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Botchki: When Doomsday Was Still Tomorrow by David Zagier

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With the humor and clearsightedness of one who loved the shtetl, but who worked hard to escape from it, Zagier records the rhythms and texture of everyday life in Botchki, a small town northeast of Warsaw, from the early years of the century until 1927.

The author glories in the details of growing up and explores every irony, every twist of fate, every historical fact, as history rushed past this shtetl, sometimes affecting it, sometimes just passing it by. Life was ruled by religion, and he recounts his growing rebelliousness against God, who gives his life meaning and yet allows so much suffering.

First set down on the eve of World War II, finished fifty years later, and now published for the first time, Botchki is a testament to a vanished world. This important and moving memoir is essential reading for everyone interested in issues of Jewish life, identity, and exile, as seen through the lens of life in an Eastern European shtetl in the early twentieth century.

Reviews (3)
A beautiful and haunting story of a world now lost forever. The Holocaust permeates every page; every time a new character was introduced I wondered what his or her fate would be. Many of Botchki's Jews of the author's generation escaped through emigration, but the entire shtetl, including his parents and younger brother and his brother's family, was eaten by Treblinka in 1943.

The book is undeniably sentimental, but the author doesn't stoop from describing the hardships: the occupations by various foreign powers, the abject poverty and hunger his family was eventually cast in, the constant stresses and strains that nearly killed his mother and turned his once-doting father into an abusive, almost hateful man. Although World War II killed the Polish shtetls, they were already on their way out as Jewish youth, fleeing poverty and antisemitism, scattered to the winds. By the eve of World War II, David, his older brother and his sister were living with their respective families on three different continents.

For a more earthy (fictional) story about life in a shtetl before the Holocaust, try Yehoshue Perle's Everyday Jews: Scenes from a Vanished Life.
David Zagier wrote this book over a period of sixty years. It was first drafted in the thirties and finished only sixty years later. It tells of his childhood shtetl which was destroyed by the Nazis. He tells of his childhood there , the world of his parents. He attempts to reconstruct a world lost.

This is a clearly written memoir and it tells its story in a good way. There were unfortunately hundreds of other such shtetls who had no one to tell their story, and keep alive if only on the page, those characters and personalities who made their world so colorful.

This is a valuable highly readable memoir.
Elastic Skunk
Loved this. The superlative storytelling is all the more poignant because it's true. Even though this book describes the endless grind of poverty and persecution and its protagonists starved to death three times a day, it is not a depressing read -- quite the opposite. It inspires courage. Is it your grandparents' story as well?

ISBN: 0807614963

Rating: 4.5/5

Votes: 902

Other Formats: lit txt azw doc

ISBN13: 978-0807614969

Publisher: George Braziller; First Edition edition (September 2001)

Language: English

Subcategory: Historical

Pages: 224

Botchki: When Doomsday Was Still Tomorrow
Biographies & Memoris
Author: David Zagier
Title: Botchki: When Doomsday Was Still Tomorrow