Blessed with a natural narrative flow, Aviel limns an idyllic portrait of the Jewish agricultural village where he grew up, its neighboring towns of Radon and Eishishok and the colorful inhabitants who lived there — all or almost all, Jewish. Their days were measured by the rhythm of the seasons, the services and goods needed by the townspeople, the holidays, and courtships. This quiet and simple life was marred from time to time by rumors of pogroms. As Nazi propaganda against the Jews grew, so did Poland — with its religious fanaticism — grow restive and ripe to launch physical demonstrations of its anti-Semitism. Aviel describes how the Red Army joined the Germans in crushing Polish resistance and occupying the towns, but the soldiers were friendly. As Jewish refugees entered the town on their flight to Russia, however, there was much brutality committed, mainly by the Lithuanians, against Jews who were caught trying to cross the border. Eventually, a ghetto was formed and those who could, escaped to the forest. Separating, they avoided death, but Aviel’s mother and brother were not so fortunate. The rest of the book describes the struggle for existence as they tried to gauge the situation regarding which forces were advancing, the Germans or the Russians. Some of his father’s farmer friends helped them to survive in the dugout bunker they had made in the forest. Some who had joined the Russian resistance fought in the forest. Imagine searching for bodies after the Germans had left an area and recognizing friends and sometimes family. The fact that anyone survived was a miracle, but the wish to testify was strong, and acted as another impetus to hold on a little while longer. A strongly , but gracefully , written testimony.
Marcia W. Posner, Ph.D., of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, is the library and program director. An author and playwright herself, she loves reviewing for JBW and reading all the other reviews and articles in this marvelous periodical.