Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust


In a series of writing workshops at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, survivors who were children or teens during World War II assembled to remember the pivotal moments in which their lives were irreparably changed by the Nazis. These "flares of memory" preserve the voices of over forty Jews from throughout Europe who experienced a history that cannot be forgotten. Ninety-two brief vignettes arranged both chronologically and thematically recreate the disbelief and chaos that ensued as families were separated, political rights were abolished, and synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed. Survivors remember the daily humiliation, the quiet heroes among their friends, and the painful abandonment by neighbors as Jews were restricted to ghettos, forced to don yellow stars, and loaded like cattle into trains. Vivid memories of hunger, disease, and a daily existence dependent on cruel luck provide penetrating testimonies to the ruthlessness of the Nazi killing machine, yet they also bear witness to the resilience and fortitude of individual souls bombarded by evil. "I don't think that there will be many readers who will be able to put this book down."--Jerome Chanes, National Foundation for Jewish Culture


“I never saw any of my family again, ” the speaker read aloud softly, looking up at last from the paper in her hand. Seated around a long wooden table in the book-lined library of a synagogue, a group of gray-haired Holocaust survivors listened, hardly moving. As the speaker finished reading her story, her hands shook visibly; her voice broke, she caught her breath, and sat down. Tears glistened in everyone's eyes. Nobody spoke.

This same scene happened again and again in the writing workshops which evoked most of the stories in this book. Among all the poignant emotions, that echoing sentence—“I never saw any of my family again”—seemed to stir the deepest ground. The moment of the last sight of their parents, sisters, and brothers is seared into the memory of each survivor. To an outsider, it was as if through all the stories which told about how they survived, the writers were really reliving, forever inconsolable, their loss of all those who did not.

Although some of the writers in this book did not attend the workshops, instead contributing stories previously written on their own, the book was essentially created by these Jewish Holocaust survivors working together to record their experiences. Unlike many Holocaust witness records, the book is not transcriptions of survivors speaking on audio or video tapes. And herein lies one of its strengths: all the stories exist here as the survivors wrote them, in their own words.

The Writing Workshops: The Process

A structured course consisting of six writing workshops was conducted twice for two different groups of survivors, by Dr. Anita Brostoff. In addition, two single workshops were presented for the first group by Dr. Lois Rubin. Most of the Jewish men and women authors in this book took part in the workshops. Subsequently, Dr. Brostoff conducted a set of workshops for a group of U.S. Armed Forces liberators.

The extent to which the workshop participants had previously communicated about their Holocaust experiences varied. A few people had written but . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.