Thursday, April 21, 2011

Letters from Berdichev

In June 1941, Bella Reinsdorf had just completed the eighth grade with honors in Berdichev, Ukraine. She asked for her parents’ permission to celebrate by going on a trip with her cousin to visit her maternal grandparents in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkov. This cousin, Zonya, was a law student and needed to go on the trip to take his final exams in order to graduate.  They left on June 20th, two days before Germany invaded the Soviet Union.  Her cousin was able to make another trip back to Berdichev to bring his wife, child, and blind mother to Kharkov, but Bella’s immediate family was left behind. Her parents, two sisters, and paternal grandmother were murdered by the Nazis less than six months later. Zina, the youngest girl, was four years old.

In 2009, AHEYM visited Bella and her husband, Isaak, in Berdichev. During the visit, Bella showed the interviewers the many letters, telegrams and photographs from her family that her grandfather kept and passed on to her to keep the memory of loved ones alive. These letters were sent in June and July of 1941 from Bella's father, mother, and paternal grandmother in Berdichev to Bella and her family members in Kharkov. Remarkably, even in wartime conditions, the postal and telegram services were operational. This is especially significant as the Nazis set up a ghetto in Berdichev on July 15th, 1941. Through the letters, Bella's parents were able to convince her to stay in Kharkov, a decision that saved her from her family's fate in Berdichev.

To find out more, read the letters from Bella's family.

--Asya Vaisman

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