Monday, August 4, 2014

Zagare by Sara Manobla 2014

"A superb storyteller, Manobla draws the reader in brilliantly as she herself transforms from someone disconnected with her past into a kind of Jewish Sherlock Holmes, uncovering the horror of the Holocaust and the heroism of a few families while harboring a sense of hope for the future." Steve Linde, Jerusalem Post, Weekend Magazine

This interesting memoir focuses on Zagare (Zhager in Yiddish), a town in Lithuania on the border of Latvia, the place of origin of the author’s father’s family. The author, who was raised in England, knew only that her father was from Russia and she never inquired more specifically about her roots. She saw herself simply as a British Jew. Later when she moved to Israel in 1960 where she worked for the English department of Radio Israel, she incorporated "Israeli" into her identity. It wasn’t until a paternal cousin started to investigate their past that she became interested in finding out more about exactly where her father’s family had come from. Together, she and her cousin Joy became intimately acquainted with the town of Zagare, its past and its present. After much research and exposure to the history of Lithuanian Jews, she added Litvak to her identity.

The author’s education and research took place over many years. Her first trip to Zagare was in 1995. It culminated 17 years later in 2012 in a visit to attend the ceremony honoring the descendant of a Lithuanian family who had hid a Jewish family of Zagare during the Holocaust. The author used her training as a journalist to track down the only Jewish survivor to verify the bravery of this Lithuanian family during the war. She then passed the information on to Yad Vashem who designated  the family as rescuers honored as The Righteous Among Nations.

This memoir is exceedingly useful as a guide to the process of galvanizing support for a cause beyond one of Manobla's priorities - making sure that the Lithuanian rescuers were honored. The author and others worked very hard at getting the local population of Zagare to acknowledge their citizens’ active participation and complicity in the rounding up and the killing of the Jews of Zagare in 1941. The author read the history, interviewed current residents, and consulted with historians and other descendants who have dealt with these issues. She learned that the conventional bureaucratic historical narrative is one that is based on the premise that there was a double genocide in Lithuania which essentially equates Soviet persecution of Lithuanians with German persecution of Jews. She lays out the many ways she and others, both Jewish and Lithuanian, worked at chipping away at this mentality that reveals latent anti-Semitism and indifference. And they found that because the beliefs were so entrenched, changing them was a very slow process. But they were successful in making sure signage was mounted in more central locations and that signage specifically mentions that Jews were buried in mass graves and Lithuanian neighbors had been collaborators.

There are many lessons to be learned from this book that can be applied to other communities, especially those communities which were in countries that were part of the former Soviet Union.

Included is a useful list of sources as well as photos.

To see the Zagare Facebook page where there are lot of old photos of Jewish residents of Zagare, click here.

To read about the role of Lithuanians in the extermination of the Jewish community during World War II, click here.

Israel Friedlander
Myer Israelovich
David Towb – brother of Israel and Myer; married Batya (Berthe) Moeller; second wife Rose
   Ya’akov (Jack) Towb – son of David and Batya
   Harry Towb – son of David and Berthe
   Rebecca Towb Landau – daughter of David and Berthe
   Leah Towb Landau – daughter of David and Berthe
   William Towb – son of David and Berthe; married Sylvia Jacobs
       Ursula Sara Towb Manobla – daughter of William and Sylvia; author
           Ze’ev – son of Ursula
                 Rona Gabrielle Abadi – granddaughter of Ursula
       Elizabeth Towb – daughter of William and Sylvia
   Massie Towb Brodie – daughter of David and Berthe
    Louis Towb – son of David and Berthe; married to Elsie
       Joy Towb Hall – daughter of Louis and Elsie; married to Maynard
          Jessica – daughter of Joy and Maynard
    Suki Towb Pay – daughter of Louis and Elsie

Lena Jackson Jacobs – mother of Sylvia Jacobs (see above)
Yitzhak Moeller - grandfather of Batya Moeller (see above) )
     Ze’ev Wolf – son of Yitzhak

Friends and Aquaintances
Shimon Alperovitz
Roza Bieliauskiene
    Julius Bieliauskas – son of Roza
Werner Braun
Mendy Cahan
Roger Cohen
Jacob Gens
Gil Kessary
Haim Tal
Viktor and Irina Brailovsky
    Loenid Barilovsky – son of Viktor and Irina
    Galia Barilovsky – daughter of Viktor and Irina
Yuli Kosharovsky
Yosef Begun
Vladimir Prestin
Pavel Abramovich – brother-in-law of  Vladimir Prestin
Ilya Lempert
Benjamin Levich
Alexander Lerner
Eliahu Essas
Benjamin Fein
Rod Freedman
Katya Gusarov
Mark Azbel
Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky
Miriam Schneider
    Edmundas Tiesnesis – son of Miriam
Aba Taratuta
Yevgeny Arye
Valentinas Kaplunas
Dovid Katz
Isaac Mendelssohn
    Vidmantas Mendelsonas – son of Isaac
Cliff Marks
Len Yodaiken (Judeikin)
Wolf and Rose Zwi
Bertha Taubman
Solomon Teitelbaum
Batya Trusfus
    Riva Trusfus Yoffe – daughter of Batya
         Ruth Yoffe- daughter of Riva
             Ya’akov – son of Ruth
        Misha Yoffe – son of Riva
    Eta Trusfus Kolodnaya – daughter of Batya
    Irle Trusfus – daughter of Batya
Allan Blacher – relative of Batya Trusfus
Jacob Kagan
Liat Wexelman
Raymond and Gill Woolfson
Hazel Woolfson
Alter Zagorsky
Ephraim Zuroff

Zagare, Lithuania
Baisogala, Lithuania
Siauliai ghetto, Lithuania
Vilnius, Lithuania
Antwerp, the Netherlands
Swansea, Wales
Newcastle, England
South Africa
Kazan, Soviet Union