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We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  51 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Ellen Cassedy’s longing to recover the Yiddish she’d lost with her mother’s death eventually led her to Lithuania, once the “Jerusalem of the North.” As she prepared for her journey, her uncle, sixty years after he’d left Lithuania in a boxcar, made a shocking disclosure about his wartime experience, and an elderly man from her ancestral town made an unsettling request. Gr...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by University of Nebraska Press
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The book was written by a good friends of ours. It is a story about how the country is dealing with the extermination of the Jews by the Nazi and collaborators during World War II. Ellen discovers that her uncle was a ghetto policeman, a Jew designated by the Nazis to be police the Jewish ghetto. Was his role that of a collaborator or someone who in an impossible situation tried to do what he could do to help people. What about the non-Jewish Lithuanians? How did they feel about the exterminatio...more
A very complicated memoir that attempts to examine the limits of morality through the tragedy of the Lithuanian Holocaust. Unlike other countries, many of the Jews killed in Lithuania were slain by the neighbor's hands in the forests surrounding the towns instead of being sent to camps, away from sight. Compounded by the subsequent Soviet occupation following the war, which both denied the German atrocities Jewish connection AND further oppressed the remaining non-Jewish Lithuanian population, t...more
David V.
Read in just a few days. Easy to read, but leaves you with much to think about. My maternal grandmother was from Kovno. My guess is that many of her relatives were killed there during WWII. I've been doing some family history searches, but it's slow going due to multiple spellings of names. The author goes to Lithuania to learn and perfect her Yiddish language skills and also to understand further her grandfather's role as a Jewish policeman in the Vilna ghetto. She begins to understand the aver...more
Ruta Sevo
Ellen Cassady’s journey to Lithuania to learn Yiddish and uncover family history is very personal for me as a first-generation immigrant to the U.S. and a post-WWII refugee from Lithuania. Like her relatives, mine were reluctant to talk about a horrific past, especially the years from 1939 to 1945, when the Russians and Germans occupied the country.

Her story is wonderful and personal, written memoir-style. She meets with a whole spectrum of people – some of the few Jews remaining in Lithuania, L...more
The way that Cassedy's train of thought skips around from past to present can be jarring at times, but this book is worth reading. Cassedy takes us on a very personal journey as she grapples with issues in post-Soviet Lithuania spanning back to WWII era and prior relating to Jewish - Lithuanian relations in Lithuania. Cassedy's book contains numerous interesting personal memoirs of Lithuanian Holocaust survivors -- both Jews and Lithuanians -- that move the heart. Although this is not an academi...more
Daiva Markelis
This is a brave, honest, insightful, and beautiful written memoir. If you are Lithuanian or of Lithuanian descent, you must read this. To the end. If you are Jewish, you must read this. We Are Here is as much about the Lithuanian Holocaust as it is about doing historical and personal research, of rethinking what you know, of being human. This is deeply moving and, ultimately, hopeful book.
Nicole Martin
I have to disclose that my rating is highly personal. As a descendant of Litvaks who has returned to Lithuania for answers and only found more questions I could relate to this book in a way that others may not.

But for those who cannot relate so closely there is still much more to this book than a woman's search for her family. It is filled with difficult questions and the harsh realities. How do you honor your own family's tragedy without minimizing the tragedies of others? Where are the lines...more
University of Chicago Magazine
Ellen Cassedy, X'72

From our pages (July–Aug/12): "In 2004 journalist Ellen Cassedy decided to learn Yiddish in an intensive program in Lithuania, to get in touch with her heritage. When she told her plan to her 89-year-old uncle, who had been confined in a Lithuanian ghetto during the Holocaust and then transported to Dachau, he took out a piece of paper from his pocket with a story he'd kept secret from his family. The story led Cassedy to change course. When she got to Lithuania, she res...more
A thoughtful, thought-provoking, and highly readable account of a journey into the past and the present--and into the intersection of the personal and the political. While those with an interest in Lithuania and/or the Holocaust will greedily eat this book up, its resonances extend far beyond those topics. This is a book that will appeal to anyone interested in man's inhumanity--and humanity--to man, and in the connections between history and what transpires in today's world. Or anyone just look...more
Sharon Huether
We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust By Ellen Cassedy I won this book through Goodreads. What a wonderful opportunity this author had to go back to the country of her forefathers. To learn the language(Yiddish)and connect with the local people. Not everyone saw the Holocaust in Lithuania in the same way. The personal stories, so hard for them to recount things they wanted to hide in the back of their mind. The author gained knowledge and a new insight of the Lithuanian people, she f...more
"But why did they not fight back?"
"They killed the young men first, to make sure there would be no resistance." page 106
That makes perfect sense to me as I recall the stories of the war in Holland recounted at my Tante Nellie van der Meide's funeral. Uncle Piete and the other Dutch soldiers were ordered to report immediately for service. The Nazis were waiting, rounded all of them up and transported them. Uncle Piete only survived because he was late enough to see what was happening and able to...more
I have just started reading books about the Holocaust and the Soviet Occupation of Lithuania, and that may be because Lithuania didn't gain independence from the Soviet Union until 1990, and it was forbidden to discuss the Holocaust. This book is a great addition to the Holocaust Canon. The author asked some interesting soul-searching questions.
Mark Geisthardt
Written by a woman who goes back to the country of her origin Lithuania to explore the stories of her family and people. It is a book about self discovery and about cultural discovery. Very much worth the time spent.
This was not a book I would normally read. I did however find it facinating and actually enjoyable. I even learned a few things!

I loved it, really informative. Especially when you are part Lithuanian.
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Ellen Cassedy is the author of We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust, the winner of the 2013 National Book Prize from Grub Street, the 2013 Towson Prize for Literature, the 2012 Silver Medal for History awarded by the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, and the 2013 Prakhin International Literary Foundation Award.

For the past ten years, Ellen has explored the land of her Jewish f...more
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