Books in English: The River Remembers

by S. L. Shneiderman

    The River Remembers
    (Also in Yiddish as Ven di Weisl hot Geredt Yiddish.)
    by S. L. Shneiderman
    ©1978 by S. L. Shneiderman
    Horizon Press
    156 5th Ave
    New York, NY 10010

"The Vistula is to Poland what the Mississippi is to America and what the Volga is to Russia. In this story the Vistula emerges as the river on whose banks Jews lived for centuries, developed their own civilization, and perished in the most ghastly way in history."

With these words, S.L. Shneiderman begins his narrative of a personal odyssey which is, at the same time, social history. Through his visits to Poland and his hometown of Kazimierz, he reconstructs both his own heritage and the complete panorama of Jewish shtetl life in Poland, from its 11th Century beginnings to the 1970's. Mr. Shneiderman covers the cultural richness of Jewish life; the rights alternately granted and withdrawn from the Jewish population by Polish kings through the centuries; the relationship between Jews and Christians, by turns harmonious and uneasy; and the partitions of Poland which curtailed trade between East and West and ultimately brought on the demise of the region even before the Nazi began their campaign of liquidation.

When Mr. Shneiderman returned in the seventies to find only a handful of Jews left in an area which had formerly been resonant with the vitality of Jewish life. The shtetlakh were decaying and silent and even the gravestones of the cemetaries had been uprooted for granite and marble for monuments to Soviet soldiers who fell in Poland. As he shows, it is as if the dominating regimes, not content to eliminate the Jewish inhabitants of the region, had attempted to wipe out all remaining vestiges and memories of this civilization. But in a sense, the area along the Vistula, and the river itself, have their own memories of history; the river remembers.

"Poignant and lyrical"
     -Publishers Weekly