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On Burning Ground: A Son's Memoir

Skakun, Michael

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ISBN 10: 031220566X / ISBN 13: 9780312205669
Published by St. Martin's Press, New York, 1999
Condition: very good, very good
From Ground Zero Books, Ltd. (Silver Spring, MD, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

235, illus. The dramatic account of one man's improbable efforts to survive the Holocaust. Fleeing the slaughter in his Polish hometown of Novogrudek (Navaredok), Joseph Skakun, the author's father, assumed a series of false identities--first as a Christian, then as a Muslim, and finally as a recruit of the Nazi SS--in order to stay alive in the vortex of hell. Constantly fearing exposure and death, Skakun lived to see the downfall of the most brutal horror of the modern age. Bookseller Inventory # 45606

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Bibliographic Details

Title: On Burning Ground: A Son's Memoir

Publisher: St. Martin's Press, New York

Publication Date: 1999

Book Condition: very good, very good

Edition: First U.S. Edition. First Printing.

About this title


A painful and powerful story of a father who had to deny his Jewish heritage, disguise himself as a Christian, and join the SS to survive World War II is written by his son, who returns to Germany to analyze not only his father's experience, but those of all who suffered. 10,000 first printing.


The "burning ground" of the title is not just the blasted landscape of Holocaust-era Europe but also the existential anguish of its protagonist, rabbinical student Joseph Skakun, so seared by the evils he has witnessed that at one desperate moment suicide seems the only possible response. Joseph was one of very few Jews in his northern Polish village to escape extermination at the end of 1941, and his odyssey of survival took him into the very "maw of the beast." Assuming the identity of a Muslim Tatar (to account for his circumcision), he traveled to Germany as a foreign laborer. Later, fleeing the suspicions of a fellow worker, he enlisted in the Waffen SS, an act of crushing ethical ambiguity for a young man steeped in the Jewish tradition of Mussar, which stressed moral self-examination. After the war, consumed by the need to convey and come to grips with his experiences, Joseph made a confidant of his son, the author of this galvanizing biography and memoir. Retelling his father's story, Michael Skakun pens a drama of biblical breadth and Dostoyevskian depth, scanting neither the visceral horror of his father's ordeal nor the resourcefulness and resolve that enabled Joseph to endure. --Wendy Smith

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