Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mendel’s Daughter by Martin Lemelman 2006

"[A] stirring memoir for Gusta's own grandchildren and everyone else's" in a review by Joe Estkenazi in, 4/07

Martin Lemelman, an illustrator and a professor in the Communications Design Department at Kutztown University in Pennsyvania, has written and illustrated with black and white drawings the story of his mother’s experience during the Holocaust. The son of survivors, Martin Lemelman videotaped his mother telling her story in 1989 and revisited the tape many years later. This book is essentially his mother’s memoir – his writing and illustrating the story of her growing up in Germakivka in what was then Poland. She starts by describing her family, her home, the town and their way of life , then goes on to describe the invasion first by the Russians and then by the Germans.

She narrates their hardships and fear and describes the life and fate of each member of her family. She escaped into the forest in Maravinitz with her half-brother Simon and her younger brother Isak where they hid for three years. Her story is both horrifying and fascinating. They dug what she called graves – deep pits in the ground and lived underground to avoid detection. Eventually her sister Yetala joined them and the four of them survived the war due to their ingenuity, the help they got from a number of compassionate Christians, and sheer luck.

This is not a graphic memoir. Lemelman has not drawn cartoons. But because he is an illustrator by profession, the drawings are front and center. He also includes many family photographs, including documents from the family's immigration to America. All are artfully placed on their pages. They become integrated into the illustrations.

To see previews of Lemelman's book For Two Cents Plain about growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950's to be published in September 2010, click here.

Bashi Spitzer – author’s great grandmother
    Menachem Mendel; her son – first wife is Chanah; author’s grandfather
    Malkah – his second wife; sister of first wife; author’s grandmother
        Simon and Chunah –Mendel and Chanah’s sons; author’s half-uncles
        Jenny – Mendel and Malkah’s daughter; married to Fievel
            Eli – their son
        Regina – Mendel and Malkah’s daughter
        Yetala – Mendel and Malkah’s daughter; marries Kalman
        Gusta Schaechter – Mendel and Malkah’s daughter; author’s mother
        Toviah Lemelman – married Gusta; author’s father
            Bernard – their son; married Diane; author’s brother
            Martin – author; married Monica
                Jonathan, David, Benjamin, Sam – their sons
        Isak (Isia) Schachter – Mendel and Malkah’s son
Zlateh – Menachem Mendel’s sister
Shmil Rosenblatt – her husband
    Chantze – their daughter

Germakivka (formerly Poland)
Ivana Pusta
Neu-Freiman Displaced Person’s Camp, Germany


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