Interviewing locals, uncovering forgotten archives and encountering a strange old man who wants to 'speak to a Jew' before he dies, Cassedy weaves together a historical quilt that provides important context. From a review by Abe Novick published in the Baltimore Jewish Times on 4/27/2012
She had two other goals as well. Before she left for Lithuania she visited her grandfather’s elderly half-brother, Willie, the last surviving member of her grandfather’s generation, who had been a prisoner of the Shavl ghetto. He looked at maps with her and gave her information she wanted to check out. And she also was interested in assessing how contemporary Lithuanian institutions and ordinary Lithuanian citizens were dealing with their roles in all but eliminating the Lithuanian Jewish community.
The author had a challenging but rewarding stay in Lithuania. She was overwhelmed by the intensity of her Yiddish classes. The same was true about her travels around Lithuania and her conversations with both Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. All of it was emotionally exhausting, but she found her Yiddish improved in leaps and bounds. And in her travels, in some cases she found what she assumed she’d find: many Lithuanians ignorant of their own history. But she also met Lithuanians who had played a role in saving Jews and heard stories about others who had hidden Jews in barns and attics and had passed food over the ghetto walls.
What was most enlightening to Cassedy and what she spends some time developing are the essential questions she began to formulate after her encounters with both Jews and non-Jews. She conducts an interesting analysis of the supposedly opposing terms: victim and collaborator, enforcer and protector, resister and bystander. And her discussion of how you define resistance both within and outside the ghetto is thought provoking, as is her discussion of forgiveness, condemnation, revenge and hatred.
In this engaging memoir the author, who begins with an informative overview of Lithuanian Jewish history and then takes us through the horrors of World War II and its aftermath, ends in the present, contemplating the future. She takes comfort in learning that young Lithuanians are far better informed because of the many thoughtful programs and exhibits that have been designed by Jews and non-Jews.. She learns that they are presented at schools and museums, and she sees that markers memorializing murdered Jews have become part of the landscape. She hopes against hope that lessons about the past will take hold and inform the future.
To consult a Lithuania Holocaust atlas, click here.
To read an interview with Ellen Cassedy about the writing of this memoir click here.
Dovid Mikhl Levinas – married Asne; second wife Soreh
Yankl (Jack) Levinas – son of Dovid Mikhl and Asne
Ellen Cassedy – married Jeff Blum; author
Tim and Meg Blum – children of Ellen and Jeff
Shaya Levinas – son of Dovid Mikhl and Asne
Aaron Levin(as) – son of Dovid Mikhl and Asne; married Sonya
Asya Levin Shindelman – daughter of Aaron and Sonya
Vova Levin – son of Aaron and Sonya
Taybe Levinaite – daughter of Dovid Mikhl and Asne
Soreh Levinaite – daughter of Dovid Mikhl and Asne
Rikle Levinaite – daughter of Dovid Mikhl and Asne
Luba Levinaite – daughter of Dovid Mikhl and Asne
Menachem Mendel Levinas – son of Dovid Mikhl and Asne
Pinchas Levinas – son of Dovid Mikhl and Asne
William Levin(as)– son of Dovid Mikhl and Soreh; married Manya
David and Daniel Levin – cousins of author; probably sons of William and Manya
Friends and Acquaintances and Sources
Irena Veisaite (Veis, Weiss)
Jacob Gens – brother to Efroyim
Vilnius (Vilna), Lithuania
Vilna ghetto, Lithuania
The Chor Shul (the Choral Synagogue), Vilnius
Siauliai (Shavl), Lithuania
Shavl ghetto, Lithuania
Kaunus (Kovno), Lithuania
Kovno ghetto, Lithuania
Ponar forest, Lithuania
Sobibor Concentration Camp, Poland
Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany