Phil Chernofsky brutally depicts the death toll of the Holocaust in stark black-and-white in his book, And Every Single One Was Someone.
The 1,250-page tome repeats one word between its tallit-wrapped covers, over and over again.
The book's pages force its readers to confront the Holocaust from the perspective of its perpetrators, who viewed the people they were killing as nothing more as nameless Jews.
However, the book's title reclaims the identity of the unidentified by reminding readers that "every single one was someone."
There are six million Jews in this book.
Flip through the pages. Choose one at random. Hold the book at arm's length. Notice how the words and columns seem to look like nothing more than a diagram.
Then look closer. Focus one one Jew,. Think of that word as one actual Jews. A relative, perhaps, or a friend. Maybe even yourself.
A living, breathing person.
Murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.
The tallit is a Jewish prayer shawl sometimes used to wrap bodies for burial, making the cover horribly appropriate for this book, which serves as a metaphorical mass grave.
Some find the book extremely moving, serving as an important way to remember those lost, such as Abe Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League, who organized donors to buy 3,000 copies so they could be more widely distributed, reports the New York Times.
However some Holocaust educators consider it to be a bit too much of a "gimmick," especially considering that many victims of the Holocaust do have names that are known, remembered in efforts such as the Yad Vashem memorial and museum which has documented the identities of 4.3 million casualties. These people fill the monumental "Book of Names" which stands 6.5 feet tall and 46 feet in circumference at the former death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Jews weren't the only victims of the Holocaust, though they are the ones remembered by this book. The official death toll is 5-6 million Jews, over 3 million Soviet prisoners of war, over 2 million Soviet civilians, over 1 million Polish civilians, over 1 million Yugoslav civilians, about 70,000 handicapped individuals, over 200,000 gypsies, and an unknown number of LGBT individuals, reports The Telegraph.
Gefen Publishing House explained that "As a math and Jewish studies teacher in a Jewish day school, Chernofsky wanted a different and meaningful way for his students to relate to the Holocaust." It answers the question, "What would a book of six million Jews look like? This is a volume meant for library and institution presentations on the Holocaust, a daring attempt to give some small sense of the overwhelming number - six million."
Reviewer S. Weinstein called it "an essential tool to try to comprehend the incomprehensible."
Ilan Greenfield, Gefen's chief executive, told The New York Times that "Almost everyone who looks at the book cannot stop flipping the pages. Even after they’ve looked at 10 pages and they know they’re only going to see the same word, they keep flipping.”
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