This was first posted as "No Holocaust Survivors in My Family" http://shilohmusings.blogspot.co.il/2016/05/no-holocaust-survivors-in-my-family.html  on my blog Shiloh Musings  http://shilohmusings.blogspot.co.il/. All of the photos in this post are my own photography.

Since moving to Israel in 1970, I've always felt rather fish out of water during this season. It's Holocaust Memorial time, and it has always seemed that I'm the only one who doesn't have a "Holocaust Story."

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Especially, since moving to Shiloh in 1981, where there are large community commemorations, and so many of my neighbors have family stories that could even be made into films, I feel left out. I wasn't raised at all with any family awareness of the Holocaust. It was something I learned about in Hebrew School and on American television. It was "newsworthy" because of the play the "Diary of Anne Frank" and the Eichmann Trial, both which happened when I was still in elementary school.
I spent my childhood in Bell Park Gardens, Bayside, NY, which was a garden apartment neighborhood/public housing development built for United States army/military veterans. Also the private and two-family homes in my neighborhood were built as part of the same program. None of our parents, to my memory, had foreign accents; they had all been raised in the United States. Most grew up in the tenements/slums of Brooklyn, The Bronx and the Lower East Side. Moving to the new neighborhood in northeastern Queens was their escape from poverty and a chance to give us kids a new wonderful life.

I have friends of the same age, raised in very different sorts of New York, and other North/South American and European neighborhoods in which all of the parents were Holocaust survivors. You could say that we lived in parallel universes.

My grandparents were all born in Europe, my paternal grandfather from Neshelsk, Poland, my maternal grandfather from near Kiev, Ukraine, and both my grandmothers were from Rogotshov, Belarus. All of those areas were seriously affected (meaning that the Jewish communities were decimated) by the Nazis and their enablers during the Holocaust, so how could I have been so far removed from Holocaust awareness and stories?

All of my father's grandparents, almost all aunts and uncles, too, made it to the United States well before the Holocaust. He grew up in a large extended family on both sides. Only after I was married did I hear that two of my grandmother's sisters stayed in the USSR; they were great believers in their country, and since the war there hasn't been any contact.

On the other hand, my mother was raised without any aunts, uncles or cousins. Her parents were alone in America, and she has no idea what happened to the rest of her family.


Great-Grandmother Vishnevsky
of Rogotshov, Belarus


Great-Grandfather Vishnevsky
of Rogotshov, Belarus

After the war, no relatives searched for my grandparents on either side, and whatever searches they did for surviving relatives were unsuccessful. There may be distant cousins alive someplace in this earth, but I don't know them, at least not as cousins. When the big Russian FSU aliyah made it to Israel over twenty years ago, I told my family story hoping for some miracle to find long lost relatives, but I failed. My father's two missing aunts were called Milka and Nechama Brynien, born in Rogotshov, Belarus, and my maternal grandmother's family was the Vishnevsky's of Rogotshov, Belarus. From some old pictures, there probably were family members in Minsk, too, and other nearby cities. My maternal grandfather was Abraham Shankman, born an orphan, raised by grandparents without any siblings.

That's why, at least to my knowledge, there were no Holocaust survivors in my family.

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