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We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust Paperback – March 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“Brilliantly balanced, totally engaging, and constantly penetrating.” – Jewish Book World Magazine, Jewish Book Council

“Cassedy resists Lithuanian attempts to place Jewish and Lithuanian suffering ‘side by side’….She listens to all the voices and perspectives…attempts to know and comprehend rather than judge.” – Christopher R. Browning, New York Review of Books

“Weaves together a historical quilt that provides an important context to a complex narrative.”  – Jerusalem Post

“Challenges us to think again about what it means to remember the Holocaust in the present….” – Laura Levitt (Temple University), H-Judaic, H-Net Reviews

“Deeply moving….offers a unique perspective." – Saulius Suziedelis, Millersville University, PA

“Pioneering….will reach out to all those who care about not replaying in this new century the disasters of the century that has just ended.” – Michael Steinlauf, author of Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust

“This eloquent book can help us to reach out, open our hearts, and rediscover one another in a spirit of mutual understanding.” – Hon. Valdas Adamkus, former president of Lithuania

“Engaging, informative, thought-provoking.” – Compelling Stories: Jewish Lives Lived

"An intimate, personal and investigative approach." – Baltimore Jewish Times

“Immersing herself in the study of Yiddish was like a prayer for her, a connection to her people….” – Jewish Forverts

“A most captivating read. Cassedy offers an extraordinary perspective, human and moving, to concerns that often are hidden by tired clichés, sentimentality, or anger. A rare document.”  – Samuel Bak, survivor of the Vilna ghetto and author of Painted in Words

“Those spiritually and intellectually brave enough to accompany Ms. Cassedy will be rewarded by sharing in her revelations and insight.” – Ina Navazelskis, journalist specializing in Central European and Baltic affairs

About the Author

Ellen Cassedy has explored the world of the Lithuanian Holocaust for ten years. Her work has appeared in Ha'aretz, The Huffington Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, The Jewish Daily Forward, Hadassah, and other publications.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (March 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803230125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803230125
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

For the past ten years, Ellen Cassedy has been engaged in a fascinating journey: exploring how Lithuania -- once home to her Jewish forebears -- is encountering the complexities of the Nazi and Soviet past. Can we honor our heritage without perpetuating hatred? How do people move forward after a history of genocide?

Ellen speaks to a variety of audiences about the Holocaust, Jewish culture, and Lithuania.

She is the winner of the 2013 National Book Prize from Grub Street, the 2013 Towson Prize for Literature, the Silver Medal for History from the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Awards, the 2013 Prakhin International Literary Foundation Award, and the 2013-14 Best Book Award from the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies. Shortlisted for the 2014 Saroyan Prize.

Website: http://www.ellencassedy.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ellencassedyauthor

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Laura S. Levitt on February 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this beautifully written first person narrative Cassedy refuses simple truisms about what it means to "never forget the Holocaust." As she explores her own family's Jewish past, she struggles to learn Yiddish and get to know the broader cultural landscape that is contemporary Lithuania, the place where her family came from. None of this is easy or simple. For Cassedy the past and its ongoing relationship to the present are critical. Yiddish becomes a way for her to appreciate these complexities. Here Yiddish literature animates every part of the story she tells. And, in so doing, Cassedy uses this literature to help us consider the grey and cloudy space of the present where different legacies of trauma and loss are intermingled. These legacies are, as she reminds us, lived out every day in this place. Cassedy resist making these different legacies somehow equivalent. Instead she helps readers appreciate the horrors that continue to haunt any attempt to come to terms with the Holocaust in Lithuania in the present. She asks us to appreciate those precious efforts that have been made to do this with some integrity even as she shows us how difficult this can be. As she makes clear in the broader cultural climate in Lithuania the Holocaust is increasingly overshadowed by the legacy of Soviet occupation as if one trauma can take the place of another. She resists this logic. Part of what is inspiring about Cassedy's approach is that she looks to past with humility and great compassion to help us imagine a different future even in this fraught terrain.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Joan D. Levin on February 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
In We Are Here author Ellen Cassedy addresses with thoroughness and sensitivity disturbingly complex events of WWII taking place as Nazis and Soviets in turn ravaged Lithuania. As a journalist, Cassedy brings a keen questioning mind and relentless pursuit of facts. As a human being and family member of individuals caught up in these events she delves into an ever widening and ever horrifying circle of data via interviews and archived documents, carefully recording her findings even as she deals with her own powerful emotions.

Strong feelings rightly exist about these decades-old events, and We Are Here is sure to elicit strong views. But clearly We Are Here, besides elucidating important historical events, raises moral questions we all must ask, not only about events of the past century, but those occurring right up to this very day. What is our human obligation towards others in distress? Can we ever, in good conscience, look the other way?

We Are Here grapples with these questions and more, addressing a painful history in order to build a better future.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daivalocity on March 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Former president of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus wrote a blurb for this amazing book, stating that it "can help us to reach out, open our hearts, and rediscover one another in the spirit of mutual understanding." He is right. This is a brave, honest, insightful, and beautiful written memoir. If you are a Lithuanian gentile or of Lithuanian gentile descent, you must read this to the very end, as painful as the experience may be. This is an especially important book for English-speaking Lithuanians who live in the West and are unaware of the slow but steady progress made in Lithuania of coming to terms with what happened during the Holocaust, including the participation of Lithuanians in the slaughter of the Jewish population during the Nazi occupation. As the daughter of Lithuanian gentiles who came to the United States after the Second World War, I believe it's way past due that we examined this dark period of our history. Cassedy's book is a great starting point.

What I love most about this book is the way that it's written. We Are Here is as much about the Lithuanian Holocaust as it is about doing historical and personal research, of rethinking what you know, of being human. While it was not an easy book to read, Cassedy is such an amazing prose stylist that it's hard to put the book down. I laughed during the parts where Cassedy writes about learning Yiddish--it reminded me of my struggles with the difficult Lithuanian language as a young girl in Saturday School.
I was sucked into the detective part of the story; Cassedy, who was born and raised in the United States, looks for possibly damaging family secrets that hark back to war-time Lithuania.

This is deeply moving and, ultimately, hopeful book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sara Taber on March 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
In her brave and eloquent volume, Ellen Cassedy steps into the land of her Jewish forebears and finds stories of defiance and hope. As she talks to "bystanders," "collaborators," "rescuers," and "victims" of Lithuania's complex 20th-century history, she finds that these terms are utterly inadequate to describe the range of empathy, self-preservation, and moral action--and cruelty--of ordinary human beings.
In tandem with her study of moral ambiguity, Cassedy explores the efforts being made in Lithuania today, to grapple with the devastations and complexities of the Nazi and Soviet occupations, and forge a unified country that both acknowledges the past and moves beyond it. In pursuit of a more hopeful future--for herself and everyone--she shares with the reader a whole cast of valiant and interesting people who are joining forces to reach across the divide of competing heritages.
By example, and perhaps half-inadvertently, Ellen Cassedy shows us that listening is the most heroic and radical act of all. She insists that we must never stop asking moral questions, and, at the same time, we must cultivate in ourselves a sense of openness and compassion for those in unimaginable situations. Our highest duty, as human beings, is: "To ask, without ever expecting to be done asking."
Interwoven with her deep exploration of human fallibility and bravery, Cassedy presents a lively picture of the contemporary Old World. This book, which deals so eloquently with the deepest of human questions, is delightfully leavened with gorgeous sensory experience.
In the end, WE ARE HERE is a full-bodied, satisfying, and ultimately exhilarating journey. I turned the last page fortified and inspired.
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