Days of Terror, An Excerpt

By J. Lemel, translated by Charlotte F. Werbe

Jacob Zvi Lemel’s Days of Terror: A Memoir from the War 1940–1945, tells the story of his survival while hiding from the Nazis and the collaborators in Belgium during World War II. A journalist by trade, Lemel’s memoir contains valuable information about war-time Belgium. Set in Antwerp, Brussels, and various small countryside towns and farms scattered in between, Days of Terror offers insights into what survival outside the camps looked like and how average citizens responded to the war. In fact, very few Germans make an appearance in the memoir—it is truly a story about Belgium, its people, and the attitudes toward and treatment of Jews during this period.

A deeply moving, heartfelt and personal account of survival, Days of Terror won a special prize in the Yad-Vashem’s memoir contest of 1954. After many failed attempts to publish the memoir, Lemel self-published it in 1962 in Paris.

The following excerpt allows readers a glimpse into what life looked like for him and his family under the occupation. It is full of surprising details and unusual descriptions of pregnancy and childbirth, the local library, Flemish literature and many others parts of Lemel’s daily life at that time. In this candid account of an unthinkable time, readers can gain access to the banal and the horrible, and get a feel for what it might have been like to live in a time when dread was ordinary.

—Charlotte F. Werbe