“Family is everything!” Mama used to say. Yet, I never realized just how important everything was until I had nothing. Until my family was consumed by the hatred and misguided megalomania of a single lunatic, who crafted “The Final Solution” as the way to rid the world of all that was precious to me.
People generally understand the Holocaust as one of history’s darkest periods. Yet, that understanding is framed by viewing footage from newsreels where the Jews of Eastern Europe become familiar as victims — black and white images of naked skeletal remains stacked up like kindling, or victims-in-waiting kneeling before open pits, Nazi soldiers standing behind them with rifles poised. Or iconic images of a young boy with his hands raised above his head.
Then, of course, are the numbers. The sheer volume of those destroyed in the first genocide where science was employed to systematically destroy those selected by a virtual killing machine. 6 million souls. Two-thirds of Eastern Europe’s Jewish population. Gone. Murdered.
Yet, each of those 6 million were members of families like mine in a culture that lived and breathed family from every pore. My family was much like yours, the only difference perhaps that we lived in shtels (Jewish villages) and cities in Poland. We were born, lived, loved and laughed — just like your families. We made our livings in a variety of ways, from working in farming communities to city butcher shops. We sought our degrees in institutions of higher learning, studied art, became professionals, fell in love and married. We debated the finer philosophical points raised by history’s great minds, and immersed ourselves in worship to the God who was the center of our existence. We harbored the same hopes and dreams as every living soul.
Yet, as Jews, we stood in the same shadows of fear occupied by our ancestors from the moment we chose God, and he in turn chose us for our love of Him and dedication to his ways. Being “The Chosen People,” was never easy, and when I was young I wished that God would choose somebody else for a change. But me and my family — Mama and Popa, brother Izzy, sister Miri, wife Sarah, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins – were born into times and circumstances where choosing and being chosen framed our existence. Our choices defined our humanity, informed our destinies and shaped our relationships with God.
Like you, we were born into a world where God gave us the freedom to choose how to act, or react to the world around us. Yes, “Family is everything,” but we are all extended family, aren’t we? So, as family, I invite you to get to know more about my world, for within that world you may discover some pieces of your own.
A blog is a personal connection in today’s impersonal universe. I will attempt to keep my scribe busy as she relates some of the stories of my life, but most can be found in the book she has been working on for the past 12 years. Her book – MY book – is called “Golanski’s Treasures.” Until it is ready to be brought forth into the world, perhaps we can become acquainted through this blog. Feel free to ask questions, or join conversations. No need to stand on formalities – speak right up! This is a dialogue. Speak your mind, but please be considerate of one another, me and my family, and your writer Sue Ross along the way. It’s easy to stay in touch. Just click on the “follow” button at the left and you’ll be notified of new posts.