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The Heavens are Empty: Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod
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The Heavens are Empty: Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  191 ratings  ·  35 reviews
In the 19th century, nearly five million Jews lived in the Pale of Settlement. Most lived in shtetls—Jewish communities connected to larger towns—images of which are ingrained in popular imagination as the shtetl Anatevka from Fiddler on the Roof. Brimming with life and tradition, family and faith, these shtetls existed in the shadow of their town’s oppressive anti-Jewish ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 15th 2010 by Pegasus (first published 2010)
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Biography of a destroyed Jewish town - Trochenbrod (1812-1942). What is remarkable about the town is that almost all its inhabitants were Jews. The town was located in what is today Western Ukraine. The author is the son of one who grew up there. It was totally wiped out in 1942 by the Nazis.

Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated is instead a fictional account woven around a grandson of one of the town's survivors.


On completion:

I recommend this book. T
The village of Trochenbrod in what is now western Ukraine was wiped off the map by the Nazis in 1942, when all the villagers were shot because they were Jews. By 1950 there was no evidence that the town ever existed. A book to be read along with Bloodlands and Ostrieg: Hitler's War of Extermination in the East.
This book is a non-fiction account of Trochenbrod, based on the research of a son of a man who grew up there, whereas Everything Is Illuminated is the fictionalized account of a grandson of a survivor traveling to Trachimbrod (same town, just different pronunciation). What's special about Trochenbrod/Trachimbrod/Sofievka/Zofiówka is that it was the only entirely Jewish town in Europe, which prospered for over 100 years, until it was destroyed by the Nazis.

Alternately sad and inspiring, as Jonat
Colleen Clark
Biography of a Jewish town, reportedly unique, in W. Ukraine. Born around 1812, died 1942. Its story is told by the few survivors of WW II, those who migrated before 1942, a few current residents of the surrounding area, supplemented by stories told by offspring of survivors and by historical and current pictures.

It's a beautiful book despite the tragedy of the story. Bendavid-Val, whose father was born there, decided to investigate for himself. He visited the site several time and learned some
Very touching book. It was a bit difficult to get into, despite really liking European history/Holocaust history, but once I got about fifty pages in, I was hooked. The build up to the death of the city was exceptional--though that's weird to say--and it gave the effect that it was impossible for anything to go wrong, which was suddenly shattered in the end of Ch. 3/throughout Ch. 4. Amazing read, and it really opens the eyes to the reality that just because something is here now, it doesn't mea ...more
Fiction is fun, but in the end I'm happiest with historical reality. Jonathan Safran Foer based his novel "Everything is Illuminated" on a fictionalized Trochenbrod. This book tells the real history of the place. It is not an easy history to uncover, but BenDavid-Val does an admirable job of fact ordering, gestalt gathering and memory herding.

The early years of Trochenbrod, first settled in 1810, must be surmised from broad political and historical trends in Poland and from legend. Trachenbrod
The Heavens Are Empty is a compelling nonfiction read. Avrom Bendavid-Val has approached the subject matter with care and attention. This book is about a town--a village--that existed for a little over hundred years, the Jewish town of Trochenbrod.

Trochenbrod did not vanish slowly but surely over decades, it's death was not natural at all. After sharing his personal story, his behind-the-scenes look at his research process, his motivation for wanting--needing--to know more, he presents his find
If you are interested in reading about the Holocaust, this is an interesting and well-written book about the former town of Trochenbrod in the Ukraine and how it survived as a Jewish town until World War II. The author is a relative of people who lived in the town. He interviewed relatives of the townspeople who are still living, including a woman who lives in Cleveland.
Rachel Sharf
The story of a Jewish town that survived for 130 years in Poland, in the middle of nowhere. In 1941, in two days all 6,000 residents were gunned down by the Nazzis and buried in graves they were forced to dig for themselves. Then the houses and the roads were blown up and today nothing stands there.
Wonderful story, it broke my heart. Amazing to think of this entire town - gone. All the people, animals, homes, stores.... vanished. But not the memories. A really great experience to read this one.
A lovely, enchanting and poignant book. My full review is here:
Very different holocaust story that I have never heard before.Very interesting and shocking at same time.Well written.Highly recommend!
Avrom Bendavid-Val has written a concise, compelling and historically relevant book, regarding the town of Trochenbrod.

