Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film

Glenn Kurtz. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-3742-7677-5
The rich life of a Jewish town emerges from elusive fragments in this moving Holocaust remembrance. Kurtz (Practicing: A Musician’s Return to Music) unearthed his grandparents’ amateur movie, which documented their 1938 vacation trip from New York to Europe, including three minutes of footage from his grandfather’s birthplace in the Jewish district of Nasielsk, Poland. The bustling scenes of townsfolk, almost all of whom were murdered in the Holocaust, prompted Kurtz to comb historical and genealogical records and search out survivors to explain the identities and relationships of the people on film. Engrossing detective work and chance encounters—one casual online viewer recognized a 13-year-old boy in the film as her still-living grandfather—allowed Kurtz assemble a vibrant portrait of Jewish Nasielsk, its homely shops, proud synagogue, quarreling Hasidim and Zionists, impish kids, and, not least, of its harrowing war-time dissolution. He also explores the resurrection of the community’s history, as survivors find images of loved ones lost for generations and forge new bonds. Kurtz’s limpid prose avoids sentimentality but still conveys profound loss and the emotional impact of memories stirred by the film; the result is a haunting elegy to a vanished place and a hopeful evocation of its legacy. Photos. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/15/2014
Release date: 11/11/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 432 pages - 978-0-374-71080-4
MP3 CD - 978-1-5113-4086-1
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-374-53579-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-5113-6868-1
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