The Holocaust entailed the destruction not only of individuals but of a rich diversity of Jewish communities and cultures which had flourished in Europe for centuries. This poem, written by an anonymous author, is entitled ‘The Jewish Shtetl’.

And once,
there was a garden,
and a child,
and a tree.

And once,
there was a father,
and a mother,
and a dog.

And once,
there was a house,
and a sister,
and a grandma.

And once,
there was life.

Shtetl is a Yiddish word, typically used to denote a small town with a majority Jewish population, such as Sighet whose Jewish community is seen standing outside the synagogue in the photograph. Such communities existed across eastern Europe in the pre-war era; all were destroyed in the Holocaust.

Photo: members of the Jewish community of Sighet in front of a wooden synagogue, 1930; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Mitchell Eisen

Poem: Safira Rapoport, Yesterdays and then Tomorrows: Holocaust Anthology of Testimonies and Readings (Yad Vashem, 2002)