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.