Yizkor Book Translations

Michael Schoeman, of New York,  really hit the Genealogical Jackpot when he opened the Yizkor Book for the Polish town of Biala Rawska, from which his grandfather emigrated in 1905. There, he found a photo that he recognized from his childhood home and was excited to discover that it accompanied an article written in Yiddish by his grandfather, Joseph Meyer Weber (1883-1958), describing his hometown. Michael contacted me to arrange a translation of the Yizkor Book article into English.

yizkor book translation
This picture of Joseph and Helen Weber was recognized by their grandson in the Biala Rawska Yizkor Book

I love doing Yizkor book translations as I find it quite thrilling to make a contribution to these incredible historical records. The Yizkor Books were compiled in the ’50s and ’60s, when thousands of Holocaust survivors organized themselves into small societies dedicated to documenting the history of destroyed European Jewish communities. These individuals contributed written accounts and photographs to create volumes of “memorial books” to perpetuate the memory of their towns and the people who lived there. This is even more astonishing when we consider that members of each town’s group were scattered across the world and that communications in those days were almost exclusively by snail mail, and that publication costs were high. As primary historical documents of huge significance, the Yizkor books are a gift for all generations from the those battered yet wise survivors, and a unique enterprise of the “People of the Book.”

The Yizkor books are primarily written in Yiddish and Hebrew, and I consider it a privilege to translate these volumes into English so that more people can benefit from them. Yiddish-Translation.com is regularly approached by people who want relevant chapters from Yizkor books translated in order to help them with their research. You can find scans of the original Yizkor Books on the New York Public Library website. JewishGen has a wonderful project to translate the tables of contents, which is a good place to start if you would like a general idea of what a particular Yizkor book might offer you. JewishGen encourages individuals and groups to privately organize the translation of chapters that interest them, because the volume of material is just too vast to rely on their own pool of volunteers. Michael Schoeman plans to contribute his translation to JewishGen’s archives and we encourage all our clients to do the same.

Yizkor books can be a goldmine of information for people researching their Jewish genealogy. If you know the name of the town where your family lived, you can learn a great deal about their lifestyle and society from that town’s Yizkor book, and you might be fortunate enough to find a mention of your relatives in the written accounts or among the necrologies (lists of the dead). Like Michael Schoeman, you might even hit the jackpot…

Michael has agreed to let me publish the English translation of his grandfather’s article in the Biala Rawska Yizkor book, for the benefit of other people researching the Jewish community of Biala and surrounding regions. Joseph Weber’s  account is packed with details about life in Biala, as well as some very interesting observations about that society. I especially enjoyed his insight about how there were no poor people in the town because the general standard of living was so low and that rich people would give away their fortunes in order to marry their children off well. The religious-social stratification and snobbery is also evoked quite clearly.

Thank you to Michael for making this translation available to us, and thank you to the late Joseph Weber, and to the thousands of other Yizkor Book contributors, for having the foresight to write down your memories for the benefit of us all.

3 thoughts on “Yizkor Book Translations

  1. The presentation of my maternal grandfather’s history of his hometown is revealing and deeply upsetting but the task now, as always, as must always be, is to prevent another Holocaust, another genocide. And here it appears the world is failing in this vitally important task as anti-Semitism
    continues to rear its satanic head! And with the loss of the final remaining HOLOCAUST survivors
    the world, yes, the Jewish people, may very well be doomed yet again!

    1. Yes, the translations of this material can be very disturbing, but it’s so important for people to know what occurred so that it will never happen again.

  2. The task of the Jew, and as superbly stated by the inestimable Elie Wiesel in his totally brilliant
    Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, City Hall, Oslo, December 10,1986 IS to keep alive the memory of the 6,000,000 Jews, and they include nearly all my relatives in Poland and Hungary,
    alive! But alas, memory is fading and, sad to say, fading fast.

    And so I along with my beloved and loving wife, best friend, and soulmate Joy have commenced a lawsuit against my then physician, his hospital, and the giant health organization that employs him, because they never even acknowledge the voluminous materials, including the gruesome photographs of Hitler’s medical experiments in the death camps conducted by willing physicians and willing professors of law upon totally unwilling Jewish men, Jewish women, Jewish boys, Jewish
    girls, and for his insane Aryan theory, on Jewish twins that after very considerable and widening research I had sent to each of them, to all of them!

    NOR did they ever even thank me for these materials!

    Let alone even apologize to Joy and me for such moral failings!

    The lawsuit is now before the Superior Court of New Jersey, Union County Vicinage, Law Division,
    JURY DEMAND, Docket Number L-2870-23.

    We want no punitive and no compensatory damages. We “only” want a formal written apology!

    This may very well be the first time in all of human history, in all of jurisprudence, where the “only” relief requested from the Court is the formal written apology of the defendant!

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