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Novelist and journalist Vasily Grossman, author of Life and Fate and Forever Flowing and of dispatches from the war front that brought to life the story of the suffering and sacrifice of the Soviet Red Army in the anti-Nazi struggle, died at 59 on this date in 1964. Grossman endured censorship of his writing throughout his life but survived the Stalinist machine’s repressive apparatus. His fiction, first published in the West and in Russia after 1988, is often thought to be Russia’s most powerful since the days of Tolstoy. His war reporting included accounts of the liberation of the Treblinka and Majdanek extermination camps, and his article, “The Hell of Treblinka” (1944), served as evidence at the Nuremberg Trials. Grossman also participated in assembling the Black Book, an anthology documenting the crimes of Nazism that was assembled by the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee but repressed by the Soviet regime immediately after the war, as Stalin turned his murderous gaze towards Jewish writers, artists, and intellectuals.
“What is the point of me being physically free when the book I dedicated my life to is arrested... I am not renouncing it... I am requesting freedom for my book.” —Vasily Grossman to Nikita Khrushchev