Lives Lived and Lost: East European History Before, During, and After World War II as Experienced by an Anthropologist and Her Mother

Lives Lived and Lost: East European History Before, During, and After World War II as Experienced by an Anthropologist and Her Mother

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Kaja Finkler & Golda Finkler

Series: The Holocaust: History and Literature, Ethics and Philosophy
ISBN: 9781936235902 (hardcover) / 9781618112170 (paper)
Pages: 348 pp.
Publication Date: June 2012

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Lives Lived and Lost stands at the intersection of biography, autobiography, memory and history. It narrates a mother’s and daughter’s separate perspectives of their experiences before, during and after World War II. The book is also an ethnography of lives of women and children during a transformative period in Eastern Europe and opens a window to the crucial events of that epoch. The challenge of the narratives provides the urgency of the story and the richness of the historical record. It is also an unforgettable story of love, loss and longing for family engulfed by war. The book will resonate with those interested in the lives of individual women and children, mothers and daughters, scholars, and students of history, World War II, gender, and religion, especially Hasidism, immigrants, and with mainstream readers in this and future generations unfamiliar with life during the first half of the twentieth century in Europe.

Kaja Finkler (PhD CUNY) is professor emerita of anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she had taught for twenty five years. Previously, she taught at Eastern Michigan University. Professor Finkler has published widely in her field: she is the author of five books in her areas of expertise, including her last book Experiencing the New Genetics. Family and Kinship on the Medical Frontier published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, and over fifty articles in refereed journals dealing within her specialties, With Lives Lived and Lost she is drawing on personal experience, with the eye of a participant and observer- informed by her anthropological and ethnographic proficiency.

Golda  Finkler was born into a prominent rabbinical family descended from several Hasidic dynasties and was immersed in and profoundly knowledgeable about Jewish Orthodox life and Hasidism. She was also a feminist, and studied law in the Wszechnica Polska University in Warsaw at a time when very few women, particularly Orthodox Jewish women, attempted such programs. After surviving World War II ghettos and slave labor camps, she arrived in the United States in 1946. She had an exceptional memory, and this book is largely based on the more than 100 audio tapes she left behind upon her death in 1991 describing her life and the spirituality that helped her resist the Germans and survive the war years.

Lives Lived and Lost is unique. . .The mother, Golda Finkler, recalls many specific details, providing a vivid account of life before, during, and after her internment. In addition to her own recollections of survival as a child, Kaja Finkler also brings to bear the insights and skills she gained through her life’s work as a professional anthropologist. This book is thus as enlightening as it is moving. I have no doubt, that even those who have no personal connection to Polish Jewry or to the Holocaust will find beauty and insight in this extraordinary story of a mother/daughter relationship.
— Deborah Tannen, Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University and author of You're Wearing THAT?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation
This is a highly unusual and powerful Holocaust survivor memoir of mother and daughter...A remarkable and poignant mother-daughter odyssey.
— Christopher R. Browning, Frank Porter Graham Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Table of Contents

Foreword: Michael Berenbaum

Part I. In My Mother’s Voice

Chapter 1. My Childhood and Youth: In the House of My Grandparents
Chapter 2. The War Begins
Chapter 3. Working in a Slave Labor Ammunition Factory
Chapter 4. Working in a Slave Labor Ammunition Factory in Germany: Liberation and Return to Chaos

Part II. In My Mother's Voice

Chapter 5. On Being a Refugee in the Land of Gold

Part III. In My Voice:

Chapter 6. A Child-Adult Remembers Home, War, Loss, and Liberation
Chapter 7. The Child Becomes an Adult


Appendix 1. Mother’s World and Family before World War II
Appendix 2. On Hasidism
Appendix 3. Genealogy
Appendix 4. Prayers and Calendar of Jewish Holidays reconstructed
from memory by Golda Finkler in Hasag-Leiptzig