I Saw the Angel of Death: Experiences of Polish Jews Deported to the USSR during World War II

by Maciej Siekierski, Feliks Tych
Monday, April 18, 2022

Publication date: August 1, 2022

During World War II, several hundred thousand Polish citizens were deported from their homeland by Soviet authorities and sent to the gulag; many died there. For over 60 years, the Hoover Institution Library & Archives has preserved the testimonies of more than 30,000 Polish survivors. Among these are 171 accounts of Polish Jews who suffered both German and Soviet occupation; were transported hundreds or thousands of miles to suffer again in brutal Soviet forced-labor camps; and were eventually released, escaping to the Middle East.

Now, these testimonies are collected for the first time in a scholarly English translation. The accounts—recorded shortly after the events they describe, with witnesses’ memories still fresh—reveal many of the systematic horrors of World War II, clearly indicating the genocidal essence of the Soviet camp system and illustrating its mechanisms. They offer extraordinary information and insight on the activities of the Polish resistance movement, Jewish religious and community life, working conditions, the experiences of women and children, and more.

These testimonies form a vital historical record of systemic human brutality that should never be forgotten. But they also paint a portrait of unwavering perseverance amid the struggle for survival.

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About the Author

Dr. Maciej Siekierski, a former research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is curator emeritus of the European collections at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives, specializing in Poland and Eastern Europe. 

Dr. Feliks Tych (1929–2015) was an eminent Polish historian, director of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw (1996–2006), and author or editor of several books in Polish on history and the Holocaust.

About the Author

Maciej Siekierski

Maciej Siekierski

e: siekierski [at] stanford.edu
p: 1-650-725-6955