Author: Yaffa Eliach

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Book:There Once Was a World

There Once Was a World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok

Yaffa Eliach

Two million visitors a year enter the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where 1,600 photographs from the shtetl of Eishyshok constitute what many consider to be the most moving exhibit in the museum—the Tower of Life. Eliach’s nine-century saga of Eastern European Jewish life is richer and fuller than any ever written. Her research took her from family attics on six continents to state archives no scholar had seen since the start of the Cold War. Her research on family life, for example, shows that the “world of our fathers” was actually a world in which all the affairs of daily life were run by mothers. Her profound understanding of medieval history illuminates her description of early Lithuania, the last pagan country in Europe and the only one where Jews lived on equal terms with the rest of the population. Access to family letters and memorabilia and interviews with shtetl survivors gave her startling insight into one of history’s most troubling questions: Why were the Jews so blind to the Nazi threat?

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