[Review] Day After Night by Anita Diamant

Title: Day After Night: A Novel
Author: Anita Diamant
Page: 294 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subject: Women Fiction, Jewish Refugees, Palestine, World War II (1939 - 1945), Holocaust Survivors
First Published: 2009

Day After Night is based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than two hundred prisoners from the Atlit internment camp, a prison for “illegal” immigrants run by the British military near the Mediterranean coast south of Haifa. The story is told through the eyes of four young women at the camp who survived the Holocaust: Shayndel, a Polish Zionist; Leonie, a Parisian beauty; Tedi, a hidden Dutch Jew; and Zorah, a concentration camp survivor. Haunted by unspeakable memories and losses, afraid to hope, the four of them find salvation in the bonds of friendship and shared experience even as they confront the challenge of re-creating themselves in a strange new country. Diamant’s triumphant novel is an unforgettable story of tragedy and redemption reimagines a singular moment in history with stunning eloquence.

- Synopsis from book cover
We already know that the WWII ended when the Allies claimed victory over Germany and Japan in 1945. But what happened after 1945? Following the death of Adolf Hitler shortly before Berlin surrendered, we may envision that the world can finally be relieved and that marked as an end to the Holocaust and concentration camps. We may envision family members finally reunited and tried to rebuild what's left of their crumbling life.

But what I do not know – which was illuminated in Diamant’s novel – was that many Jews without papers became illegal immigrants after the war. And for them, they held what little hope left towards creating a new life in The Promised Land … only to find out that it was internment camp all over again. Freedom so close but yet so far behind those barbed wires.

For nearly 200 prisoners in the Atlit internment camp in Haifa, especially for the four young women: Zorah, Tedi, Shayndel and Leonie, they take small contentment and comfort in the flat and lumpy pillows – There are no pillows in the other barracks. No one gives a pillow to an animal (page 1) – food, clothes and the company of each other while still clinging to the idea of starting a new life beyond the barbed wires: living a simple agrarian life in the kibbutz and perhaps changing to a new name.

Day After Night was a rather short book with barely 300 pages. The first half sees not much action, as the story introduces us to the four women and a few other important characters. We read about their daily lives in the camp, taking comfort in Jewish food and celebrations and traditions of Rosh Hashanah. Diamant wrote a vivid account of what happened in the internment camp and the characters developed very well through the course of the story, though at first it was quite difficult to remember “who’s who” with all the shifting perspectives.

Much of the novel centers around the life in the camp that I wish to be able to read more about what happened beyond the barbed wires or about the women’s past lives and their journey that leads them to the camp. I would have enjoyed it better if there was more historical facts.

But overall, I would recommend this book and as for me the story serves as an added knowledge to the fragment of history that I have never known before.


I read this one and liked it, but did not love it. I enjoyed reading your review.
I didn't know this actually happened, which makes me want to read the book. It's a good reminder that history isn't as clear cut as we learn it in school.
Athira said…
I've heard a lot about this book but haven't read it yet. I didn't really know much about what it focuses on. I think I may check it out some time.
Anonymous said…
I just finished this book. I was surprised to discover that the holocaust survivors were subject again to barricaded camps after they had been liberated.I immediately researched more information on this camp when I finished the book.Even though it was a depressing subject,it was an informative book to read. thank you Anita Diamant for writing this and help us see the transitions the survivors endured to relocate to Israel.