Tzveiuntzvantzik – Lider (lost early poetry book; 1931)
Yehiel De-Nur (1909-2001), better known by his pen-name Ka-Tzetnik 135633 ("Concentration Camp Inmate 135633") was a Jewish author and Holocaust survivor, who gained notoriety in Israel following the publication of his 1955 book House of Dolls, inspired by his experiences, which described forced prostitution of Jewish women in the camps to Nazi forces. The work was highly controversial in conservative post-war Israel and has been labelled as "Holocaust porn", despite being written by a Holocaust survivor and ostensibly inspired by personal experience. Despite this, his real identity was not known until he testified at the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961, where he collapsed after just a few minutes while delivering a rambling, incoherent statement where he described Auschwitz as "the planet of the ashes". He also wrote many other works inspired by the Shoah, such as They Called Him Piepel (1961) and his first work as Ka-Tzetnik, written in an Allied military hospital following the liberation of Auschwitz, Salamandra (1946). However, this was not his first published work. In 1931, under his birth name, Yehiel Feiner, he published a collection of Yiddish poetry in his birth country of Poland entitled Tzveiuntzvantzik – Lider (Twenty-Two Poems). After the war, he attempted to destroy traces of his pre-Auschwitz existence - this reflected his claim in later years that he was "born" upon his arrival to Auschwitz in 1943. On numerous occasions between 1953 and 1993, he would destroy surviving copies of his earliest work he found preserved in libraries around the world. In 1953, he claimed at the New York Public Library to be a researcher writing about the book's "deceased" author, withdrawing the book before destroying it. In 1993, he stole a copy from the Hebrew University Library in Israel, before sending the burnt remnants of the book back to the library with the note "please burn these as were burned everyone I cared for and my whole world in the crematorium of Auschwitz".
Status[edit | edit source]
The book has remained elusive for many years. In 2011, the remains of the copy that Ka-Tzetnik destroyed in 1993 were reportedly exhibited at the Hebrew University Library alongside other valuable manuscripts. In 2014, what was described as "possibly the only complete copy extant of … Ka-Tzetnik’s immensely scarce first book" appeared at auction in New York courtesy of the Kestenbaum & Company auction house, before being sold for US$11,000. In addition, there are also reportedly a number of institutions that have surviving copies, however, these are only accessible to select academic researchers, and the book remains inaccessible to the general public.