In 1945, Marianne Hirsch’s parents left Czernowitz. Over 60 years later, they returned for the first time accompanied by Hirsch, a literary scholar, and her husband, historian Leo Spitzer. Ghosts of Home, which is based on this journey and three subsequent trips that were undertaken by Hirsch and Spitzer over a period of ten years, is an important and compelling examination of the “second generation’s” attempts to grapple with the legacy of the Holocaust. Hirsch and Spitzer tie the stories of their journeys to the geography and complex history of Czernowitz and to the stories of those who called the city home. In a richly textured narrative, the authors combine their voices with oral history, photographs, and written records, as well as with the observations and memories of Hirsch’s parents, their travelling companions, and a group of individuals associated with an online Czernowitz forum with whom they returned on their final trip. By situating Hirsch’s previous work on family and postmemory within the context of her family history, Hirsch and Spitzer expose the complex layers that inform our understanding of the past.
Sarah Shewchuk holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Alberta.