Non­fic­tion

The Heav­ens are Emp­ty: Dis­cov­er­ing the Lost Town of Trochenbrod

  • Review
By – December 8, 2011
Though the town of Trochen­brod may be long since gone, Avrom Ben­david-Val adroit­ly res­ur­rects it through a mul­ti­tude of first­hand tes­ti­monies and a com­plete descrip­tion of its his­to­ry and devel­op­ment. Trochen­brod was once a thriv­ing farm­ing town in West­ern Ukraine that was expunged by the Nazi régime. It was a haven to many Jew­ish set­tlers who hoped to find free­dom from the Czar’s oppres­sive fist. Ben­david-Val him­self is the son of a res­i­dent of the town of Trochen­brod who man­aged to escape the small town’s destruc­tion. Yet, the small remains of his father’s past was not enough to quench his yearn­ing for more infor­ma­tion to help com­plete the larg­er enig­ma of Trochen­brod and its arcane past. Ben­david-Val adept­ly mesh­es an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of first­hand mem­o­ries and reflec­tions into one encom­passed spec­trum that helps unveil the cloud­ed his­to­ry of Trochen­brod. Ben­david reflects on his 1997 trip to the area that once marked the town’s loca­tion. He ven­tured through the remain­der of the town and inter­viewed many of whom he encoun­ters. Though about only 60 of Trochenbrod’s res­i­dents sur­vived the ter­rors of the Nazi’s. Ben­david- Val’s com­po­si­tion dif­fers from a his­to­ry text­book in that it comes from his heart and his pure desire to revive the spir­it of a once viva­cious town. It is a gen­uine res­ur­rec­tion of yet anoth­er lost mem­o­ry of the Holo­caust. Ben­david- Val illus­trates to his read­ers that some­thing intan­gi­ble may van­ish, but in the end it is the hon­est mem­o­ries that keep it alive.
Michael Weiss, or Mikey, as every­one knows him as, is cur­rent­ly a senior at the North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my High School. He is an avid read­er and writer, hold­ing the role as a week­ly writer and edi­tor for the North Shore Notes (the newslet­ter). He loves play­ing Ulti­mate Fris­bee, play­ing piano, lis­ten­ing to music, spend­ing time with his old­er broth­er, and need­less to say, read­ing. Dur­ing the sum­mer of 2010 and sum­mer 2011 Mikey enjoyed a unique expe­ri­ence as an intern at the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. He is tru­ly grate­ful for being able to work under the tute­lage of such gen­uine people.

Discussion Questions