The State of Dark

By: Judith Mok

Publication Date: 13 October 2022


Like many children of Holocaust survivors, born in a postwar Holland to Jewish parents trying to rebuild their shattered lives, Judith Mok was raised with the emotional trauma of having no extended family. Despite the constant presence of the past in silences and whispered conversations, Judith had little information about the hundreds of her family members who had died in the camps.

While training as a classical singer and performing all over the world, she was continually confronted with the Holocaust. After working with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, DBE, she discovered that the great German soprano had been a long-time member of the Nazi party and mistress of Hans Frank, the ‘Butcher of Poland’, entertaining German troops in Poland while 163 members of Judith’s family were being murdered in Auschwitz and Sobibor. Over 100,000 Jews from Holland were killed in the Nazi camps, including the diarist Anne Frank, who befriended Judith’s aunt Saar in Auschwitz in 1944.

A phone call made from her Dublin home in 2017 leads to Judith’s discovery, in shocking and intimate detail, of the terrible fate of her family. The State of Dark is a moving, beautifully-written memoir of a Second Generation survivor, as the Holocaust continues to be a living presence in European life and culture.


‘At this particular point in history with the rise of authoritarian regimes, this crucially important book reminds us of how it went last time. Filled with music, poetry, love, friendship and horror, the history of Judith Mok’s family is a testament to survival against all the odds. Courageous, brutally honest and uniquely profound, you will find nothing else like it on bookshelves this year. Brava!’ LIZ NUGENT

The State of Dark is a privilege to read. With luminous prose, Judith Mok shines a light into the darkness of her family’s past. It is an extraordinary feat of storytelling to be able to write about inconceivable tragedies with such warmth and humanity.’ LOUISE NEALON

‘Possibly the most powerful book to be published in Ireland this year … unforgettable’ DERMOT BOLGER, SUNDAY BUSINESS POST

Read an extract from The State of Dark by Judith Mok on RTÉ Culture here.

Interview with Judith Mok on Books for Breakfast podcast

‘This brilliant book is a tapestry, interweaving glowing strands chronicling lives replete with learning and literature and song, with the unbearably dark story of how those lives were brutally ended during the holocaust. The contrast is heartbreaking and it is impeccably conveyed. Mok is an impressive writer. We should be grateful to her for not staying stumm. If you read only one Irish book this year, let it be this superb and unique memoir.’ ÉILÍS NÍ DHUIBHNE, IRISH TIMES

‘The extraordinary thing about The State of Dark, is how Judith makes the telling bearable for the reader. Divided into mini-essays, talking of different people, and different stages of her life, what comes over, most of all, is the sheer humanity in her telling. And the writing is poetically lyrical. We feel all the emotions, and at the same time, admire the literary content. … The book covers love, history, genocide, grief, family dynamics, and secrets, kept and uncovered. An hour of eclectic conversation has passed in a flash, and I feel I have barely scratched the surface of Judith’s life.’ SUE LEONARD, IRISH EXAMINER

‘Judith Mok’s The State Of Dark is a beautifully fragmented, glimpsed, memoir of her family members and their friends, and of their love of music, literature, dance, art, and each other. A gentle expression of grief and anger, it is a powerful, moving book.’ KEITH RIDGWAY

Judith Mok interview on Virgin Media Television IRELAND AM

Judith Mok interview on RTÉ 2FM DAVE FANNING SHOW

Judith Mok interview on RTÉ Radio 1 BRENDAN O’CONNOR SHOW

‘Beautiful, heartbreaking book’ CIARA DWYER, SUNDAY INDEPENDENT


‘In telling her family’s stories, Mok is facing the ‘state of dark’ that was too horrible for her parents, many other first-generation Holocaust survivors, and until now Mok herself, to face, collecting the shards of their lives and composing them into a mirror that can, through the Jewish rite of tikkun olam, help repair the world … There is great courage in Mok.’ JAMES CAMIEN MCGUIGGAN, THE JOURNAL OF MUSIC

‘A moving commemoration of her relatives’ passionate lives and the pain of their absence and the reminder that the Holocaust is still a living memory in Europe. … Written in her trademark poetic style, it covers history, genocide, grief, tragedy and secrets as well as love.’ JENNY LEE, IRISH NEWS


Judith Mok was born in Bergen aan Zee on the North Sea coast of Holland and studied at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. She has toured the world as a classical soprano, moving to Dublin in 2002, where she is a leading voice coach working with noted singers from the classical and pop worlds.

Her publications include the novels De Beul (2000) and Gael (2006) and poetry collections Het Feestmaal (1997) and Gods of Babel (2011).

She is married to the writer Michael O’Loughlin.

Mok’s radio play, Confinements, produced by RTÉ Drama On One and part of which is inspired by The State of Dark, represented Ireland as the finalist for Best Writing (Craft) in the New York Festivals Radio Awards 2022.

Also available as an ebook


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Weight 0.4 kg
Dimensions 136 × 216 mm
Publication Date

13 October 2022


Paperback with flaps, 176pp