Tag Archives: Jewish Poland

Lorri M. Book Review: Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945

country of ash Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945, by Edward Reicher, is a compelling memoir, and one that speaks forthrightly about the Holocaust and how it affected Reicher and his family.

The horrific incidents and events that took place between 1939-1945 are depicted with candor, leaving no detail undisclosed. From the Lodz ghetto to the Warsaw ghetto and all locations in between, Reicher writes about the horrors of the Jewish ghetto life, the inhumanities that the Jewish population faced and had to deal with, and the agonizing moments of family separation.

At one point he had to make a choice between his severely ill father in his house, and his wife and child back home. He chose to stay with his father, because he felt he would not be able to go on without him. He felt that his family would be able to survive, and prayed he made the right decision.

Being a doctor who specialized in skin disorders, he was forced to treat the Germans. which he did. He was not given special privilege for his efforts. Reicher literally saved Germans from the agony of skin diseases, including syphilis and gonorrhea. He did so out of duty as a doctor. He also treated other Jews who ended up turning on him, and did nothing to help him. He eventually was able to hide on the Aryan side of Warsaw, disguised and running from place to place.

Reicher witnessed a lot of abusive actions and witnessed Jews being murdered. He, himself, suffered abuse, but he writes about that in a minor fashion compared to what other Jews endured. He had involvement with Chaim Rumkowski, a man that he described as a madman, and a self-appointed “King of the Jews”. He courageously testified against Hermann Hofle, and how Hofle helped send hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths in Poland.

Reicher survived the Holocaust, along with his wife and daughter. His daughter, Elisabeth Bizouard-Reicher translated her father’s book to French from Polish, and now, it has been translated to English by Magda Bogin.

Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945 is not only a tribute to the strength, determination, and fortitude, but a tribute to all of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It is a tribute to those who were not Jewish, yet did strive to offer a place to hide and offer food to Reicher and/or his family. It is a memoir that honors Reicher’s daughter, Elisabeth Bizouard-Reicher’s determination to see her father’s memoir in print for all the world to read the horrors and inhumanities suffered by the Polish Jews.

Country of Ash
is intense, graphic with its depictions, and a brilliantly written account of one man’s environment and interactions during the Holocaust. It is written without flourish or exaggeration, but written as Edward Reicher witnessed events, and as he found himself involved in the many crossroads of decision and action.

It is not a book I will soon forget due to the extensiveness and intensity of the content, which makes it a difficult read. But, read, I had to, because I wanted to know the truth of his story. It is not a book I will soon forget.
May 16, 2013 – 7 Sivan, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, World War II

Lorri M. Review: Triumph and Tragedy

triumph and tragedy2 Triumph and Tragedy, by Rabbi Joel Padowitz is a book that takes the reader on an amazing journey of 1,000 years, in the life of Poland and its Jewish communities.

The book might seem like a travel guide to some, but let me tell you, it is much more than that, and it is a compelling read. Beginning with the year 966 through the Holocaust, the reader is taken down the road of antisemitism at its worst, and individuals at their best. The Jewish communities in Poland have always had antisemitism as their burden in life, and have been blamed for much of what happened in Poland, throughout the years.

The Black Death (the Plague), for instance, is one prime example of blaming Jews for the epidemic of deaths that rampaged through the country, and all of Europe. Due to the fact that the healers of the time did not understand the medical reasons for the plague, they put the blame on Jews, and said that they intentionally poisoned the wells. Therefore, tens of thousands of Jewish people were massacred. Life was literally lived on the edge for the Jewish survivors.

The Golden age brought a bit of acceptance to the Jews, with Sigismund I on the throne, which lasted for forty years. Although he protected the Jews and they were accepted in Polish society, the underlying faction of antisemitism still festered. Kabbalah became a mystical force, which the outside world could not comprehend. The mysticism aspect frightened Christians and other non-Jews. This fear continued through the 18th century with the rise of the Hassidic communities in Poland, and their unique traditions, mannerisms, and foundation of learning.

