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Yulian I. Rafes
The Way We Were Before Our Destruction
Lives of Jewish students from Vilna who perished during the Holocaust

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

In this book, Dr. Rafes has compiled the school compositions of his high-school classmates in Vilna and added his own narration. Rather than memoirs, the use of compositions written at the time by these young people gives the spirit of the youth, their hopes for the future that too many of them would not live to see. And there is no better way to recreate the atmosphere of the 1930's than to read these.

After the war, the author, himself a former student at this high school, found the legacy of his classmates in Vilnius archives: compositions written in school papers, essays, photos, report cards, and many other very interesting materials. Thus, he decided to let them tell about themselves. They present themselves to us to any young people all over the world: inquisitive, restless, romantic, mischievous. They behaved like any other youngsters in school. Those youths who perished did not differ from the rest. Why did they perish? They were Jews, and for this reason alone, they were denied by the Nazis the right to live. In this book, they are alive, they study, play tricks, debate, get A's and C's, join fraternities, travel, fall in love, publish journals and newspapers unique even for their time.

Every student, teacher, principal, pedagogue can find in these documents and papers things that are revealing of our school life, can find something interesting and instructive for them. But most important for all students is that after reading this book, they will understand that those innocent youngsters who perished were the same as them. Those horrible events could happen again if we do not fight human hatred, anti–Semitism and terrorism, which in the atomic age could be devastating to the human race. That is why this book could serve as a textbook for students and teachers for extracurricular activities, which could have a tremendous influence in bringing up the younger generation and could benefit all of us.

It is important to remember that while the story of the Holocaust is relatively well known, the life of Jews in pre–war Eastern Europe has rarely been told. These school compositions give the flavor of a facet of this life. In many ways, this life was ordinary, but as someone wise has said, as long as we speak of the number of 6 million, we are speaking of zeroes. The only way to grasp what happened to express it intelligibly, is to talk about specific, real human beings. And this is what the author has accomplished.

"YIVO is committed to documenting, teaching and reconstructing the civilization of "Ashkenaz" - the languages, literature, history and culture of our forebears. Our very purpose is to breathe life into the vanished world that preceded the destruction. Dr. Rafes's work is an unusually poignant and human contribution to that effort." (Dr. Allan Nadler, Director of Research, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research)

If you are interested in purchasing this book, please send a check or money for $16.00 + $4.00 shipping to:

VIA Press
Vestnik Information Agency, Inc.
10846 Sandringham Rd, Cockeysville, MD 21030-2947

Maryland residents add 5% tax. Canadian residents add 7% G.S.T. to the total amount of books and postage.

You can also place your order over the e-mail: .


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