An Eye for an Eye
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An Eye for an Eye

This book had a glaring error when it was published in November, 1993. The error appeared in the Preface, where I wrote that in 1945 some Jews who’d survived the Holocaust killed thousands of German civilians: German men, women, children, babies. That allegation was accurate, but I then wrote, "I knew that if I reported it, I’d be exhibiting, well, call it chutzpah, for I could guess what the world would say." By then I’d worked seven years on An Eye for an Eye, and I truly believed that the world could say nothing I hadn’t already guessed. It may seem paranoid, but I’d even guessed that on some 40-watt radio station somewhere, someone from the extremities might call in and call me a Nazi, and this indeed happened on a small station in Rutherford, New Jersey. But never in my wildest speculations did I suppose that an eminent intellectual on a TV network would refer to "A man called John Sack" and another intellectual would say, "Well, first of all, these people are antisemites, second of all they’re neo-Nazis." Ten years earlier, I’d done an expose of the Nazis on Channel Two in Los Angeles--I was still on the Nazi hit list, and I hadn’t foreseen that scholars would call me one.

When I wrote An Eye for an Eye, I hadn’t guessed that people would call it a monstrous lie. A lot of it, after all, had been fact-checked by three major magazines and a paper whose editor said, "It may be the most accurate story in the history of American journalism." A lot had been fact-checked by 60 Minutes, which found eight eyewitnesses who I hadn’t, so I hadn’t guessed that the titles of some reviews would be False Witness and The Big Lie. One noted Jewish paper said, "Sack is transparently writing docudrama," and "Sack is trafficking with imagined reality," and it then argued that Lola, the central character, couldn’t have commanded the prison for Germans that is the central locale in An Eye for an Eye. Lola herself had told me, "I was the commandant," thirty-five people (among them the current commandant) had corroborated her, and I had the document appointing her and a document signed by her as the naczelnika or commandant, but the paper argued, "The unlikelihood is overwhelming." Another review referred to Lola as "Lola," as if I’d concocted her.

When I read these stories, I felt I was being lectured by Chico Marx, who was asking me, "Who do you believe? Your own two eyes or me?" But also I hadn’t guessed there would be reviewers who’d lie, reviewers who’d write, "Sack never adequately estimates the number of Germans slaughtered," when I’d demonstrably estimated this in Chapter 9, and reviewers who’d write, "Only in Sack’s notes does he reveal that the camp commander [at Lamsdorf] was a Polish Catholic," when I’d demonstrably revealed this in Chapter 11. Other reviewers wrote that I’d written things that I hadn’t, wrote, "Dare anyone who has even a modicum of respect for language use an expression like--" whereupon the reviewer, a rabbi, quoted some words that I’d never written anywhere, ever. In Chapter 4 of An Eye for an Eye, I’d said that three-fourths of the officers--the lieutenants and captains--in the Office of State Security in the city of Kattowitz in February, 1945, were Jews, but a magazine said that I’d said that three-fourths of all the Office in all of Poland were Jews, and a newspaper said that I’d said that three-fourths of all the "factotums" in all of Poland were Jews. Having devised this statistic, the reviewers went on to refute it, a Harvard professor writing, "We know,"

We know how many Jews were in the Office of State Security. According to a tabulation of November 21, 1945, by Boleslaw Bierut, then President of Poland, the Office of State Security had 438 Jews. 438! Not Sack’s 75 percent but 1.7 percent.

Now, I’d gone to Harvard, whose motto is veritas, truth, and I’d never expected this. Let’s forget that the Harvard professor didn’t deny that the head of the Office was a Jew and all or almost all the department heads were Jews. Let’s forget that last year some Polish professors found a secret report that in October, 1945, fifty percent of the "leaders" of the Office were Jews. In my innocence, I’d thought it enough that I’d said in An Eye for an Eye that Jews left the Office "as early as June, 1945," that "hundreds of Jews escaped from the Office" by September, 1945, and that "all but a scattering of Jews returned to the Torah and Talmud and fled from the Office by December, 1945." If, as the Harvard professor wrote, there were 438 Jews in the Office as late as November 21, 1945, that’s sixty times more than I’d ever mentioned in An Eye for an Eye--and also I’d never guessed that I’d not be allowed to report this. When I wrote a letter to the editor of the Harvard professor’s outlet, the editor wouldn’t publish it, and when I bought a $425 ad, the editor wouldn’t publish that. I then bought an ad in the student paper at Harvard, but the students wouldn’t publish it.

When I wrote An Eye for an Eye, I hadn’t guessed that a reviewer would cite a whole paragraph that I hadn’t written at all. But when An Eye for an Eye was translated into German, a major reviewer said that I take sadistic joy in every awful detail, and to demonstrate this he claimed to cite from the German edition,

die Leichen [waren] schwarz wie Schlamm in einem Abwasserloch…die Gesichter waren verfault, das Fleisch eine klebrige Masse…diese Aufseher brüllten…die Aufseher schrien…die Frauen…verspürten einen widerwärtigen Geschmack,

a paragraph that may be sadistic but, in fact, didn’t appear in the German edition and was written anonymously by the reviewer himself. No matter: the criticism so unnerved the German publisher that he destroyed all his six thousand copies, presumably by pulping them, possibly by burning them. In similar circumstances, the Polish publisher canceled out, as with some lengthy excerpts did one German newspaper and one American magazine. Twelve thousand words of An Eye for an Eye were fact-checked, libel-checked, and typeset by that magazine, whose cover would say, "Exclusive: Death Camps Run by Jews," but two days before presstime the editor phoned me and told me, "We aren’t going to run it." Two other cancellations were by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, which twice invited me to speak on An Eye for an Eye, twice announced this, and twice canceled out.

