Before World War II, Jews in Eastern Europe were limited in their career opportunities. One of the professions that was open was that of the garment industry. While those who emigrated to the United States used those skills to make a new life in America, those same skills would turn out to save the lives of those who chose to stay in Europe in the face of impending Nazi invasion.
Rena Margulies Chernoff was one of the youngest child survivors of Auschwitz. She was also descended from a family of tailors and garment industry workers who used their skills to stay alive during World War II. Her memoir/autobiography, co-written by Rena and her son, Allen Chernoff, The Tailors Of Tomaszow: A Memoir of Polish Jews, is the first person account of Rena’s life before, during and after World War II.
Rena was born in the 1930’s to a family whose life work was in the garment industry. When the Nazis invaded Poland and began to slowly encroach on the rights and lives of Poland’s Jews, Rena’s family was able to stave off the oppression as best they could by doing what they knew best. While most of Rena’s relations and neighbors were killed, 250 survived, thanks to their skill with a needle and thread.
I’ve read many Holocaust related books. Fiction, based on the experiences of the survivors are wonderful tools to teach about the Holocaust, but ones that seem to hit home the hardest are the first hand accounts of the survivors. These people, now in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, walked through the valley of death and somehow survived. When they are gone, it will be stories like the Tailors of Tomaszow that will live on.
I recommend this book.
My fellow Americans
Next Tuesday, the voting booths will be open across the country. I urge everyone who is 18 and older to take five minutes from their day and vote.
Our country and democracy is a marvelous thing. We have rights that many are still fighting for. But that does not mean we can take those rights for granted.
Those rights come with a price. A price that can easily be paid by spending five minutes at your local voting booth.
I especially urge women to vote. It was not so long ago that we did not have these rights, that we had to fight for the simple idea of telling our government what we thought.
If we forget the battles that previous generations of women fought for the most basic, precious right to vote, then it is our cross to bear for not raising our voices when we had the opportunity.
I recommend the movie Iron Jawed Angels as a reminder on why it is so important to vote.
It’s only five minutes of your day, but those five minutes could impact the rest your life.
Over the years, Paris has developed a reputation for being a romantic city.
But like every city, there is a dark side.
During World War II, French Jews were forced out of their homes and rounded up in the infamous Vel D’Hiv roundup. Before the war, the Veldrome d’Hiver was an indoor cyling track. During the war, it was the first stop to the Nazi ghettos and concentration camps.
In 2008, Tatiana de Rosnay published Sarah’s Key. In July of 1942, Sarah is a 10 year old girl living in Paris. When the Nazis and their collaborators begin for force the Jews of Paris from their homes, Sarah convinces her younger brother to hide in the cupboard. She thinks that she will be returning home in a few hours.
On the eve of the anniversary of the roundup in 2002, journalist Julia Jarmond is writing an article on the Vel D’Hiv roundup. Through her research, she discovers that her family is connected to Sarah’s family and follows Sarah after her family is forced from their home. As she goes through this process, she begins to evaluate her marriage and her life.
In 2008, Sarah’s Key was made into a movie with Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia.
I read the book a few years ago and saw the movie while it was in theaters. I’m no stranger to Holocaust movies, but this movie brought me to tears. One aspect of the book and the movie that I liked was that the brutality that the victims experienced compared to Julia’s humanity and curiosity about Sarah.
I recommend this book.