Life and death in the shoebox – and the reality as always surpasses all imagination

Life and death in the shoebox – and the reality as always surpasses all imagination

Ron Rashef, “Outside the Shoe Box”, Galim, 164 p.

One inscription on her tombstone, which is mentioned in this book, is especially burned in my heart (and also in the narrator’s heart). A simple tombstone in Ukraine, the country full of mass graves, cemeteries or remains of cemeteries for the victims of the Nazis. And this is the wording of the inscription on the simple tombstone: “A man and his wife who died suddenly on one day on the fifteenth of the month of Shebat 131 – an old and upright man… an old and upright woman.”

The inscription on another local monument, in a pastoral and innocent-looking forest that was once a killing ravine (“Nature managed to cover up the horrors of man”), is much less refined, at least in Hebrew, a language that the local residents do not understand: “This place is a mass grave of the martyrs who were killed for the sanctification of the “By the Nazis their name will be blotted out, God will resurrect their blood.”

It all started with a plot of land that Yaron Rashef’s father apparently purchased decades ago, and which the head of the Department for Locating and Information at the “Society for Locating and Recovering Assets of the Holocaust Victims” informs Rashef of its existence. Rashef’s father died suddenly when his son was 7 years old. The very day after the funeral, which he did not even know existed, he was returned to school without a word of explanation. “Already in the morning order, one of the students approached me and asked if I was the boy whose father died yesterday. My reaction was sharp and quick, a punch to the face.” Rashef and his sister speculate that it is a property in Poland, from where their parents immigrated to Israel (their families perished almost entirely in the Holocaust), but it turns out that it is a plot of land in the north of the country.

The news ignites curiosity, curiosity sets in motion a complicated and convoluted detective work, and the detective leads to shocking discoveries and findings, which shed new light on his family’s history and all the stories that have never been told to the next generation. Reshef, an industrial designer by profession, does his best to document everything (including that visit to Ukraine) in a book with a cinematic flair, which was a global bestseller on Amazon, but for some reason went under the radar in Israel.

He works his way through an exhausting bureaucratic maze, moves between components, is sent by these officials and others to bring proof not only that his father was indeed the owner of the lot (the sale involved a “con artist”, according to the rumors, Shershef traces his events and explains why the reputation attributed to him was unjustified), but also that he was connected to another character that Reshef had never heard of. He must find a needle in a haystack and crack the identity of a mysterious man who purchased the lot together with his father, and who may also have died under unclear circumstances without leaving heirs.

The mystery is solved step by step, shell by shell. The pitch is finally settled for the legal heirs, but the process is more important than the result. On the way, documents, letters and photos will be discovered to Reshef, in a shoe box, as implied by the book’s title and as was the custom of the immigrants and refugees in those days, or in a slightly fancier box, and each of them is a world full of surprises. This is how Reshef discovers, for example, that his aunt returned to Europe after not adjusting to life in Haifa and was afraid of the local disturbances near her, and thus carved her own fate with her own hands. Speaking of Haifa, another discovery is that Rashef’s father, an architect, enrolled in architecture studies at the Technion (then called “Technion”) only as an excuse to get a student visa and immigrate to Israel (he got the idea inspired by a visit by Zev Jabotinsky to his father’s original city, Chortkov in Ukraine ) and even paid part of the tuition without attending the institution for a single day (he previously completed his architecture studies in Vienna).

It turns out that the journalist and writer Ora Shem-Or, who was born there, wrote a book about that Chortkov called “No One, No One Loves” that was published in 1969; On the back of the cover it was written, among other things: “There were no normal people in the city of Chortkov? Were they all distorted, corrupt, complicated and disturbed? If there were others – the author did not know them.” The author admittedly claimed in the introduction to the book that “any similarity between the characters in the book and the people who lived in Chortkov – is the fruit of my weak memory and my deceptive imagination”. But the injury to the Chortkubian pride was fatal (“Pashkarf Cholera”, cursed his mother contrary to habit) and there was a feeling that the name of an entire community that had been destroyed had been tarnished, and that one should not “laugh at the dead”.

Still, Maaz turned out sweet, and young Rashef got to hear from his mother, “with amazing openness” and rare, details and stories about her family’s life there. “I’m not saying that there weren’t bad and crazy people there, Chortkov was a normal place, and there were people of all kinds, but to say that they were all deformed and disturbed? This is wickedness.”

There is no malice in Reshef’s book, but there is essential humor, which may not succeed in softening the inevitable horror stories, but its presence is better than its absence. A terrible story, for example, is about the brother of one of the activists, who was sailing in a kayak with two SS men. “While sailing, in the middle of the river, one of them bent over and the boat rocked. At that moment, they accused my brother of wanting to drown them, and one of them shot my brother and killed him (…) The next day, early in the morning, my sister and I went and pulled my brother’s body out of the water with great difficulty. ..) We carried him and drank him on the wrong road, and brought him to the cemetery for burial.”

Reshef talks to survivors, some of whom are thirsty to share information and for some it is unbearably difficult to impossible. He investigates the complete story (as far as possible) of his loved ones and family friends and their appendages, and his own legacy, and the complete picture that emerges after years of investigative efforts is, as expected, terrifying and compelling, but also more amazing than any plot that Stephen King could have written alone, giving faces and names to ethereal concepts Like “Commies” and “Heroism”, and reminds that “Survival” is not just an award-winning TV game.

Honest old men and honest old women perished for no injustice, alongside honest young women and honest children. And we will remember them all, and bless each shoebox that added another piece to this horrifying puzzle in human history.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent News

Editor's Pick