A Shiva Call

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

In the spring of 1994, Irving and Norma Kronenberg, the Bronx-born, Jewish children of Polish and Ukranian immigrants, set off on "a journey to the end of the world," a description which serves as the subtitle to A SHIVA CALL.

The book, written by Irving, is an account of the trip he and Norma took to Europe to visit the birthplace of their respective parents. Even before they left the USA, they knew the trip would be fraught with pain and despair. Many of their parents' relatives and friends had perished in the Holocaust visited upon the Jews of Poland and the Ukraine by Hitler and his minions.

As the author explains, they knew they would be visiting "the largest Jewish cemetery in the world." What they did not expect to find, however, was that the poison of anti-semitism still flowed through the veins of many Poles and Ukranians. Not only that, on numerous occasions (especially in the Ukranian countryside) their lives were threatened by fascistic thugs and thieves.

"We were gripped by the feeling that anything that happened from here on would be completely out of our control," Irving writes. "I held Norma's hand tightly and with the other clutched my camera closely to my chest as we moved in slow motion into an illusory time warp, a place where nothing has changed in over a century."
Occasionally, the Kronenbergs met non-Jewish Poles and Ukranians who treated them with friendship and respect, but for the most part they encountered suspicion and hostility almost everywhere they went.

A SHIVA CALL (in the Jewish religion, paying one's respect to the dead) is a worthy and moving addition to the body of Holocaust literature. It is also a cautionary tale to any diaspora Jew thinking of making a pilgrimmage to the blood-soaked soil of his ancestors.

(113 pages, ppbk; $18 incl. postage; contact nikronenberg@aol.com, POB 1335, Stockbridge, MA 01261)