Cold Crematorium

Cold Crematorium

Reporting from the Land of Auschwitz


Brought to you by Penguin.

The first English language edition of a lost memoir by an Auschwitz survivor, offering a shocking and deeply moving perspective on life within the camps

József Debreczeni, a prolific Hungarian language journalist and poet, arrived in Auschwitz in 1944; had he been selected to go 'left', his life expectancy would have been approximately forty-five minutes. One of the 'lucky' ones, he was sent to the 'right', which led to twelve horrifying months of incarceration and slave labour in a series of camps, ending in the 'Cold Crematorium' - the so-called hospital of the forced labour camp Dörnhau, where prisoners too weak to work were left to die.

Debreczeni beat the odds and survived. Very soon he committed his experiences to paper in Cold Crematorium, one of the harshest and powerful indictments of Nazism ever written. This haunting memoir, rendered in the precise and unsentimental prose of an accomplished journalist, compels the reader to imagine human beings in circumstances impossible to comprehend intellectually.

First published in Hungarian in 1950, it was never translated due to the rise of McCarthyism, Cold War hostilities and antisemitism. More than 70 years later, this important eyewitness account that was nearly lost to time will be available in 15 languages, finally taking its rightful place among the great works of Holocaust literature.

©2023 József Debreczeni (P)2023 Penguin Audio


  • A literary diamond – sharp-edged and crystal clear. A haunting chronicle of rare, unsettling power... A holocaust memoir worthy of Primo Levi
    The Times

About the author

József Debreczeni

József Debreczeni was a Hungarian-language novelist, poet and journalist who spent most of his life in the former Yugoslavia. He was an editor of the Hungarian daily newspaper Ünnep in Budapest, from which he was dismissed due to anti-Jewish legislation. He was later a contributor to the Hungarian media, including the newspaper Napló, in the Yugoslav region of Vojvodina, as well as leading Belgrade newspapers. He was awarded the Híd Prize, the highest distinction in Hungarian literature in the former Yugoslavia.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more