Monday, March 3, 2014

My Dear Hindalla, Remember Me: Letters from a Lost World, May 1937 – January 1940 by Marlene Englander 2012

"A moving and beautiful true story of love and friendship unfolds through letters written between two young people." from a review by Leslie Shafran in the Cleveland Jewish News 11/1/2012

This large format paperback book consists mainly of a series of 28 letters, reproduced in Yiddish and translated into English (by the recipient), written by Nachum Berman to Hinda Zarkey. Having grown up in the small town of Widze, which was then in Poland but is now in Belarus, Hinda Zarkey relocated to the larger town of Seduva in Lithuania in 1935 when she was twelve years old to attend junior high school. It was there, where she lived with her mother’s sister and her family, that she met Nachum Berman who was a young pharmacist working in her aunt’s pharmacy.  In 1937 she immigrated with her aunt’s family to Cleveland, Ohio. Berman stayed behind, continuing to work in the pharmacy.

Berman wrote regularly and Hinda Zarkey responded, but only his letters to her survive. The letters are part of an ongoing conversation between the two. Berman tells her what books he’s reading, what plays and movies he’s seen, how work is going, how he hopes to spend his vacation. He makes suggestions to her about what she might like to read and he encourages her in her studies. He also chats about people he’s seen who send their regards and asks her questions about life in America. But as time moves on his letters take on, first a melancholy tone, and then one of desperation. For example, he writes early on about the pleasure he receives from a radio he’s bought, but then later he writes about being glued to the radio in order to follow the awful news. He is looking for a way out and knows it’s not going to be easy.

Marlene Englander, Hinda Zarkey Saul's daughter, has created this book out of Nachum Berman’s letters to her mother to which she has added a lot of ancillary material. She and her mother annotated the letters which are included as endnotes.  She also included many family photos as well as introductory material explaining her motivation for working on and publishing the book. She also gives the readers some background material on towns that play a major role in the story as well as an abbreviated family history. Crucial to Englander’s immersion in her mother’s story is a “roots” trip she took in 2010 where, most significant  to her, she visited Widze and Seduva. Back home she tried to find more specific information about the fate of her mother’s family who stayed behind in Widze and the fate of Nachum Berman. She includes facsimiles of documents filed at Yad Vashem and an extensive list of the sources she consulted for her research.

This book has an immediacy not often found in Holocaust memoirs because it includes letters in the original Yiddish as well as in translation. The everyday discussions in the letters bring the 1930s to life in Nachum Berman's corner of the world which is enhanced by the accompanying photos.

To read an article about the Holocaust in Lithuania click here.

Zvi Hirsch Kagan – married Doba Himmelfarb
    Chana Kagan – daughter of Zvi Hirsch and Doba; married Alchonan Zarchi
         Hinda Kagan – daughter of Chana and Alchonan; married Jack Saul
             Marlene Saul – daughter of Hinda and Jack; married Jon Englander
              Kenneth and Howard Saul – sons of Hinda and Jack
         Gita Kagan – daughter of Chana and Alchonan
    Goda  Kagan – daughter of Zvi Hirsch and Doba; married Samuel Bardon
         Yvette Bardon – daughter of Goda and Samuel; married Shale Sonkin
     Rachel, Isaac, Joseph Kagan – children of Zvi Hirsch and Doba

Leib and Lifsha Zarchi – parents of Alchonan Zarchi
Rachmiel Gordon – his mother was Zvi Hirsch Kagan’s sister
     Ralph and Gloria Gordon – children of Rachmiel

Friends and Acquaintances
Faiva and Freida Berman
     Nochum Berman – son of Faiva and Freida
Aron Bank
Shlomo and Liuba Brett
     Milke Brett – daughter of Shlomo and Liuba
Moshe Bret – son of Shlomo and Liuba
Zalman Davidowitz
     Sioma Davidowitz – son of Zalman
Velvel Feifert
Yudel Friedlander
     Elke Friedlander – daughter of Yudel
Nechama Hak
Malke Kaplan
Freidele Mel
Shaya and Chava Mellman
      Lola Mellman – daughter of Shaya and Chava; married Myron Friedman
      Ania Mellman – daughter of Shaya and Chava
Raisa Payim
Shulamit Rabinowitz
Bassia Ulfskyer
Herschel Ulfsky – brother of Bassia
Shlomo and Liuba Brett
Gnessa Yosem

Ponevezh, Lithuania
Widze, Poland (now Vidzy, Belarus)
Seduva, Lithuania
Cleveland, Ohio
South Euclid, Ohio
Shaker Heights, Ohio
Gary, Indiana

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