What Makes These We Remember Unique
What Makes These We Remember Unique
Florette Lynn translated These We Remember, cover to cover, with the goal of providing the most accurate, poetic English translation possible. Preserved in its entirety, this translation includes not only survivor memoirs but every single document, photograph and map from the original memorial book.
While there are more than 1,000 individual Yizkor books, what makes These We Remember unique is Lynn’s exclusive format, which provides glossary terms and background information on the outside page margins for easy access. In addition, there is a comprehensive glossary and definition of Yizkor books at the end.
These We Remember provides an in-depth view of a shtetl community that was among the most vibrant and dynamic. Situated between Vilna, the “Jerusalem of the East”, and Minsk, capital of Belarus. Ivenets had access to culture, politics, literature, and commerce. They had newspapers, a library, theater, and pottery, and were affected by religious changes.
Lynn’s translation puts to rest the “Fiddler on the Roof” stereotype associated with Eastern European Jews. In fact, shtetl residents wore clothing of the day. In the second edition, she offers even more resources for exploring the complexities of shtetl life, including: a Topical Table of Contents featuring themes, issues and aspects of daily shtetl life and culture; an introduction about Life in the Shtetlach of Eastern Europe, a subject index, and a names index.
This additional content shatters stereotypes about life in an era that is largely misrepresented and misunderstood.
What is a Yizkor Book?
Yizkor comes from the Hebrew root “zachor,” which means to remember.
The first Yizkor books date back to the Middle Ages when the Medieval Crusaders, en route to the Holy Land, slaughtered countless Jews and destroyed their communities. Yizkor books were memorials compiled by the Jewish survivors, listing the names of those slain so they could be remembered in prayer.
After the Holocaust, Yizkor books became a way for the Jewish survivors to memorialize whole communities, primarily in Eastern Europe, that were destroyed. Compiled independently by survivors and family members to honor their communities, they share a common structure:
- A complete history of the Jewish community
- Personal recollections of events and personalities before the War, often accompanied by photos
- Eyewitness accounts of life in the ghettos, deportations and mass murders
- A necrology, or list, of the town’s people who were annihilated, which served as a tombstone for those whose final burial site is not known
These We Remember is a holy book. One of more than 1,000 books written by survivors of the Shoah, this English translation of Yiddish memoirs is included in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and recognized by scholars as an important addition to Holocaust literature.
Significance in the Holocaust Canon
In the wake of the events of 1933-1945, the Yizkor book re-emerged as one of the most important elements in Jewish literary endeavor for a whole generation. The rise of this quintessentially medieval genre and its return to the forefront in the twentieth century can serve as a pair of matching bookends for northern Europe’s lengthy run as one of the poles of global Jewish civilization.
New York Public Library, Dorot Jewish Division
Yizkor books must take their rightful place in the field of Holocaust studies. Invaluable primary sources for scholars and students, they should be required reading in university-level coursework. What other resources can provide such detailed accounts of Jewish communities, institutions and individuals in Eastern Europe before, during and after the Holocaust?
Yizkor books are, in fact, a treasure trove for students in many fields of study, including history, anthropology, sociology and psychology. Starting in the early 1940s, Yizkor books were primarily written in Hebrew and Yiddish, providing a large collection of individual viewpoints and recollections which greatly inform our modern understanding of the Jewish experience during a pivotal time in history.
Yizkor books are tributes to life. Shtetl residents convey a vivid picture of what their lives were like during the inter-war years in Eastern Europe. Through their eyes, we envision thriving, diverse communities that conflict with the stereotypical images of pious, impoverished Jews we see in movies, plays and books. Their reverent recollections serve as an archaeological dig for towns where virtually no Jewish life remains today.
These We Remember contains memories of destruction, escape, loss and resistance. It describes a wide range of Holocaust experiences, including:
- Bearing witness to murder
- Interrogation and imprisonment
- Acts of Righteous Gentiles
- Years in hiding
- Escape to Shanghai (via the Trans-Siberian train route)
- Becoming a Jewish Partisan
An additional Topical Table of Contents, directs readers to memoirs that describe how the Shoah was different in Belarus than in Poland, the Ukraine or other countries. This second edition resource also highlights stories of those who fought back that dispel the stereotypes that all Jews walked silently to their deaths.
Walking the Book: A Family’s Journey
Florette Lynn searched for a family and found a world.
Lynn’s mother left Ivenets, immigrated to America in 1911, and never saw her family again. In this powerful video, Lynn and her family “walk the Yizkor Book”, traveling to Ivenets and surrounding communities to explore their roots, interview residents and a survivor, and honor the memories of those who contributed to the shtetl’s Yizkor Book.
Accompanied by her husband, children and grandchildren, Lynn visits the birthplace of her mother, whose entire family was killed by the Nazis. She talks with a Holocaust survivor who describes life in the shtetl before the war, the brutal extermination of her loved ones and extraordinary acts of bravery.
This DVD includes:
- Scenes from Ivenets and surrounding communities
- An interview with a Holocaust survivor
- Narrated excerpts from survivors’ written memoirs
- Background music played on a “rescued” viola owned by a Jewish musician who perished