We Are Still Here
Memoirs of a Child of Survivors
By Rebecca Liebermann Nissel Gefen Publishing House: Jerusalem and New York, (2006)
Reviewed by Simone Bonim - February 1, 2007
Rebecca Liebermann Nissel grew up in Austria. This in itself may not be an interesting fact until you consider that she is a religious Jew, and the daughter of two Holocaust survivors who made their home in post-war Vienna. In her mesmerizing memoir We Are Still Here: Memoirs of a Child of Survivors she recounts the story of her family. Nissel's mother was from Hungary and her father from Romania, and they met and married after the war. Unlike many of the other survivors, they did not leave Europe; rather they settled in Austria, where Nissel was raised. Growing up, Nissel's parents regaled her with stories about her grandparents and other family members, many of which did not survive the Holocaust. They shared with her their own personal stories and information about what they endured during the Holocaust. Later, after she was grown and had a family of her own, she began to actively seek out the reminiscences of other surviving family members, both about the family in general, and what they endured at the hands of the Nazis.
In We Are Still Here Nissel has compiled a collection of short essays that paint a vivid picture of her family's history, essays that are based upon her own experiences and those of other family members. In these essays, Nissel provides insights into what life was like in pre-war Romania and Hungary, and she describes what happened to various family members during the Holocaust. The terrifying experiences that her parents endured make up the bulk of these Holocaust reminiscences, but these reminiscences are only a part of a greater whole. This is a book about a family that covers five generations. It begins before the war, describes her parents wartime experiences, and then explores what came after the war and how her family was reborn from the death and destruction that had decimated European Jewry. Within these essays, Nissel provides insights into why her parents chose to remain in Austria after the war and what life was like growing up in a city where so many Jews were recently rounded up and sent to their deaths. Nissel also introduces us to her own children and grandchildren and gives us an intimate glimpse into their lives.
We Are Still Here is a moving book, and while sad at times, its overall theme is one of hope, dignity, and the love of family. In many of these essays, Nissel compassionately retells the stories of her parent's experiences during the Holocaust, and illustrates how, out of these horrific events, they were able to find the strength to go on. To lift themselves out of the ashes and to recover from the loss of so many family members, to make a new family and to instill in Nissel the ideal that despite all the evil in the world, that life is good and that there is always hope.
We Are Still Here is an absorbing and book that looks beyond the Holocaust to show what life was like for her parents, after the war, and how their family flourished, fertilized with love, compassion, and an indomitable faith that helped to sustain and energize them through all the good times, and the bad.
Edith's Story: Courage, Love, and Survival during World War II, by Edith Van Hessen Velmans.
During World War II, Edith Van Hessen, a young Jewish girl from Holland, was forced to go into hiding to prevent her deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. She hid in plain sight - taking on the persona of a Christian and working as a maid. This is the story of her ordeal and the courageous people who helped to hide her.
Fragments of Memory: From Kolin to Jerusalem , by Hana Greenfield.
A chilling memoir of Greenfield's horrific experiences during the Holocaust, that found her in Terezin Ghetto, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen and working in Hamburg, Germany as a slave laborer. Also chronicles the fate of the Bialystock children.