Fleeing the Nazis, Surviving the Gulag, and Arriving in the Free World
My Life and Times
by Victor Zarnowitz
August 2008, 200pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-35778-7
$75, £58, 66€, A103
eBook Available: 978-0-313-35779-4
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

A world-class economist tells of life from pre-Nazi Auschwitz to twenty-first century New York.

Victor Zarnowitz is a world-famous economist. Victor Zarnowitz is also a man who grew up in the Polish town of Oswiecim, known in German as Auschwitz. Zarnowitz and his brother fled the area as the Nazis advanced in September 1939. Moving eastward, he landed right in the arms of the Soviets and was sent to a Siberian Gulag. How did this brilliant young man, who nearly died at the hands of the Soviets, end up a renowned University of Chicago economist? That’s exactly what this inspiring, lyrical memoir—told in simple, captivating prose—is all about.

The recipient of many prizes and honors, Zarnowitz is still, at age eighty-seven, one of the six economists who decide officially that the U.S. is in a recession. He is also a captivating writer and his memoir a thrilling page turner:

-In September 1939 Victor and his brother walked the entire width of Poland with the blitzkrieg just behind them. They ran right into oncoming Soviet troops. Zarnowitz was trapped at the junction of the two most fearsome armies the world had ever seen. He was literally standing in the center point of history.

-The Soviets considered Polish refugees prisoners of war. In 1940, they transported Zarnowitz and his brother thousands of miles north and put them to work in Stalin’s oldest Gulag. They earned their daily gruel and bread crusts by trying to meet impossible work quotas.

The last third of the book brings the story up to date, telling, in a non-technical manner, of Zarnowitz’s life in America and his professional career. It includes his observations of other economists and their ideas, his own contributions to business-cycle theory and economic indicators, and his thoughts on more than a half-century of American history.

While memoirs of the Holocaust are plentiful, the Jewish experience in Stalin’s Gulags has been virtually forgotten. Weaving politics and economics into the harrowing tale of his personal journey, Zarnowitz’s inspiring life story provides a priceless perspective on some of the most traumatic upheavals of the 20th century—and on the resilience and power of the human spirit.


"Prize-winning economist Victor Zarnowitz is internationally known for his professional contributions to his field -- particularly his insights on business indicators and economic forecasts -- but this book reveals that he is also an excellent storyteller. ... After sharing his Holocaust memories, Zarnowitz describes his life in America and his professional career. His observations of other economists, his contributions to economic theories, and his perspectives on recent American history make this an educational read."—Catholic Library World, March 1, 2009

"Victor Zarnowitz is an economist--an absolutely first-class economist. He is one of the few totally at home both with masses of data and with sorting out that data in ways that cast fresh light over the way the economy works. But this memoir is not a statistical book. Rather, it's a uniquely personal story. It's a human story and a quintessential American story: the triumph of the human spirit in the context of freedom and opportunity."—Paul Volcker, Former Chairman, U.S. Federal Reserve

"Victor Zarnowitz is a national treasure--and, having survived the Nazi invasion, he's an American national treasure. He probably knows more about business cycles than anyone alive. But even such a monumental store of knowledge is just a part of Victor--as this book beautifully demonstrates."—Alan S. Blinder, Professor, Princeton University, Former Vice Chairman, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve

"Victor Zarnowitz stands among the great business cycle researchers of the past half century. His work as an economist helped his adopted nation navigate uncertain times. This very personal story of how he navigated war and economic calamity is a moving and important tale. From a youth in the Polish town of Auschwitz, to Russian gulags, to his research in Heidelberg and Chicago and New York, he is a survivor who lost much in his journey. He has also given very much back."—Jon Hilsenrath, Wall Street Journal

"Victor Zarnowitz, probably the world's pre-eminent scholar of business cycles, has written a fascinating account of his life up to now, mostly in the turbulence of the 20th Century. The book is not only a narrative of triumph over many evil forces and events, but is also illuminated by the warm, kind, and thoughtful personality of the author, familiar to those who have known him for many years. It is partly that personality that comes out in his love for democracy and freedom, evident throughout the book."—Robert E. Lipsey, Director, New York Office, National Bureau of Economic Research
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