The story centers around a the town's prominent Chasidic family, and a young German-Jewish soldier. They individually experience the wrenching events of Hitler's sudden attack and Russian troop retaliations. Interspersed with the main themes of survival, sacrifice and spiritual restoration are short personal histories of victims of the German invasion.
This novel gives a fascinating look at how one town dealt with a terrifying time in history. It is a tribute to the victims of the mass murder of Berdichev's Jews, Gypsies and the other unfortunates who died in Berdichev at the hands of enemies.
Five appendices provide thumbnail descriptions of relevant political movements and their leaders, as well as a history of the area, maps, and an extensive Holocaust timeline.
"I cannot say what propelled me along the dusty meandering roads of the Ukrainian Steppes. It may have been a lust for adventure, or a certainty that somehow I would find in the broad meadows and cool streams that give way to dense alder forests, a lingering peacefulness.
"At a particular junction I found in a half-buried, sealed metal box two blood-stained Stars of David, a frightening testament to Nazi terror. An unreadable name was etched into the lid in Hebrew. As I touched the rusty edges I was overcome with sadness. The artifactís owner had surely been murdered nearby.
"In the sudden piercing cry of an owl I imagined the scream for mercy, the plea for help against bewildering, sudden death: 'Give me more life! It is too soon!'"
July 7, 1941 was the day the German army's Panzer division invaded the town of Berdichev, Ukraine, on their murderous advance through Russian. When the town of more than 66,000 residents was captured, it had supported a prospersous Jewish population of over 30,000, a scattering of Gypsy camps, numerous Slavic businesses, more than 700 children and many aged.
By November 3rd, when the Nazi extermination unit was finally disbanded, most of those individuals had been murdered. Russian troops later finished what the Germans had begun. When Berdichev was liberated on January 15, 1944, only 15 Jews, no Gypsies and almost no babies were found in the town.
The dead speak out for justice. "Mashiach..." seeks to tell the story of the Berdichev shoah through the eyes of the living and the dead. A Holocaust timeline, historical perspective and five extensive appendices assist the reader in understanding the events and personalities of the time.
This intense, innovative novel adds its fervent testimony to the triumph of good over evil and to the survival and restoration of the Jewish family.
"Mashiach of Brodskii Street is very powerful! Brutality as abominable as this should never repeat itself. We must not ever forget, but we must begin to forgive." - Karl-Heinz Schnibbe; one of the three teens who defied Hitler