From documents and data, to witness statements, the foundation of Trochenbrod is detailed with information that needed to be told.

For those of you that wish to understand the history of what once was, and no longer is, this is the perfect book to educate yourself regarding the events that unfolded. Not only were the events horrific and filled with contempt and the murderous rage
Nov 15, 2011 Cheri rated it 5 of 5 stars
This book looks like 'my kind' of book. It certainly looks interesting!
More reading for the family quest.
Although i wasn't thrilled by the writing style, this is surely a must-read story about Trochenbrod, which was ""the only freestanding, fully realized Jewish town in history." My close friend, Toni Pollin - shared this story with me as her maternal grandmother, emigrated to the US from there. The town no longer exists being totally destroyed in WW II. If you have read "Everything in Illuminated," then this will give you more of an understanding of where that fictionalized town based on.
Tiffany Elgan
So this general story was really quite fascinating- how a basically 100% Jewish community in the Ukraine lived an almost utopian-type society. Then how it was completely destroyed and disappeared. So, so sad how it ended up. This was a history book, which isn't my favorite. But, I'm glad I know the story. It felt a bit repetitive at times and I did get bored, but in the end worth knowing.
I was a huge fan of Jonathan Safran Foer's book, "Everything is Illuminated", and the movie of the same title by Liev Schreiber. This book is about the real town of Trochenbrod--referenced by a slightly different name in the book and the movie--where roughly 6,000 Jews were exterminated by the Germans in 1942. Bendvid-Val tells this sad tale well, using the stories gathered from the survivors and their relatives. What once was a thriving town is now merely a path in a Ukranian field. It is an ex ...more
Arthur Hessel
Trochenbrod was a unique city in Poland,because it was created as an all Jewish city (the only one) in a marshy area which was unsuitable for agriculture and had not attracted other settlers. It grew and, in it's way, thrived, until the Nazis, with Ukranian help, totally destroyed it, murdering virtually all of its residents. But many from Trochenbrod had left before the war, scattering around the world, with a sizeable number in the DC area. The book, written by a descendant of residents of the ...more
Jinny Petrofsky
Heartrendingly sad and yet so sweet. The author amazingly managed to keep the tone positive despite the horror that befell this town and the people.
Interesting history of a Jewish only shtetl in Ukraine & its destruction during the Holocaust. You can tell it isn't written by a professional author but it is still very readable.
Sonya Morris
For my students, this is the book Betty Gold referred to when we met her at The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. She shared her story of Holocaust survival with us, and she is referenced many times in this book. I gave the book a five because I appreciate the research the author did, and I just love Betty Gold, because of all she puts out there for people to learn. Mad respect for Betty Gold.
Edie Houston
An incredible story about man's inhumanity to man...people born and living in the wrong time and place
Barbara Adde
Jun 21, 2015 Barbara Adde marked it as to-read
Recommended by JB
Liz Howell
The book was a great read. Concise, without overwhelming the reader. It made me look online for more information about the small village of Trochenbrod. The pictures of the everyday lives of these people was particularly poignant.
Ellen Turnbaugh
I'd never heard of this town and nice to know that it is thought to be the town that 'Fiddler on the Roof' was based on. Love to have lived there then.
Quite good though a tragic story. Filled with personal narratives & descriptions of life pre-war, during Soviet occupation, & during German occupation. Also detailed is what became of the people and the town itself.
While the writing was very conversational I found this to be both interesting and terrifying. Certainly very important to remember and learn about.
Mary Schoettinger
A clear example of man's inhumanity to man. A wonderfully poignant retelling of a town of strength and purpose.
Kate Olesin
Wonderful and harrowing tale of a little-known part of history. Academic.
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Avrom Bendavid-Val worked as an expert in economic development and environmental management in America and in poor countries for 45 years. During his career he traveled and worked in many countries in Africa, Asia, East and Central Europe, and the Middle East, and published several books in his field. In 1997, while working in Poland, he decided to visit the site of the vanished town his father an ...more
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