Banned in Hungary until 1980, 'Nine Suitcases' is one of the first - and greatest - memoirs of the Holocaust ever written. When Bela Zsolt first published it as a newspaper serial, there was no "Holocaust literature". Today there are whole libraries on the subject, but 'Nine Suitcases' still remains unique.
'Nine Suitcases' was originally published in Halades in weekly instalments. The first instalment appeared on 30 May 1946, and the last on 27 February 1947. Concentrating on his experiences in the ghetto of Nagyverad and as a forced labourer in the Ukraine, Zsolt provides not only a rare insight into Hungarian fascism, but a shocking exposure of the cruelty, indifference, selfishness, cowardice and betrayal of which human beings - the victims no less than the perpetrators - are capable in extreme circumstances.
Apart from being one of the earliest writers on the Holocaust, Zsolt is also one of the most powerful: he bears comparison with Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel or Imre Kertesz. 'Nine Suitcases' is a horror story but, sadly, a true one.
Zsolt was both an accomplished novelist and a highly skilled journalist. He reports and analyses the appalling events, almost immediately after they occurred, with exceptional freshness and a devastating blend of angry despair and cool detachment. For all the brilliant imaginative qualities of the writing, the crucial facts are authentic.
Zsolt was spared Auschwitz, but he witnessed, or suffered, some of the worst atrocities of the Holocaust elsewhere. Set in a very dark period of modern European history, interspersed with moments of grotesque farce, grim irony and occasional memories of human kindness, his nightmarish but meticulously realistic chronicle of smaller and larger crimes against humanity is as riveting as it is horrifying.