This image is the cover for the book Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death

Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death

A Jewish history professor offers his personal account of the Holocaust, while depicting what he’s gone through to understand this moment in his past.

Historian Otto Dov Kulka has dedicated his life to studying and writing about Nazism and the Holocaust. Until now he has always set to one side his personal experiences as a child inmate at Auschwitz. Breaking years of silence, Kulka brings together the personal and historical, in a devastating, at times poetic, account of the concentration camps and the private mythology one man constructed around his experiences.

Auschwitz is for the author a vast repository of images, memories, and reveries: “the Metropolis of Death” over which rules the immutable Law of Death. Between 1991 and 2001, Kulka made audio recordings of these memories as they welled up, and in Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death he sifts through these fragments, attempting to make sense of them. He describes the Family Camp’s children’s choir in which he and others performed “Ode to Joy” within yards of the crematoria, his final, indelible parting from his mother when the camp was liquidated, and the “black stains” along the roadside during the winter death march. Amidst so much death Kulka finds moments of haunting, almost unbearable beauty (for beauty, too, Kulka says, is an inescapable law).

As the author maps his interior world, readers gain a new sense of what it was to experience the Shoah from inside the camps—both at the time, and long afterward. Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death is a unique and powerful experiment in how one man has tried to understand his past, and our shared history.

Praise for Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death

“[A] profound and melancholy book of remembrance . . . Death is in these pages a constant and close companion to the living . . . This is a grave, poetic and horrifying account of the Holocaust which does not so much revisit the Auschwitz of the past, but the Auschwitz of Kulka’s inner world. It is his own internalized city, with its own enduring horror.” —Arifa Akbar, The Independent (UK)

“In this moving and poignant testimony, distinguished historian Otto Dov Kulka draws the reader into the horror of the death-camp through a montage of historical research, essays and poetical images of memory.” —Shereen Low, Northern Echo (UK)

Otto Dov Kulka, Ralph Mandel

Otto Dov Kulka is Rosenbloom Professor Emeritus of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Harvard University Press