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Three Minutes in Poland

Traveling in Europe in August 1938, one year before the outbreak of World War II, David Kurtz, the author's grandfather, captured three minutes of ordinary life in a small, predominantly Jewish town in Poland on 16 mm Kodachrome colour film. More than seventy years later, through the brutal twists of history, these few minutes of home-movie footage would become a memorial to an entire community - an entire culture - that was annihilated in the Holocaust. Three Minutes in Poland traces Gleen Kurtz's remarkable four-year journey to identify the people in his grandfather's haunting images. His search takes him across the United States; to Canada, England, Poland, and Israel; to archives, film preservation laboratories, and an abandoned Luftwaffe airfield. Ultimately, Kurtz locates seven living survivors from this lost town, including an eighty-six-year-old man who appears in the film as a thirteen-year-old boy. Painstakingly assembled from interviews, photographs, documents, and artefacts, Three Minutes in Poland tells the rich, funny, harrowing, and surprisingly intertwined stories of these seven survivors and their Polish hometown. Originally a travel souvenir, David Kurtz's home movie became the sole remaining record of a vibrant town on the brink of catastrophe. From this brief film, Gleen Kurtz creates a riveting exploration of memory, loss, and improbable survival-a monument to a lost world.
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About the Author

Glenn Kurtz is the author of Practicing: A Musician's Return to Music and the host of Conversations on Practice, a series of public conversations about writing held at McNally Jackson Books in New York City.


"Kurtz's quest to learn about the lost world depicted in his grandfather's home movie is at the heart of this deeply moving, gorgeously written book." --Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe "[An] expansive, beautifully rendered micro-history. . . In the pages of Glenn Kurtz's marvelous book, the ghosts from those three minutes are breathtakingly brought to life." --Louise Steinman, Los Angeles Times "An impressive feat of historical research . . . In a genre so often preoccupied with the recitation of horrors, Three Minutes in Poland is the rare work that seems more about people than about ghosts." --Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post "In this captivating book, Mr. Kurtz tries to reconstruct Jewish Nasielsk, knowing he will fail--not only because he arrives too late but because memory is by nature incomplete." --Dara Horn, The Wall Street Journal "Three Minutes in Poland--along with the remarkable four-year quest it documents--is an act of reverence, as well as a feat of archival reconstruction. Kurtz's patience, energy and appetite for detail seem boundless, and they gradually bring a community--a microcosm of Polish Jewry, with all its political and religious factions and class divisions--(almost) to life . . . The book accumulates elegiac power . . . Three Minutes in Poland describes with horrifying precision the ordeals that preceded the murders of most of Nasielsk's Jewish community. But equally compelling pages document how Chandler, with guile, luck and some Polish help, escapes the Warsaw ghetto, took a non-Jewish Polish identity and managed to survive." --Julia Klein, The Chicago Tribune "Kurtz weaves . . . a haunting web of contingency" --The New Yorker "Kurtz's tenacious research and sensitive reporting make this book a gem." --The Christian Science Monitor, The 10 best books of November "Engrossing, exhaustively researched." --Jessica Zack, San Francisco Chronicle "A rare glimpse of a lost world." --Moment magazine "A pilgrimage of the highest order." --Elaine Margolin, Jewish Journal "Three Minutes in Poland begins as the story of an old family film rediscovered and veers into an important tale of Polish shtetls during World War II. It is intensely moving and brilliantly researched, and it reads like a thriller." --Elie Wiesel, author of Night "A masterpiece. With scrupulous intelligence and deep compassion, Glenn Kurtz tells this stupendous, terrifying, and ultimately consoling story in a way that fully honors the material. The reader grieves for what was lost, but is also alert to the miracle that anything was saved at all. Kurtz has done us all a great service in rescuing this tale from oblivion. Three Minutes In Poland is destined to be a classic." --Teju Cole, author of Open City "Glenn Kurtz's beautifully written book is many things at once: a family memoir, a page-turning mystery, a penetrating look at one of the darkest chapters in human history. Above all, it's a powerful testament to the singular worth of every life. That's the passion that inspired Kurtz through his years of research, and I can't think of a worthier one." --Rebecca Goldstein, author of Mazel "Glenn Kurtz leads the reader on an inspiring journey through the forgotten past in this meticulous work of historical reconstruction. I was amazed by the patient, forensic skill with which he followed the trail of a handful of images into a vibrant array of voices and visual memories. By helping his many interview subjects remember details of a world they themselves didn't know they still carried inside, Kurtz discovers life where there had seemed only to be loss." --George Prochnik, author of The Impossible Exile "With nothing more to go on than three scant minutes in a family film, Glenn Kurtz has meticulously pieced together a luminous, searing story of a place and its people. I read this beautiful book wishing for nothing less than to turn back the clock and change the course of history. Kurtz is a restrained and elegant writer, and Three Minutes in Poland is not only a magnificent literary achievement, but a human one." --Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion

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