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A large tattered envelope stuffed with letters and postcards written between 1934 and 1942 was discovered behind a sofa in my parents home. It contained correspondence written in German, Yiddish, and Hebrew by family members about whom little was known. Many of them perished during the Holocaust.
The stories of uncles, aunts, cousins and grandfathers slowly unfolded as each letter and postcard was translated. We read individual accounts of the arrests and deportation of Jewish residents in Germany who held Polish passports, the attack on Warsaw by Nazi Germany, the children's sorrow when their father was sent to a concentration camp, and a mother's anguish when the voices of her teenage sons grew silent.
While these letters and postcards express the grief and despair shared by countless Jewish families, they resonate as well with determination and hope. There is a message written on a torn scrap of paper that was smuggled out of a concentration camp, a letter from Vilna introducing a new bride to the mother-in-law she would never meet, and a postcard announcing the arrival of a baby girl born in the Warsaw Ghetto.
The correspondence in that tattered envelope relates the stories of real people, members of one family, during the Holocaust. Each story is personal, and that is the point. When speaking of the Holocaust, we must avoid generalities and focus instead on each individual, family and community-as each matters greatly. The letters and postcards in Missing Pieces: A Family Story Retold provide us with that opportunity.