Trip Summary

This is a trip that every Jew must take. It is highly emotional, but extremely informative in helping you to understand the heritage and plight of the Ashkenazi Jews and the impact on all Jews of Europe.

We visited one-horse towns, Shtetls, small villages, towns, small cities, and big cities. We saw fishing villages on the Nemenus, Naris, and Styr. We saw mountain towns, farming communities, industrial cities, and administrative, cultural and trading capitals. In all we visited 10 places in Ukraine, 19 in Lithuania, and 4 in Poland.

I started out my planing in an attempt to understand where my ancestors lived, worked, and died. They all came to the US between 1897 and 1911. So, they avoided both World Wars. But, they didn’t, the impacts were felt by their cousins, neighbors, and friends. 

As an example, My 2nd GG Grandfather in Kremenets Ukraine had 2 brothers, they had 22 children only 4 families escaped the holocaust. The rest of their decendents perished in the woods in a huge pit. The cemetery held 15,000 headstones that we could estimate. So, did the pit.

As we visited these 30+ places we got a feel for life (based on inhabitants, non-Jews), the food, learned some history, paid our respects at the cemetery (usually in disarray, or scraped clean), but a few beautifully tended to by locals, and visited the killing sites (often not well marked) way back in the woods somewhere.

I’m glad I went, I’d go again and bring other family. But, I’d be better prepared for the emotional toll.

We visited Auschwitz I & II ... they were horrific ... but the killing sites were just as horrible and I’m not sure that the holocaust museum can possibly tell the whole story.

On the upside, almost every morning (18 days), I walked for 3-6 miles in the morning. It helped me to understand the place. Once, I hadn’t even had a tour yet, and I ended up walking through the Jewish quarter without knowing it and just happened to pick an apple off of a tree in front of one of the two remaining Synagogue buildings; and sat there and enjoyed the view. I couldn’t have known it was the synagogue.

I now have a good feel for where my ancestors came ... and some of their moving around, occupations, and religious and secular life makes much more sense to me.

You must go!