The Last Jew in Vinnitsa
The Last Jew in Vinnitsa is a photograph taken during the Holocaust in Ukraine showing a Jewish man near the town of Vinnitsa (Vinnytsia) about to be shot dead by a member of Einsatzgruppe D, a mobile death squad of the Nazi SS. The victim is kneeling beside a mass grave already containing bodies; behind, a group of SS and Reich Labour Service men watch. Continue reading on Wikipedia
My father was a Palestinian Jew. Born into am ultra-religious family in barefoot poverty. As were his parents, and theirs before them, and on and on for a while. My mother was one of a handful of Luxembourg Jews to survive the Nazis and anti-semites. Her parents were from Poland, the shtetl of Predzebozh and the city of Lodz, where most of their extended family perished. I come from rabbis and peddlers, horse doctors, scribes, and banjo playing performers of theYiddish Theater. Some were shot (like the man in the photo) after humiliation, torture, and rape. Some died of starvation and/or disease in the Lodz ghetto. Others were worked to death, or struck down resisting, their hands on the throats of their murderers. Some went up the chimney. Some were children and babies.
My ancestors lived, sometimes for centuries, in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Czechoslovakia, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, under kings and queens and sultans. I am not an ethnic Pole or a Lithuanian, I’m not Belorussian, Czech, French or Spanish. Where am I from? Who am I? Despite it all, I feel at home in so many places. Just about wherever I go. I really do. The Black Sea is in me. If you look at me, you can see it in my eyes. And the Irish, too. In my laughter and anger. Somehow it’s there. I am at home everywhere I go. Why shouldn’t I be? The blood in the soil is my own. My song is cante jondo. I am American. Look at my boots. And still I yearn for Galilee. And I am American. Look at my boots. Who am I? Don’t try to tell me where my people come from. You don’t get to tell me who I am. No one gets to tell me who I am.