Wasn’t It Bad Enough?

The Emperor of Lies
Steve Sem-Sandberg
Farrar, Straus & Grioux, $30, 664 pp.

The Lodz ghetto was the second largest Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland, with some 230,000 residents at the time of its establishment, to whom in 1941 the Nazis added about 20,000 Jewish Czech refugees. After their invasion of Poland, the Nazis ringed the ghetto with barbed wire and armed guards, and appointed a Jewish leader, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, the so-called Chairman, or Eldest of the Jews. The Chairman ran the ghetto like a company town, overseeing a set of factories that...

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About the Author

Gabriel Brownstein, associate professor of English at St. John’s University, is the author of two works of fiction. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Apt. 3W (W. W. Norton & Co.) won the PEN/Hemingway Award in 2002. His novel The Man from Beyond (W. W. Norton & Co.) was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and one of Booklist’s Top 10 Historical Novels in 2005.