To be sure, there were honest reviewers and reporters in New York, the New York Daily News, Newsweek, and The Progressive and on public radio and 60 Minutes, but most reviewers seemed to be in determined denial. "Some Jews," they allowed, "became murderers," but they called them "a small group of Jewish survivors" and "one Jewish woman and a handful of Jewish men" who essentially weren’t Jews at all. They were "more communist than Jewish," a University of California professor wrote--they were "communists from Jewish families," "communists from Jewish backgrounds," "communists of Jewish origin." Now, I’d known these people seven years and I’d never thought I would read that. I’d interviewed twenty-three Jews who’d been in the Office, and one, just one, had considered himself a communist in 1945. He and the others had gone to Jewish schools, studied the Torah, been bar-mitzvahed, sometimes worn payes. In German camps, at the risk of their lives, some had made matzo on Pesach, and in 1945 they had lighted candles on Shabbas, held seders on Pesach, stood under huppas at weddings, sounded shofars on Rosh Hashanah, and fasted on Yom Kippur. By whose definition weren’t they Jews? Not by the Talmud’s, certainly, not by the government of Israel’s or the government of Nazi Germany’s. Had they died in the Holocaust, I’d have guessed that the world would count them among the six million.

But clearly I’m not good at guessing games. I’ve been asked but I can’t explain why the world has turned itself inside out to avoid confronting this book. Denial, we’re told, is our first response when the doctor announces we’re going to die, and maybe the Jewish establishment fears that if I report that Jews are normal human beings, that Jews can love, hate, and take revenge just as anyone can, then I trumpet the end of the Jewish religion or Jewish race, perhaps at the hands of the neo-Nazis. Or maybe the Jewish establishment fears that if I report that Jews aren’t always pitiful victims who Catholics, Protestants and Moslems, their constant oppressors, owe reparations to, then I trumpet the end of Israel. Maybe the men who (along with God) oversee the Jewish community feel that the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is some sort of sting operation and Jews who are caught confessing to

The sin we’ve committed in Thy sight
By oppressing our fellow man

are ipso facto not Jews at all but felons of Jewish origin.

I don’t believe this. The news that Jews aren’t saints is right in the Bible, which says of King Solomon, even King Solomon, "He did evil"--the news is two thousand years old and Jews have hardly suppressed it. Why, then, for fifty years did people suppress the news of Shlomo (Solomon) Morel? I’d have thought that a man who commanded a concentration camp, who Jews and Germans testified killed thousands of prisoners, who was wanted in Poland but who fled to the Middle East--I’d have thought that Shlomo’s story was well worth telling, but Shlomo’s not German but Jewish, he didn’t flee to Syria but Israel, and for almost fifty years not one American newspaper mentioned him. After this book appeared, a dozen papers asked about him, even wrote stories about him and told me the stories would run the next day, but for a year they never did. And then one ran in The New York Times, and the Times’s reports of beatings, tortures and murders at Shlomo’s camp confirmed what the Harvard professor called the "more outrageous claims" in An Eye for an Eye.

I welcome the Times’s candor, however tardy. I don’t know anyone, even survivors of Shlomo’s camp, who can’t sympathize with a man whose father, mother, brothers--there were no sisters--uncles, aunts, and all but one cousin died in the Holocaust, a man whose anguish in 1945 drowned out the Torah’s words "Do not take revenge." But many, many people, including me, were dismayed when the very papers that told us each year of the Hun of the Year, of Barbie, Demjanjuk, Bousquet, Touvier, the papers that said "Dog Bites Man" didn’t also say "Shlomo Bites Dog," and many, many more would have been dismayed if the normal response of denial had lasted until, after fifty years, it wouldn’t have been distinguishable from an old-time political cover-up. I note with pride that the Times’s publisher and the Times’s executive editor (like me, my agent, and my own editor) are Jews. If the day ever comes when the race that taught the civilized world to love its neighbors has no rachmanis except for its own and is no more enlightened than Serbs and Somalis, then that, I believe, and not An Eye for an Eye, will herald the end of the Jewish religion, the Jewish race, and Israel.

Considering this, I must thank you, the reader, for not caving in to reviews with titles like Do Me a Favor--Don’t Read This Book and for reading this new edition. I hope you’ve observed what so few reviewers did but what, quite curiously, almost all the readers who’ve written me did: that this is a book on the saving grace of the Jewish religion--which, when Lola returned to it, brought her redemption and love. I hope that in spite of the hullabaloo, you’ve noticed that no one, no Jew, German or Pole who was present in 1945 (except for the people who say, "I didn’t do it") has ever denied anything that I wrote in An Eye for an Eye or its Notes. Back in November, 1993, I had some minor errors, yes--the Polish word is ktoz, not ktory, there is no tunnel under the Brenner Pass--and I thank the people who pointed these out and I’ve corrected them here. I’ve also updated some data. But otherwise, the book that incensed so many reviewers is exactly the one you have read, right down to those sad, unsuspecting words "I could guess what the world would say." I thank you for having confronted An Eye for an Eye.           References

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