The Burden and Blessing of Memory (Paperback)
Ann Jaffe was born in 1931 in a small town in Eastern Poland, about 75 miles northeast of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Following the partition of Polish land between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, their part of Poland was ceded to Russia. Ann was 10 years old when Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June of 1941. Within 10 days of the beginning of the war, the Nazi army marched through her town, moving eastward. Shortly thereafter, the rounding up and killing of Jews began. During the 15 months of Nazi occupation, she witnessed the brutal segregation and killing of most Jews in her town. Ann's family escaped execution only because of her parents' useful skillsets, and their extraordinary luck. Transferred to a neighboring Ghetto, sometime later the family miraculously escaped into the neighboring forest, with the help of Russian partisan fighters. Surviving in the forest was brutal, but Ann did so along with her family, which included her 16-month-old baby brother. They hid in the forests of Belarus for 20 months without the benefit of warm clothing or decent shelter; the first winter they all huddled under an open sky and sustained themselves with a scarce supply of potatoes. Constant fear of recapture added to the family's misery. They survived three separate assaults by the German military without being discovered. There were very few lucky survivors. Despite the catastrophic events endured by Ann's family, her story of survival also details the existence of love and resilience within the human spirit. She tells her story not from a place of unresolved hatred, but from a place of tolerance, demonstrating the transformative impact of kindness.