Monday, April 24, 2017

My Family's Lack of Holocaust Story is the Biggest Story

For most of my life, ever since I first heard of the Holocaust in Hebrew School and on television, when the The Diary of Anne Frank came out my reaction has been.
It's not my family's story. My parents were born in America, and my grandparents all immigrated to there in the early twentieth century, decades before the Nazis.
And yes, I've written it here too on my blogs.

The late 1950's and early 1960's were when the general public learned about the Holocaust, because besides the Anne Frank story, which was packaged perfectly, the very young State of Israel managed to capture Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann and bring him to public trial.

Even though all of my grandparents were from European locations, Rogotshov, Nasielsk and Kiev, that had seen its Jewish population decimated by the Nazis I had never ever heard a single story that connected my family to that major and unprecedented tragedy. In addition, I grew up in Bell Park Gardens, Bayside, NY, which was housing for American war veterans, and none of the parents although over 90% Jewish, had European accents or were Holocaust survivors. In the local Conservative synagogue, Oakland Jewish Center, where I went to Hebrew School, I don't remember anyone coming in giving a first-person story of the Holocaust or saying that their family had escaped or experienced it.

Actually, the easy fact that my mother had neither cousins nor aunts and uncles in America wasn't attributed to the Holocaust until the poem Babi Yar was published and publicized in America. That's when my mother said that her mother's family was probably among the Jews massacred in Babi Yar.

The Vishnefskys of Rogotshov, parents of my mother's mother. And above that is a small photo of my mother's family, Passover, most probably 1948 or 1949.
This morning when I was trying to decide what to write, I first rejected Holocaust Memorial Day, because I don't have a "story." My father's father's family all left Nesielsk, Poland over a decade before it was conquered by the Nazis, so they were safely in New York long before the Nazis came to power. And we have heard nothing about what actually happened to my paternal grandmother's two sisters who remained in the USSR, except that they were loyal communists.

The truth is that we don't know if there are any heroic stories from my family, because nobody survived to tell us. And just now I've realized that I do have a story. My story is that my family members who stayed in Europe were all swallowed up in the black hole of the Nazi Holocaust not even leaving enough clues to discover a story. We can't even add their names.


Shtrudel said...

Even if you know nothing NOTHING about the circumstances of the deaths of your relatives, the very fact that they existed before the war and nothing was heard of them following the war you SHOULD add their names to the list!... They obviously didn't just vanish... And if they survived, and they knew relatives existed in the US they would have sought contacts...

In the 50's my late father was a seaman... He used to go to central postal offices (where phone books of the whole country were available) and search for possible surviving relatives in every country he got to... Over and over... He kept this up until the mid 60's... We tried again, this time using the internet in 2000 and again in 2010... We never had any success...

Batya said...

Yes, so that's why I write about them, the Vishnefskys of Rogotshov. Maybe some day...Gd willing.

Mr. Cohen said...

There is one piece of Jewish History that is
in great danger of being forgotten because
so few people know about it.

I am one of the very few who know it,
so I put my very rare knowledge into
writing so that it not become forgotten:

Greek NYC Jews and Syrian NYC Jews: