poems.

Read the story of the making of I Saw It. (PDF, 250k)

Praise for I Saw It

"This beautifully close reading of a major Soviet poet restores for us an important vision of the Holocaust."
—Timothy Snyder, Yale University

"Maxim D. Shrayer tells his story vividly, comprehensively and convincingly. Unlike many literary studies, this deeply researched book is accessible, gripping and free of jargon."
—Zvi Gitelman, University of Michigan

"I Saw It is a major contribution to our knowledge and understanding of how Soviet Jewish writers and the regime in general responded to the Nazi massacres of Jews in German-occupied Soviet territory."
—Joshua Rubenstein, author of Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg