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Every Day Lasts a Year: A Jewish Family's Correspondence from Poland Hardcover – 15 Oct 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (15 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521882745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521882743
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,509,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

STARRED REVIEW
"Sustained personal documentation from those who lived and died in the Holocaust is rare. That makes this collection of letters a precious gift to historians."
Publisher's Weekly

"Browning and Nechama Tec offer a historical context, and Hollander tells how his family found strength through letters. This is an important human and literary document of a family facing the Holocaust."
Booklist

"Anyone interested in the Holocaust should read this powerful book, an inimitable, personal look inside the eve of 'all of the cruelty, mischief, evil, unhappiness, destruction and misery brought by them [the Nazis] on so many millions in the whole world' (35). Few documents written by the victims themselves survive today. Every Day Lasts a Year gives these victims a resounding voice." -Weny A. Maier-Sarti

"Readers of M&R will find Every Day Lasts a Year touching, and exceptionally real. Put simply, the letters speak directly to us, reminding us of lives and hopes that once were..." -Dr. Diane Cypkin, Martydom & Resistance

Book Description

While rummaging through their attic, Richard S. Hollander discovered letters from his father's family, written from Krakow, Poland, between 1939 and 1942. They depict day-to-day life under the most extraordinary pain and stress. At the same time, Richard's father, Joseph Hollander, was fighting the United States government to avoid deportation and death.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Paul on 25 Feb. 2008
Format: Hardcover
In 1986, Richard Hollander's parents died together in a tragic car accident in NY. Among the items he inherited was a box containing letters sent from Poland, the former home of Hollander's father. At first Hollander ignored the letters but at some point as his grief for his parents receded, he realized what he had found. These were letters from his aunts and uncles sent to his father during the the period from 1939 to 1942 from Poland. Since Hollander's Polish relatives were Jews living in Nazi occupied Poland, the value to history of this correspondence became apparent. None of Hollander's relatives survived the war but they live on in these letters. Dora, who found romance in the Krakow ghetto; Klara who held on through her faith in God; Genka who saw no hope but only blackness ahead; Luisa who held her optimism through it all; as well as many others letter writers.

The first part of the book tells the story of Hollander's father fleeing Poland and escaping to the US, followed by his attempts to avoid deportation as an illegal alien. We also learn of his attempts to get exit visas for the family still in Poland. When the war breaks out, he joins the service and is sent to Germany, first to fight and later to serve as a translator. While there he finds little more about his family other that it is highly likely they are all dead.

Two essays follow that give some information about the Krakow ghetto and life within the ghetto. Then the letters follow. There is something quite haunting reading these letters, many quietly hinting at the writer's desperate need to be rescued by their brother in America. The letters are from the grave and reading even the trivial ones can't help but make you think more about these people who suffered and died in the Nazi killing machine.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By F. S. L'hoir TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Nov. 2007
Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to read "Joseph's Story," the first chapter of "Every Day Lasts a Year," without being moved to tears. Richard S. Hollander's riveting narrative of his father's escape from the Nazis and eventual imprisonment (with his wife and a refugee child) by heartless INS officials on Ellis Island is also impossible to put down. One can feel only shame for the United States' immigration policies of 1939 which turned a blind eye to the plight of Jewish refugees in their desperate attempts to flee a Europe that was already in flames.

Christopher Browning's account of the Jews of Cracow and Nechama Tec's analysis of the letters, which Mr. Hollander found in a suitcase in the attic after his parents' tragic death, are also of great interest. As for the letters themselves, although they are of deep personal significance to the family, because of the censorship of the Nazi oppressors, they have to be read "between the lines." Without the analysis, they give us only a glimpse of the increasingly frustrated hopes of the writers to escape what the reader knows is their inevitable fate. One perceives the noose tightening only by omission in what becomes a catalogue of instructions first, not to send packages and next, thanks for received parcels of coffee and tea, measured out by the decagram. It is as if the repetition of "nothing to write today" and the profusions of "affectionate kisses" stand in juxtaposition to an evil that for the reader remains unseen, and for the writer remains unspeakable.

Reviewed for Vine; Amazon.com
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kendra on 1 Jan. 2008
Format: Hardcover
It's difficult to call such a book "wonderful", since there was nothing redeeming about the holocaust. However, this collection of letters from Richard Hollander's extended family (none of whom survived) is definitely a collection anyone with interest in this time period should read.

Richard's father made his way to America with his first wife. However, all of his extended family (mother, sisters, nieces) all stayed behind. The letters Joseph (Richard's father) received over the years are the basis of this book. In addition, there are a few essays regarding the time period that are included, as well.

Like Anne Frank's diary, the letters record these people's hope in the face of adversity. Many of the letters are short notes, but they still express the desire to live through this horrible time and to be reunited.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 42 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
"I Live In This Hope. . . All Of Us Will Be Together" 23 Nov. 2007
By H. F. Corbin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In 1986 while going through the possessions of his parents who had recently died in an automobile accident, Richard Hollander discovered a briefcase that contained dozens of letters neatly arranged and held together with rubber bands. They were all addresssed to his father Joseph Hollander and had large hand-stamped Nazi imprints on them. He knew immediately what he had discovered: the correspondence of his grandmother and other family members from Poland who had perished in the Holocaust. This was the family he had never known, the family that his father had never talked about. At first Mr. Hollander did nothing with the letters. Eventually, however, he had them translated from Polish and German into English. They are published here twenty years later in EVERY DAY LASTS A YEAR: A JEWISH FAMILY'S CORRESPONDENCE FROM POLAND, a quotation taken from Hollander's beloved mother Berta in her May 26, 1941 letter to him.

In addition to the letters which make up the heart of this sad, moving book, Richard Hollander has written a chapter about his father Joseph who arrived at Ellis Island on December 6, 1939 and covers in detail his legal battles to avoid deportation back to Poland. His fight included appeals to the highest echelons of the United States government with a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt intreating the First Lady to intercede for him, his wife and a young lad Arnold who had arrived with them in America.
Christopher Browning in a chapter entitled "The Fate of the Jews of Cracow under Nazi Occupation" and Nechama Tec in "Through the Eyes of the Oppressed" provide valuable information about the conditions that existed in Cracow, Poland when Joseph Hollander's family wrote these letters from November, 1939 to December, 1941.

The letters, written by Joseph's mother and three sisters with occasional messages from his two brothers-in-law and two nieces, provide a day-by-day account of a family living in an awful time but making every attempt to lead as normal a life as possible. There are almost no references made to their difficult situation or to the Nazis although Joseph's sister Klara in referring to a failed escape attempt does say that "we lost two suitcases with dresses." Joseph's sister Dola loses a husband by death that she was planning to divorce and seeks her only brother's approval of her second marriage to Munio, whom she describes as a "man of 100% good character." His mother Berta delights in eating the powdered chocolate and marmalade that he has sent to her. His two teenaged nieces Genka and Luisa-- who sees "everything in bright colors" write letters you would expect from young people.

What is at once so life affirming but so heartbreaking about these letters is that they so often radiate hope and optimism. From Joseph's brother-in-law Munio: "the sun will shine again." From his sister Mania: "There is nothing bad that couldn't turn into good." From Dola: "I have felt betrayed by life but I love it anyway, and maybe with my 39 years I still can think about a joyful future?" Again from Dola: "Somehow we will get through this." From Joseph's brother-in-law Salo: "I want to hope we will see each other again." And finally from Berta, the loving matriarch of the family, upon learning that her sister has visited Joseph in America: How lovely it would have been if I could have been there. . . . if it will be possible to see you both. I live in this hope of yet having that good fortune and all of us will be together."

It somehow seems appropriate that I finished these letters while celebrating Thanksgiving with my extended family in beautiful Maine. The deceased husband and father of my friends, himself a first generation Italian American from Virginia, was a veteran-- as was Joseph Hollander who on July 17, 1945, chopped a block of marble from Hitler's desk-- of what Ken Burns calls "the necessary war." As Martin Luther King reminded us so often, we are all connected. Injustice for one is injustice for all.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
"Letters Without Reply" 22 Nov. 2007
By F. S. L'hoir - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It is difficult to read "Joseph's Story," the first chapter of "Every Day Lasts a Year," without being moved to tears. Richard S. Hollander's riveting narrative of his father's escape from the Nazis and eventual imprisonment (with his wife and a refugee child) by heartless INS officials on Ellis Island is also impossible to put down. One can feel only shame for the United States' immigration policies of 1939 which turned a blind eye to the plight of Jewish refugees in their desperate attempts to flee a Europe that was already in flames.

Christopher Browning's account of the Jews of Cracow and Nechama Tec's analysis of the letters, which Mr. Hollander found in a suitcase in the attic after his parents' tragic death, are also of great interest. As for the letters themselves, although they are of deep personal significance to the family, because of the censorship of the Nazi oppressors, they have to be read "between the lines." Without the analysis, they give us only a glimpse of the increasingly frustrated hopes of the writers to escape what the reader knows is their inevitable fate. One perceives the noose tightening only by omission in what becomes a catalogue of instructions first, not to send packages and next, thanks for received parcels of coffee and tea, measured out by the decagram. It is as if the repetition of "nothing to write today" and the profusions of "affectionate kisses" stand in juxtaposition to an evil that for the reader remains unseen, and for the writer remains unspeakable.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
voices recovered from the holocaust 25 Nov. 2007
By Robert D. Harmon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
To a historian, the best source is a first-hand account, and in Joseph Hollander's trove of letters, written by family members lost in the Holocaust, is a new and valuable addition to the history of that war. Moreover, this book gives voice to people - to an entire people - the Nazis had sought to remove from all memory. That their words survive is enough: it makes this book a value.

This book is more than a collection of letters from the Krakow ghetto; the editors have thoughtfully provided three essays. One is a thoughtful introduction by Richard Hollander, Joseph's son, about his father's precarious arrival in the U.S.A. and attempts to free his family. The other editors wrote two well-footnoted essays on the fate of the Jews of Krakow, and on the fate - and surviving sources - of other Jews there. They are helpful to future historians, quite consciously so.

Richard Hollander's essay perhaps should have been footnoted as well, but no matter: he makes enough reference to the INS and other records of the time, and Joseph Hollander was enough of a cause celebre in immigration court that historians should have little trouble finding his record.

It's also helpful that Joseph Hollander had the foresight, and his son the wisdom, to keep all the other paperwork of his day-to-day life at that time: receipts, photographs, passports, financial records, and so forth. Richard Hollander was able to put the letters into this context, and it enriches his own account.

The essays are lucid and helpful; the correspondence is well translated and poignant - and the editors have helpfully annotated them. Though the letter-writers had to be circumspect, even cryptic, in their letters through the Nazi mails, the editors have helped us understand.

Not to be missed, by those interested in the fate of Europe's Jews, or that dark period in general, or in original works of history.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Touching but falls short 16 Dec. 2007
By I.Peters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I find this book hard to review, and here is why:

On the one hand, I was quite taken with the background story of how Richard Hollander found these letters and with it an extraordinary glimpse into his family's tragic past. The profound love and admiration Mr. Hollander feels for his father Joseph is very apparent on almost every page of this book. I also found the introductory chapters very insightful and although already possessing a good general knowledge about the Holocaust, I learned a lot of new things from these chapters - for example there are a lot of references made to a book about the Cracow Ghetto Pharmacy which I had not heard of before and will now try to get my hands on. What was also interesting was a lot of the general information on the situation of Jews in Poland before the German occupation. I was unaware, for example, that the Polish government in 1938 had undertaken an exploratory mission to Madagascar to find a "homestead" for Polish Jews, i.e. rid Poland of its Jewish population. And this was even before the Germans invaded.

I also appreciated these chapters for creating the necessary background for the letters and was very much looking forward to reading them and learning more about the Hollander family, their ordeal and the times they had to endure.

This was, however, where a certain disappointment with this book set in. The letters are all in all very unremarkable in content, except for a few that are more detailed. I perfectly understand that this is due to censorship and fear and don't want this to be understood as criticism of any kind. But I am not sure that I would have had these letters published had I been in Mr. Hollander's position. They might hold a certain research value because they do NOT reveal many things (thus underscoring the enormous pressure people lived under), but in my very personal opinion these letters do not stand on their own, i.e. even with all the background information I did not get that much out of them, precisely because they are too short, too general and "too veiled".

This is kind of tough to conclude because I have enomous respect, understanding and empathy for the Hollander family and what they had to go through. But these letters regrettably did not deliver too much insight into the times and circumstances of the late 1930s/early 1940s in the Cracow ghetto - with a few exceptions of course.

I would therefore rate this 3.5 stars because I still learned a lot, just not from the letters themselves.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
amazing because often mundane 5 Dec. 2007
By Patrick Oden - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is one of those rare treasures of a book that hardly seems real at first. Primary documents are the foundation of history. For me this is especially true when the documents are not official political or military papers but are instead a reflection of the average person within a certain context or era.

And that is what these are. Every Day Lasts a Year is a collection of letters from Poland to America, from a variety of family members to a young man who had emigrated not long before. These notes of various lengths and topics span from November 1939 to early December 1941. America entered the war. Joseph Hollander's family went silent.

They were Jewish.

But this isn't a book about the Holocaust or World War II or Polish history. This is a book about a family living in the midst of a crisis, trying to live as they could. It is a book about the contrasts between history on a grand scale and mundane details of daily life. In these all too often mundane details, however, the specter of Nazism is ever present, even if not mentioned.

The letters themselves take up about 180 pages of this 280 page book. They are well edited and formatted so as to make for easy reading, presented without commentary except for the occasional footnote clarifying a point of history or making note of a translation or transcription issue. These are not great literature, but that is the point. They are the kinds of letters sent by family members to one of their own far away. And they are amazing insights into life.

The first hundred pages is made up of three essays. The first by the son of the letters recipient. He tells the story of Joseph, his father. While the prose is not the best, the story is well told and quite interesting. We get to know the one who is so present and yet so silent through the later laters. It is an engaging story, not only because he was able to escape Poland but also because of the immense legal troubles he had when he got to the States. The US tried to deport Joseph back to Europe just when Europe was exploding into war.

The second two essays are much more academic in tone. The first details the Nazi rule in Cracow throughout the war. The second is broader in scope, giving a background to Jewish life in Poland before and during the war.

Overall this is an incredible book, amazing for anyone interested in World War II, Holocaust studies, social history, or Poland. My only critique, and it's a picky one, is that I felt the book was a little unsure who to target as an audience. It is very accessible to a popular audience interested in the topic, but at times the essays feel a bit too rigid and stolid. It takes a while to get to the actual letters, and at that point it is a huge shift in reading style. I almost would have liked to have the letters at the beginning with the two academic essays at the end for reference.

Again, a picky complaint. Overall, Every Day Lasts a Year is an extraordinary book, mostly because those we meet in it were not extraordinary at all but just regular men and women caught up by hell on earth.
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