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Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, Jacobo Timerman (1981)

The Final Solution reaches Argentina

Matthew Fishbane
September 17, 2013

The Final Solution, like history, was not—can never be—final. WWII’s lessons of witness, trauma, survival, and endurance were manifold in Europe, but one of their most brilliant expressions came out of the darkness of Argentina’s Dirty War decades later, amid “the Nazi paranoia that suddenly overcame the most advanced nation of Latin America, as it once overcame the most advanced nation of Europe.” In his memoir Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, Jacobo Timerman, the Ukrainian-born publisher and editor of Buenos Aires’ leading newspaper, La Opinión, reflects searingly on his arrest, torture, questioning, and exile—and therefore also on brutality, courage, love, silence, humility, absence, and the great mysteries of power and hate. “I know there ought to be a conclusion,” he writes, “but I have no conclusion.” The courage to compose that sentence makes his one of the great works of the Holocaust.

Matthew Fishbane is Creative Director at Tablet magazine.

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