SNAPSHOTS: JEWISH LIFE
BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST
The Holocaust happened in most of Europe, including parts of the Soviet Union—wherever the Nazis and their allies touched the land and the people. But it happened in different ways and at different times. And it happened to Jews, as well as to other people, who came from different cultures and lifestyles.
The stories in this section of this book were written by Jewish survivors who were originally from Poland, Lithuania, and Germany. They begin with “snapshots” of some traditional Jewish lifestyles and loyalties. “War Arrives in Lithuania” emphasizes the religious orientation of a Lithuanian shtetl (villages that were predominantly Jewish). “Parting” and “Betrayal” give us a sense of the orderly regimen of Jewish life within small Polish communities. “A German Family” presents snapshots of the more assimilated Jewish families of Germany. Each of these remembrances of Jewish life before World War II, however, ends with an account of the beginning of the breakup of that life, as it happened to these individual writers, in their place and time.
The writers were children or young adults when these events occurred. The pictures they create of home and family life before the war will in some ways sound familiar; they are like those of most families, everywhere. The accounts of the sudden disruption of their lives, on the other hand, convey the terror and bewilderment that struck families that didn't know what to do or where to turn, children who were suddenly and cruelly ripped from their parents and siblings.
It is in these stories that the writers first voice the constant theme of all survivors who speak in this book, the anguished burden of never-ending loss—the loss of their home and culture, and above all, of their beloved mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. They mourn for what was but now is no more, and never will be.