Book Review

The Tenth Circle of Hell -A memoir of life in the death camps of Bosnia


By Rezak Hukanovic
Translated from the Bosnian
by Colleen London and
Midhat Ridjanovic
Foreword by Elie Wiesel
Basic Books, 1996
Reviewed by Lori Jablons

n a time where we are so inundated by the images of the Holocaust through film and literature, not to mention through current events, it is hard to fathom that such a dreadful scenario could ever again be played out without strong and violent intervention. But this scene is exactly what Rezak Hukanovic describes in harrowing detail in The Tenth Circle of Hell, his memoir of surviving a Bosnian concentration camp.

      As of this writing, the overt bloodshed in Bosnia is no longer front-page news, and the efforts of the American and European forces sent to facilitate the repatriation of 2.5 million Bosnians have fallen miserably short of the mark. Only ten percent of those displaced by the Serbs have actually returned to the homes from which they were forced. Thousands have paid with their lives.

      Apathy has taken a stronghold in the Balkans. Radovan Karadzic, a psychiatrist and the man responsible for implementing the “Memorandum” that advocated the extermination of the Croats and Muslims, walks freely through the streets of Pale, although indicted as a war criminal by the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. As Anthony Lewis wrote in the New York Times, “The Dayton peace agreements included a commitment to arrest accused war criminals. But the United States, which organized the Dayton conference, is essentially ignoring the promise.” No effort has been made to arrest Karadzic — in fact, the word is out to “steer clear” of him. Lewis quotes one official as saying “Our guys are afraid we’re going to run into Karadzic.” That the War Crimes Tribunal even exists brings a glimmer of hope that justice will be rendered in the Balkans. However, for this to be fully realized, indifference will have to be exorcised first.

      There are only two references to Karadzic in Hukanovic’s book, one when he is thought to have agreed to close the camps and another when the author describes the genesis of the ethnic cleansing: “And where on earth was the poisonous game conceived? In the head of that bloodthirsty lyricist, the mad psychiatrist from Sarajevo, Radovan Karadzic. Years before, clearly spelling out the evil to come, he had written: ’Take no pity let’s go/kill that scum down in the city.’” The absurdity of a psychiatrist gaining control of a whole nation and whipping that nation into such a frenzy of hatred that it turns on itself to commit genocide is unfortunately something we as a race have witnessed before. Like Hitler, Karadzic is a staunch proponent of the master-race tenets and an enforcer of sickeningly grand proportion. Apparently, the Jewish mantra of “Never again” was not heard and assimilated by the Bosnians.


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