Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bashert: A Granddaughter's Holocaust Quest

This is the personal story of Andrea Simon's quest for information about her family members from Volchin, Belarus (formerly Poland) who were killed in the holocaust. Volchin is located near Brest, Belarus (former Brest-Litovsk, Poland) which is what sparked my interest since this is the town in which my grandfather was born. Her book contains a detailed account of the liquidation of Brest ghetto in October, 1942, the 2nd largest mass murder outside of the concentration camps.

Two of the author's accounts stand out in my mind (I hope I'm recalling them correctly):

One took place during a visit to Volchin when she and some local volunteers were helping clean up the Jewish cemetery. A young man who was helping came across the monument at the mass grave for the victims of the 1942 liquidation of the ghetto there. The young man had a puzzled look on his face after reading the plaque. The author tells that she later found out that this was because he hadn't learned anything about the holocaust in school.

Another story shows that some of the hatred that existed during WWII still exists today. The author was taking some photos around the town and noticed 2 young men sitting, having a smoke. She took their picture, waved, they waved back, she took another picture and then started walking toward them. When she got closer, they gave her a "hiel Hitler" salute. She was stunned. Personally I don't know if I would have froze where I stood or charged at them.

I e-mailed the author to tell her how much I enjoyed her story and commended her on her courage in visiting these towns. I hope one day to visit "the old country" too, probably with a backpack full of tissues in tow.

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