Author

Jacques Presser

Historian and author Jacques Presser (1899-1970) was an enthusiastic, highly original contemporary historian who regarded history writing as an art rather than an academic discipline. He came to fame as a committed chronicler of the murder of the Jews and as a much-loved professor, making frequent use of what he calls ‘ego documents’ – a term now commonly used for written sources of a distinctly personal character. Ondergang (Ashes in the Wind) was his last book, and it demanded the utmost of him.

In 1957, he published the novella De nacht der Girondijnen (The Night of the Girondists), which became an international beststeller. Its leading character is an assimilated Jewish teacher in the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork, who helped the Germans to select Jews for transport to Auschwitz, until he realised that, being a Jew, he was bound to share the fate of those he had sent away.

The Night of the Girondists

The Night of the Girondists

(J.M. Meulenhoff, 1957, 91 pages)

In 1957, Presser published De nacht der Girondijnen (The Night of the Girondists), which became an international beststeller. First published in the UK in 1958, this moving autobiographical novella tells about life in the transit camp in The Netherlands from which Jews were despatched to the concentration camps in Poland.

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Ashes in the Wind

Ashes in the Wind

De vervolging en verdelging van het Nederlandse jodendom 1940-1945

(Aspekt, 1965)

Ashes in the Wind by historian Jacques Presser is a raw book, an emotional and bitter account of the fate of the Jews of the Netherlands. The memoirs, diaries and letters used to illustrate it cannot fail to affect the reader. Presser felt duty-bound ‘to be an interpreter for those who are condemned to eternal silence; only here and now, only this one time, could they make themselves heard once more’.

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