Yehiel De-Nur, Dinoor or Dinur ('De-Nur' means 'of the fire' in Aramaic), born Yehiel Feiner (16 May 1909 – 17 July 2001), was a Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor, whose books were inspired by his time as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp. His work, written in Hebrew, often "blurs the line between fantasy and actual events" and consists of "often lurid novel-memoirs, works that shock the reader with grotesque scenes of torture, perverse sexuality, and cannibalism."
Writings at Auschwitz, Eichmann trial
During World War II De-Nur spent two years as a prisoner in Auschwitz. In 1945, he moved to British-mandate Palestine (later Israel) and became a writer-historian survivor who wrote several works in Hebrew, which stemmed from his experience in the camp, under the identity he had been given by the guards at Auschwitz: Ka-Tsetnik 135633 (sometimes listed as "K. Tzetnik"). Ka-Tsetnik means "Concentration Camper" in Yiddish (deriving from "ka tzet", the pronunciation of KZ, the abbreviation for Konzentrationslager); 135633 was De-Nur's concentration camp number. He also used the name Karl Zetinski (Karol Cetinsky, again the derivation from "KZ") as a refugee, hence the confusion over his 'real' name when his works were first published.
He wrote his first book about the Auschwitz experience, Salamandra, over two and a half weeks, while in a British army hospital in Italy in 1945. The original manuscript was in Yiddish, but it was published in 1946 in Hebrew in edited form.
His civic identity was revealed when he testified at the Eichmann Trial on 7 June 1961. After an opening statement in which De-Nur described Auschwitz as the "planet of the ashes", but before he was able to answer the general questions about Auschwitz that the prosecuting Attorney-General had prepared for him, De-Nur fainted and was subsequently unable to resume his testimony.
In an interview on "60 Minutes," aired February 6, 1983, De-Nur recounted the incident of his fainting at the Eichmann trial. Mike Wallace, the host, posed a central question at the program's outset: "How is it possible . . . for a man to act as Eichmann acted? . . . Was he a monster? A madman? Or was he perhaps something even more terrifying: was he normal?"
The most startling answer to Wallace's shocking question came in an interview with Yehiel Dinur, a concentration camp survivor who testified against Eichmann at the Nuremberg trials. A film clip from Eichmann's 1961 trial showed Dinur walking into the courtroom, stopping short, seeing Eichmann for the first time since the Nazi had sent him to Auschwitz eighteen years earlier. Dinur began to sob uncontrollably, then fainted, collapsing in a heap on the floor as the presiding judicial officer pounded his gavel for order in the crowded courtroom.
Was Dinur overcome by hatred? Fear? Horrid memories?
No; it was none of these. Rather, as Dinur explained to Wallace, all at once he realized Eichmann was not the godlike army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. "I was afraid about myself," said Dinur. ". . . I saw that I am capable to do this. I am . . . exactly like he." He summarized his feelings by saying, "Eichmann is in all of us".
House of Dolls
Among his most famous works was 1955's The House of Dolls, which described the "Joy Division", an alleged Nazi system keeping Jewish women as sex slaves in concentration camps. He suggests that the subject of the book was his younger sister, who did not survive the Holocaust.
While De-Nur's books are still a part of the high-school curriculum, Na'ama Shik, a researcher at Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Israel, has claimed that The House of Dolls is pornographic fiction, not least because sexual relations with Jews were strictly forbidden to all Aryan citizens of Nazi Germany.
The British rock band Joy Division derived its name from this book and was quoted in their song "No Love Lost".
Its publication is at times pointed to as the inspiration behind the Nazi exploitation genre of serialized cheap paperbacks, known in Israel as Stalag fiction. Their publisher later acknowledged the Eichmann trial as the motive behind the series.
Dinur was married to Nina Dinur, née Asherman, the daughter of a prominent Tel Aviv doctor. She served in the British Army as a young woman. Nina sought him out after reading his book Salamandra and eventually they were married. She was instrumental in the translation and publication of many of his books. They had two children, a son and a daughter, both still living in Israel. She trained with Virginia Satir in the 1970s. Later in life, Nina changed her name to Eliyah Dinur (sometimes spelled De-Nur).
