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He Described a 'Satanic World' in 1.8K Pages. It Wasn't Fiction

'NYT Magazine' revisits Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz's Holocaust diary
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 4, 2020 9:15 AM CDT
Updated Sep 6, 2020 2:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – That Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz's Holocaust diary exists at all is staggering; that it numbers more than 1,800 pages even more so. He wrote it over the course of nearly two years spent at Dachau, a feat managed in part because of the job he was assigned as an office manager at a screw factory, which "provided him clandestine opportunities to keep a secret diary," writes David Chrisinger for the New York Times Magazine, which highlights the diary as part of a series telling "lesser-known stories" from World War II. Kupfer-Koberwitz documented everything he could about the horrors of "a satanic world" in the diary, which he hid from guards in a wooden box with a false bottom. Once it was too large for even the box, he and a co-worker dug a hole in the factory's concrete floor in October 1944 and buried it, digging it out a week after Dachau was liberated.

It is one of only a small number of surviving testimonies to have been written inside a German concentration camp. Most of those that do exist are in pieces and "almost none show Edgar's extraordinary powers of observation," per Chrisinger. And "no detail was too small or too cruel for him to preserve." It describes, for instance, the use of a torture device in which victims were hung "from the arms that are twisted backward," per the Knoxville Daily Sun. "These are the torments of hell!" Kupfer-Koberwitz also described the night of April 29, 1945, when he lay awake at the factory, listening to the sounds of "furious firing" from the direction of Dachau. The Americans had come. Kupfer-Koberwitz would later die "nearly penniless" in Germany, the magazine reports. But his diary was used as evidence to convict a number of former Dachau guards. (Read the full piece here.)

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