02 December 2010

Virginia: Lost town of Trochenbrod, Dec. 12

Learn about the "lost town" of Trochenbrod with author Avrom Bendavid-Val, at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington on Sunday, December 12.

The program begins at 1pm at Beth El Hebrew Congregation, 3830 Seminary Road, Alexandria, Virginia. Members, free; others, $5.

A Washington DC resident, Bendavid-Val's book - "The Heavens are Empty: Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod" - is the result of 12 years of research. He made nine visits to the site where the town once stood and its environs.

It contains first-person accounts, photographs and maps. The focus is on the vibrant town life, not just on its destruction.

Settlement of the village that became Trochenbrod started in the early 1800s in a small clearing in the forest in what is today northwest Ukraine. Jews began settling there and farming because under Czarist decrees, only by doing that could they avoid oppressive anti-Jewish laws, including having their sons conscripted to serve in the Russian army until age 45. As Trochenbrod grew to its final population of about 5,000, it became the only free-standing town created, populated, and self-governed entirely by Jews ever to exist outside the biblical Land of Israel.  Trochenbrod became a thriving regional commercial center that had a highly diversified and largely self-sufficient economy.
Trochenbrod was "a magical place,” according to the memoir of one visitor in the 1930s, a feeling echoed by the few Trochenbrod natives who survive. It was the only town to completely and permanently vanish in the Holocaust.  In August and September 1942, Nazis and their helpers murdered the people of Trochenbrod. The town had been created by anti-Semitism and it was destroyed by anti-Semitism. Because there had been none but Jews in Trochenbrod, no one was left there, and all traces of the town soon vanished.
 A book sale and signing will follow his presentation.

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