In 1976, because of recurring nightmares and depression, he subjected himself to a form of psychedelic psychotherapy from Dr. Jan Bastiaans that included the use of LSD; the visions experienced during this therapy became the basis for his book, Shivitti. The book's title is derived from David's Psalm 16, "תהילים טז: "שיויתי ה' לנגדי תמיד, more accurately translated in Acts 2:25: "I saw the Lord always before me", or "I was always beholding the Lord in my presence".
He died of cancer in Tel Aviv on 17 July 2001.
- Salamandra, 1946; as Sunrise over Hell, translated by Nina Dinur, 1977
- Beit habubot, 1953; as House of Dolls, translated by Moshe M. Kohn, 1955
- Hashaon asher meal harosh (The Clock Overhead), 1960
- Karu lo pipl (They called Him Piepel), 1961; as Piepel, translated by Moshe M. Kohn, 1961; as Atrocity, 1963; as Moni: A Novel of Auschwitz, 1963
- Kokhav haefer (Star of Ashes), 1966; as Star Eternal, translated by Nina Dinur, 1972
- Kahol miefer (Phoenix From Ashes), 1966; as Phoenix Over The Galilee, translated by Nina Dinur, 1969; as House of Love, 1971
- Nidon lahayim (Judgement of Life), 1974
- Haimut (The Confrontation), 1975
- Ahavah balehavot, 1976; as Love in the Flames, translated by Nina Dinur, 1971
- Hadimah (The Tear), 1978
- Daniella (Daniella), 1980
- Nakam (Revenge), 1981
- Hibutei ahavah (Struggling with Love), 1984
- Shivitti: A Vision, translated by Eliyah Nike Dinur and Lisa Herman, 1989
- Kaddish, (Contains Star Eternal plus essays written in English or Yiddish), 1998
- Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (Yehiel De-Nur), House of Dolls (London: Grafton Books, 1985)
- Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (Yehiel De-Nur), House of Love (London: W.H. Allen, 1971)
- Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (Yehiel De-Nur), Moni: A Novel of Auschwitz (New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1963)
- Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (Yehiel De-Nur), Phoenix Over The Galilee (New York: Harper & Row, 1969)
- Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (Yehiel De-Nur), Shivitti: A Vision (California: Gateways, 1998)
- Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (Yehiel De-Nur), Star Eternal (New York: Arbor House, 1971)
- Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (Yehiel De-Nur), Sunrise Over Hell (London: W.H. Allen, 1977)
- David Mikics (April 19, 2012). "Holocaust Pulp Fiction". Tablet Magazine.
- Who were you, Karl Zetinski?, Tom Segev, Haaretz, 27 July 2001
- The Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Session 68 (Part 1 of 9), Nizkor Project, 7 June 1961
- House of Dolls (Beit ha-bubot), novelguide.com, 2002
- Israel’s Unexpected Spinoff From a Holocaust Trial, Isabel Kershner, New York Times, 6 September 2007
- Haaretz.com, Tom Segev, Breaking the Code, Haaretz, 23 April 2009.
- sandrawilliams.org, Sandra S. Williams, Ka-tzetnik's use of paradox, 1993.
- Anthony Rudolf, 'Ka-Tzetnik 135633,' in Sorrel Kerbel, Muriel Emanuel and Laura Phillips (eds.), Jewish Writers of the Twentieth Century (London: Routledge, 2003), p. 267
- Project Nizkor: The Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Session 68, evidence of Yehiel Dinur
- Article in Haaretz
- Isaac Hershkowitz, Asmodeus and Nucleus on Planet Auschwitz: Katzetnik’s Theological and Demonological Kabbalah, a paper presented at the International Workshop: Ka-Tzetnik: The Impact of the First Holocaust Novelist in Israel and Beyond, University of Calgary, 10–12 March 2013.