Concordia University MIGS

Back to Holocaust Memoirs | Back to MIGS





About the Author


Part 1

Part 2a

Part 2b

Part 2c

Part 2d


































Volume 8

Konrad Elkana Charmatz

Nightmares: Memoirs of the Years of Horror Under Nazi Rule in Europe, 1939-1945

Translated from the Yiddish "Koshmarn"
Miriam Dashkin Beckerman

published by the
Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies

Copyright The family of the late K.Charmatz, 2000
Copyright English translation Miriam Dashkin Beckerman, 2000

Editors’ Introduction

Konrad Elkana Charmatz (1910-1986) survived wartime imprisonment in several concentration and work camps to become a noted Yiddish journalist and broadcaster on radio and television in Paris and later in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Yiddish version of his memoirs entitled "Koshmarn" (Nightmares) was written in the 1980s (Neyer Moment Publishers, Sao Paulo, Brazil,1975). It was based on diaries the author had kept during his confinement in the Sosnowiec ghetto, which unfortunately did not survive his incarceration in Auschwitz. The present English translation is by Miriam Dashkin Beckerman. The memoir chronicles the plight of a single individual caught up in the Nazis’ murderous program. In this case the memoirist was an individual who was politically aware and highly articulate so that his personal record is a richly detailed document of a human existence under extreme conditions--a fate he shared with countless others.

Charmatz wrote in a forceful, direct prose and his depictions of people and events bear witness to his skill as a professional journalist. While he never alludes to his personal status, it is clear to the reader that he was a person of exceptional leadership qualities. He was literate in several European languages and this fact enabled him to read and interpret the news items garnered from clandestine radio bulletins or newspapers to his fellow inmates who had no other access to crucial information about the military progress of the war.

In 1985 he was awarded the World Federation of Jewish Fighters, Camp Inmates, and Nazi Victims’ Prize in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Syracuse University Press will be publishing this memoir in the near future.

Key Words

Ostrowiec, Sosnowiec, Judenrat, Kapos, Moishe Merin (head of the Judenrat in Sosnowiec), Auschwitz-Birkenau, Warsaw, Warsaw ghetto, Death March (Warsaw to Dachau), Mildorf and Waldlager (labour camps), Paris, Kracow, Brazil.


This narrative was composed in the post-war years based on the diaries the author kept while he was in Sosnowiec ghetto. The diaries did not survive his incarceration in Auschwitz, but they served as the basis for his personal record of the war years. He describes in detail the initial response of the Polish Jews to the Nazi invasion. He chronicles the establishment of the ghetto in Sosnowiec, the behaviour of the Germans and the various methods used by the Germans to falsify the truth about their plans for the Jews so as to prevent any uprising among the imprisoned Jews. Gives a vivid critical account of the activities of the Judenrat Elder, Moishe Merin, and his cohorts. Arrested by the Gestapo, Charmatz is sent to German labour camps and eventually to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Later, he is transported to Warsaw and works in the labour camp employed to clean up the ruins of the destroyed Warsaw ghetto. His account of existence in these various labour and concentration camps offers a valuable record of the conditions and human relations that confronted him. He describes the desperate experience of the Death March from Warsaw to Dachau. Several days before the liberation of the camp by US forces, he succesfully escapes to a nearby village untl freed by the US army on May 2, 1945. Describes the immediate post-war years including his stay in Paris and his travels back to Poland where he is repelled by local Poles. Makes contact with his family in Latin America and emigrates to Brazil.


© Concordia University