A monumental recreation of a lost world. Eliach (Judaic Studies/Brooklyn College) is best known for the 1,500 photographs...


THERE ONCE WAS A WORLD: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok

A monumental recreation of a lost world. Eliach (Judaic Studies/Brooklyn College) is best known for the 1,500 photographs that make up the ""Tower of Life"" she created for permanent display at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Nearly 20 years ago, she experienced an epiphany while flying over Vilna during her tour of the ""Holocaust Kingdom"" of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Warsaw. Somewhere below her were the remains of the Polish shtetl where she began her life, one of the oldest Jewish settlements in Eastern Europe. That sudden realization led to a vow to reconstruct--as far as possible--the life of that unique yet representative place. Eliach calls Eishyshok a ""paradigm"" of the European shtetl. Seventeen years later, the final product of that vow is an exhaustively--yet lovingly--detailed chronicle of Eishyshok, that ""small town with big-city aspirations."" Failing to find the proper documentation and records in official archives, she turned to oral history, private collections, family, and friends. The result is a painfully personal microhistory. This is a monument to a living, thriving community, not a memorial to death and destruction. Accordingly, humanity's foibles and fantasies are recorded with equal vigor. The people of Eishyshok ""were complicated, contradictory, multifaceted, and fascinating, true representatives of the family of man in all its complexity."" Founded in the middle of the 11th century, the town soon had a significant Jewish population. Under the successive domination of Lithuanians, Poles, Germans, Russians, and Soviets, it managed to survive even the Second World War; its Jews did not. Giving voice to those who suffered unspeakable loss, this unique document contains a glossary, demographics (birth, marriage, divorce, death certificates), and 430 b&w illustrations.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1998


Page Count: 832

Publisher: "Little, Brown"

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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