Eventually Russia took over the Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth, and the Jewish population were under Russian rule. The Jews were forced to live in the Pale of Settlement, involving almost five million Jews. There were restrictions, and of course, antisemitism was prevalent. Pogroms existed, Jews were beaten, killed, and atrocious living conditions were forced upon them. Yet, life continued, and with it, so did hope.

The pre-war events leading up to the Holocaust made life almost impossible for the Jewish communities. Wearing of a yellow star became mandatory for Jews, along with less than ideal living conditions, animal treatment of Jews, loss of homes and businesses, being forced into ghetto situations, and so much more. And, of course, there was the dreadful and horrific Holocaust, and its gruesomeness, repercussions and horrendous outcomes. But, Rabbi Padowitz does not want the reader to dwell only on that aspect, within Triumph and Tragedy.

Within the pages are photographs, artistic works, writings, documents, graphs, etc., that underscore the rich Jewish culture that was thriving in Jewish Poland. That is what Rabbi Padowitz wants the reader to be aware of. Throughout the antisemitism, the Jews managed to produce artistic culture within their communities. They managed to be able to keep their traditions alive within the walls of life. Although some assimilated into the non-Jewish environment in their daily living, their contributions were strong.

Throughout the history of Jewish antisemitism, the life flame flickered, life went on, businesses were built, shops catered to everyone, cultural traditions continued, and the Jews led their lives with hope. During the Holocaust they were a force, an underground force. There were also individuals (both Jewish and non-Jewish) who did their best to save the Jews. The Jews were a life force that would not let the fires of their lives burn out.

The book is so well organized, and for me that was an example of Rabbi Padowitz’s desire to incorporate the years in a readable format for all readers. Various segments include the most visited Polish sites, and also articles on specific individuals who endeavored to change the face of atrocity. What began as a guide for the Jews traveling to Poland, through the JRoots organization (Jewish Journeys Connecting Generations), became a book of Jewish culture, filled with historic importance. This reader was fascinated with the knowledge contained throughout the book, and its educational importance can not be emphasized enough. Jewish readers will be transported back in time, and come to the present with a deeper understanding of the Polish Jewish population. Some might be inspired to visit Poland, in search of not only their ancestral background, but their own Jewish identity.

I highly recommend Triumph and Tragedy: Journeying Through 1,000 Years of Jewish Life in Poland, by Rabbi Joel Padowitz. It is not only filled with educational and Jewish importance, but also a book that is filled with hope, with the voice of Jewish life, and inspiring on so many levels.

Thank you to Stuart Schnee, PR, and to JRoots, for my complimentary copy. I feel privileged to have received it.

April 28, 2013 – 28 Nisan, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission

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Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Non-Fiction, World War II

Friday News – April 5, 2013

universal flow

I am excited! A long-awaited book has finally been published! I ordered Bristol House: A Novel, by Beverly Swerling, this morning. I have read all of her novels, so far, and have enjoyed each one.

I finished reading a very compelling book: Triumph and Tragedy – Journeying Through 1000 Years of Jewish Life in Poland.

I am almost finished reading The End of Your Life Book Club.

I reviewed: The Life Transforming Diet: Based on Health and Psychological Principles of Maimonides.

I am attending a VeJewtarian Havdalah on Saturday night, at a local vegetarian restaurant. We will welcome the new week with a Havdalah candle lighting, blessing wine and smelling some spices, and then have dinner together.

Visit Hannah’s Nook for a recipe for Leek Oatmeal Loaf.

Leora posted a beautiful water color, and also a lovely poem, written by Valeri Drach Weidmann.

I will be volunteering at a Yom HaShoa Memorial Service this Sunday at Mt. Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries in Simi Valley, CA. It isn’t too late to send in an acknowledgement to volunteer, so if you live locally, you might consider doing so.

Ashkenazis and Crohn’s Disease

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has died. She died on April 3, 2013. May her memory be for a Loving Blessing.

Rest in Peace, Roger Ebert.

Shabbat Shalom!

April 5, 2013 – 25 Nisan, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Uncategorized