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I Want You to Know We're Still Here by Esther Safran Foer

2021, HQ, Harper Collins Publishers

Esther Safran Foer recounts the search for her family's Ukrainian past in this Holocaust memoir. Her son, Jonathan Foer, wrote Everything Is Illuminated (2002), a fictionalised account of the same story which became a best -seller and was made into a movie.


Safran Foer was born in a refugee camp in Ukraine where her parents lived after their families and villages in Ukraine were decimated during WWII. They immigrated to the United States to start a new life.


Secrecy reigned in their family, and it was only after the death of her father that Foer finally learned of his first wife and daughter who were murdered in the ghetto while he was out on work duty.


Determined to find the name of her half-sister, and to learn what had happened to her family, Foer sets out on a journey to find Trochenbrod, the Jewish village where they lived before the Nazis destroyed it and murdered almost all the 5,000 inhabitants.


Ukraine isn't always associated with the Holocaust, maybe because most of its victims didn't die in concentration camps like Auschwitz. But an estimated 1.5 million people, a quarter of the total number of Holocaust victims, died in Ukraine, where the killing was largely by shooting to death at close range in fields, forests and ravines (1).


Esther Safran Foer's work is impressive for the scope and intensity of her determination to discover and understand her family's past, and for her belief in the importance of declaring, in the face of brutal attempted genocide, "We're still here."


Watch:

The Lost Town (documentary about one man's search for Trochenbrod, trailer)


Read:

Beyond Trochenbrod by Betty Gold

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