Journey Into the Land of the Zeks and Back: A Memoir of the Gulag

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Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.0 X 9.3 X 1.8 inches | 2.3 pounds

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About the Author

Julius Margolin (1900-1971) was trapped in Poland by the successive Nazi and Soviet invasions in 1939 and was arrested by the Soviets in June 1940 for refusing to accept Soviet citizenship. From 1940 to 1945 he served time in the Soviet Gulag. Upon his return to the West, he wrote his memoirs, Journey to the Land of the Zek, and a description of his return via Europe, The Road to the West.

Stefani Hoffman is the former director of the Mayrock Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Research at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has translated numerous works, including Fear No Evil by Natan Sharansky.

Timothy Snyder is Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University. His award-winning works include The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999; Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin; and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.

Katherine R. Jolluck is Senior Lecturer in History at Stanford University. She is the author of Exile and Identity: Polish Women in the Soviet Union During World War II and the co-author of Gulag Voices: Oral Histories of Soviet Incarceration and Exile.


An incisive, harrowing, and absorbing eyewitness account of the Gulag....Journey into the Land of the Zeks and Back acknowledges the scale of the catastrophe, but the volume focuses on its impact on humanity. -- Harry C. Merritt, Arts Fuse

Beautifully written, incredibly detailed and moving - an important historical document. -- Kirkus, Starred Review

More than just a Gulag memoir, this book includes an excellent and unusual portrait of Poland in 1939, encompassing an account of the occupation and Sovietization of its eastern territories after the Red Army's invasion in September.� Margolin observes the impact of major political changes on different people and social classes; he has a strong sense of history, and his language has a literary flavor. This book is important for anyone interested in Soviet history, but also for anyone interested in a full account of the Jewish experience of the war. While the story of the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe is well known, the fate of Jews in Soviet-occupied Europe is still obscure. This is a story that will seem fresh and unusual to many. -- Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag: A History

Julius (Yuli) Margolin clairvoyant Jewish writer and passionate political polemicist fought to open the eyes of the world to Stalin's crimes and, specifically, to the Soviet system of slave convict labor. The long-awaited English-language publication of Journey into the Land of the Zeks and Back is a game changer in both Soviet studies and Jewish studies. -- Maxim D. Shrayer, editor of Voices of Jewish-Russian Literature and author of A Russian Immigrant

This is a powerful, fine-grained account of war, occupation and the Gulag from an extraordinarily gifted writer. Margolin vividly details the Eastern European world of Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Belarussians and others living in fear under the German and Soviet occupation of their countries. His searing description of Gulag servitude is a ghastly refresher on mass dehumanization and how it robbed the prisoners of their identity, family, memories, health, and sanity. -- Deborah Kaple, Princeton University

It's hard to believe that this publication marks the first appearance of this remarkable story in English. Back in 1949, this thoughtful, detailed compelling memoir was the first of what ended up being many diaries of reluctant travelers sent to this awful Kafkaesque world of the Soviet Gulag. The author thus became the first of many witnesses who exposed the natural consequences of the Marx-Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin ideology of imposing forced equality on the masses...this book can serve as a fresh and welcome reminder of a long-forgotten warning to beware the tyranny of even lovely-sounding ideas. -- Natan Sharansky

Ably translated by Stefani Hoffman, the new volume includes helpful introductions by Timothy Snyder and Katherine R. Jollock that describe the work's publication history, provide necessary background information, and underscore what is most significant in the book. --Mosaic Magazine

This is a book that demands to be read. --Times Literary SupplementR