Cover image for Bashert : a granddaughter's Holocaust quest
Bashert : a granddaughter's Holocaust quest
Simon, Andrea, 1945-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, [2002]

Physical Description:
xv, 288 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS135.B38 S57 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Haunted by her grandmother's Old World stories and bigger-than-life persona, Andrea Simon undertook a spiritual search for her lost family. Her sojourn, a quest for truth, gave her tragic answers.

On a group tour of ancestral Jewish homeland sites that had been crushed in the Holocaust, she makes a riveting detour to her grandmother's village of Volchin, in what is now Belarus, where the last known family members had lived. There, she followed the trail of the death march taken by the village Jews to the place of their slaughter by Nazis and Nazi collaborators in the fall of 1942. During the same period, in Brona Gora, a forest between Brest and Minsk, some 50,000 Jews were shot. Simon was in one of the first American groups to visit this little-publicized site.

Bashert, the Yiddish word for fate, guided her through the arduous quest. With newly translated archival records, she peeled back layers of clues to confront the mystery. This story of her momentous odyssey reveals the terrible fate of her kin.

Mass shootings of Jews, particularly in the Soviet Union, have not been addressed with the same focus given to concentration-camp atrocities. Yet Simon's research reveals that Nazis killed nearly fifty percent of their Jewish victims by means other than gassing. In the historiography of the era, comparatively scant reference is made to the executions at Brona Gora. Thus Simon fills a significant gap in Holocaust history by providing the most extensive report yet given on the executions at Brona Gora and Volchin.

As she interweaves tragic narrative with evocative family anecdotes, Simon writes a story of life in czarist Russia and, within this frame, of her family's flight from pogroms and persecution. From a unique vantage Simon's memoir discloses her dogged genealogical search, the newly perceived Jewish history she uncovered, and the ramifications of the Holocaust in the postwar generation.

Author Notes

Andrea Simon is a writer and photographer who lives in New York City.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Based on interviews, memoirs, historical accounts, archival documents, and family anecdotes, Simon undertook what she describes as a "spiritual search" for her family members killed in the Holocaust. Obsessed by her grandmother's tales of life in the village of Volchin (in what is now Belarus), Simon visited there during a trip to Poland, Belarus, and Russia in 1997. She learned that in 1942, all 395 Jews remaining in Volchin were murdered by two Nazis with the help of the non-Jewish villagers. She learned, too, that 50,000 Jews were killed and buried in eight mass graves in Brona Gora, a forest between Brest and Minsk, from June to November 1942. The author concludes from her research that her relatives were murdered on September 22, 1942, in Volchin, killed "for one reason only--because they were Jewish." Bashert is the Yiddish word for fate. In her quest for the truth, Simon has written a loving eulogy to her lost family. --George Cohen

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
A Note about the Textp. xi
Prologuep. xv
1. Bashertp. 1
2. Protestp. 44
3. Connectionp. 60
4. Disappearancep. 81
5. Longingp. 103
6. Collaborationp. 119
7. Isolationp. 152
8. Annihilationp. 186
9. Responsep. 199
10. Atonementp. 216
11. Survivalp. 231
Epiloguep. 263
Notesp. 267
Bibliographyp. 273
Indexp. 279