The Life of Jews in Poland before the Holocaust: A Memoir

The Life of Jews in Poland before the Holocaust: A Memoir

The Life of Jews in Poland before the Holocaust: A Memoir

The Life of Jews in Poland before the Holocaust: A Memoir

Synopsis

Ben-Zion Gold's memoir brings to life the world of a million Jews in pre-World War II Poland who were later destroyed by the Nazis. Warmly recalling the relationships, rituals, observances, and celebrations, Gold evokes the sense of family and faith that helped him through the catastrophe that followed. With him we experience the life and institutions of the time: the Heder and hooky playing, his encounter with Hassidism, the courtship and marriage of his oldest sister, and the author's own first inkling of love. And with him, we recapture the memories that made life worth living in the face of disaster, along with the experience of the human capacity for evil that tested and transformed his faith as it devastated his world. Finally, Gold tells of the fate of his family and of his own escape from that fate.

Excerpt

There is an imbalance in the way we remember the Jews of Europe. Thousands of books have been written about the Holocaust, but only a few have been written about the life of Polish Jews before they were murdered. The Holocaust was undoubtedly the greatest tragedy in Jewish history, but it would be a mistake to treat it as a heritage. Our heritage is the way the Jews of Europe lived and what they created before the Holocaust. In fact, they left us a rich legacy in religious and secular literature, in Hasidic and klezmer music, in Yiddish folk songs, and in art. An indication of the vitality and richness of Jewish life in prewar Poland is the large number of newspapers and periodicals in Yiddish, Polish, and Hebrew that were published between the two wars. Despite poverty, that community produced more daily newspapers and periodicals than the larger and more affluent Jewish community of the United States. This cultural-religious heritage is awaiting redemption by the descendants of the murdered Jews of Europe. My memoirs, which describe the traditional life of my family and the community in which I grew up, are a small but significant segment of that heritage.

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