The hostages were sent to the Stutthof Concentration Camp near Danzig. With his health ruined, Sruoga returned to Lithuania where he died. Till the end, he refused to cooperate with the Bolshevik demands to write propaganda for them. Forest of the Gods, which is a prose work of his remembrances from Stutthof, already translated into Russian, Polish, French and Latvian, is presently being translated into English by B.
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Shelves: non-fiction , history , highly-recommended , memoir , the-wide-world Balys Sruoga is one of Lithuanias literary luminaries of the early 20th century, but despite having specialized in Russian and East European area studies, I had never heard of him until my friend Eduardo reviewed and recommended Sruogas memoir of his experiences in a concentration camp during World War II.
But it was a completely different experience reading one as an adult. I thought I knew what I was reading then. There was nothing subtle about the drama of that history, the crimes so vast as to seemingly obscure any need for nuance.
But, with the intervening time dulling the familiarity of the genre, reading this memoir drove home the point that the real power of these histories often lies in the details. It was not unlike what many people who visit the Auschwitz museum share as the things that hit them hardest. In my experience, people do not talk about the vastness of the mechanics devoted to the carrying out of genocide, nor the countless barracks, nor the stunning distance that was once filled by queues of prisoners disgorged from cattle trains facing the final selection that determined whether they would be sent to the gas chambers immediately, or given the chance to be worked and starved to death first.
Instead, it is the comparatively little things, the details of the intensely bureaucratic management of mass murder, that Auschwitz museum visitors seem to remember most — the piles of items of daily life that were collected from the prisoners: the shoes, the shaving brushes, the eyeglasses.
Through daily minutiae, his narrative builds a veritable taxonomy of camp life - the hierarchy, who does what, the unwritten rules, the codes of paying tribute and bribing other criminal officials, and the many petty ways to lose your life in camp.
Without overt bitterness, Sruoga has you catching yourself almost laughing at what is simultaneously legitimately horrifying you. For example, take his description of Wacek Kozlowski, one of the camp enforcers drawn from the ranks of the prisoners themselves, designated "camp chiefs" by the authorities. Sruoga drily terms him "a specialist in beating, a connoisseur of execution", explaining how he used shoe or stick to regularly beat prisoners, then continues: "Sometimes, though, apathy seemed to engulf him.
Energy evaporated and he quit waving his stick like the chastener of old. Whoever was hit with the rock got to keep it. The following two anecdotes, for instance, even appear on the same page, within just a paragraph of each other: "Strangely enough, the vice-consul of Fascist Italy in Gdansk also wound up in camp!
In the summer of , before leaving for vacation, he had rented his villa to a Gestapo officer. The Italian took the officer to court and won - but it was a hollow victory, for he landed in Stutthof Camp for his pains. The Gestapo officer kept the villa. An infant was considered a full-fledged prisoner, rating a number and a triangle. Of course! But what kind of triangle is right and proper? Every individual crossing over its threshold was actually already condemned to die - sooner or later.
In such an atmosphere, the cruel psyche of the camp resident matures. Thrust into a brutal environment, the instinct for survival takes over; a person scarcely has a chance to notice how he is drawn into a state of primal fear, how little by little he becomes an organically functional piece of the horror. The dreadful and drastic measures he takes to do battle with the Grim Reaper, he already views as mere expedients. His ethical sense grows dull; abominable acts no longer seem so loathsome.
His only desire is to live.
In revenge, in March of they arrested a group of Lithuanian intellectuals and sent them to the Stuthoff concentration camp. Among these was Balys Sruoga, a writer, specialist in literature, and a professor at Vytautas the Great and Vilnius universities. He considered totalitarianism the greatest enemy of mankind. In Stutthof it fell to his lot to experience the horror of the Nazi system of violence, and several times he narrowly escaped death. But still another tragedy awaited him on his return to Lithuania in
Early life[ edit ] He contributed to cultural journals from his early youth. In , he enrolled in the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich , where in he received his Ph. D for a doctoral thesis on Lithuanian folklore. After returning to Lithuania, Sruoga taught at the University of Lithuania , and established a theater seminar that eventually became a course of study.
Forest of the Gods