Memory Fields: The Legacy of a Wartime Childhood in Czechoslovakia

“Memory Fields: The Legacy of a Wartime Childhood in Czechoslovakia”
Recounting his experiences during World War II, a Holocaust survivor describes his experiences hiding from the Nazis in a convent orphanage in Czechoslovakia.

Memory Fields recounts Shlomo Breznitz’s devastating experiences upon being placed in a Sisters of Saint Vincent orphanage just hours before his parents were sent to Auschwitz. He tells of events with other orphans, his teacher, classmates, the prelate and dreaded visits by Nazi officers periodically searching for Jewish children. He describes overwhelming feelings of isolation and loneliness, and persistent dread of being discovered. Interwoven throughout the book, Breznitz, the psychologist, draws on his history and explores the nature of cruelty and kindness, of stifling fear and outstanding courage, and the ways in which memory shapes our lives.

For the readers of mamoirs it could be hard to truly relate as individuals to such a frightening and unbelievably cruel part of history, the enormity of evil and hardships thus blocks most feelings of empathy.  It is only when the story is “smaller” and slightly more similar to one’s own experiences that this emotional obstacle can be surmounted. Memory Fields tells such story. After its publication readers testified that being personally touched they could, some of them for the first time, truly understand what the Holocaust was about.

The author testifies that twenty five years ago, when Memory Fields was published, he believed that the most terrible times were surely behind us and that nothing like the Holocaust could ever happen again. However, the events in Biafra, Cambodia,Darfur, Rwanda, Syria, and the list goes on, suggest that humankind did not learn the lesson. Unfortunately, his small story is still a relevant one.

University of Haifa psychology professor Breznitz written an eloquent memoir of his experiences. The pain of his memories of the convent was reinforced by an anti-Semitic incident that took place in 1959 when the author was traveling through Hungary as a member of the Israeli student chess team. The book is a moving contribution to Holocaust literature. 

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