June 5, 2023
Florence Lieblich was 17 years old when the Nazis invaded her hometown on July 6, 1941. “From that day, hell started,” she recalled. Lieblich and other Jewish people like her became targets. The Holocaust — the genocide of more than 6 million European Jews — was underway. Over the next three years, every day was a struggle to survive. In her memoir, Lieblich described the terror she experienced in her city, which at the time was Czortków, Poland, but is now part of Ukraine. “The Jews were taken to the outskirts of town,” she wrote. “They had to dig their own graves before they were shot and fell into them.” Lieblich and her family hid as best they could. She would risk her life to go get food to bring back to them. “If a Jew was seen buying from a Gentile, they would kill them on the spot,” she remembered. “This happened. We had to eat. I myself removed my armband with the Star (of David), and went to get only a loaf of bread. We were starving.” At one point, she was attacked by a dog that she said was trained to hurt Jews. “The dog jumped on me and threw me down on the street and started to bite me,” she wrote. “The dog bit my hands, crushing my hands and fingers.” The attack left her with scars and deformed hands and fingers. But she survived. Her father, a rabbi, married her to her friend Philip, and the couple escaped at the urging of their families. The couple moved to a different hiding spot and stayed alive until the Soviet army liberated the city in March 1944. Then they immigrated to Czechoslovakia, Germany and eventually the United States. But many of their relatives, including their parents, died in the Holocaust. “Before the war, Czortków was a city of about 30,000 people. Among them were about 10,000 Jews. After the war there were only 80 survivors,” Lieblich wrote. Lieblich died in Dix Hills, New York, in 2017. She was 94 years old. Her great-granddaughter Emily Steinberger felt a pang of regret. Steinberger said she wishes she had talked to her great-grandmother more and listened to more of her stories before she died. “It was just a reflection point,” said Steinberger, a photojournalism student about to graduate from Syracuse University. “A lot of my family who lived through all of this is now no longer here. And this isn’t just me. This is a generation of Holocaust survivors who won’t be here for much longer unfortunately. And it felt like a now-or-never type situation.” For her honors thesis, Steinberger has been working on a photo book to document her family’s story. Both sides of her family are Jewish and emigrated from Europe during the Holocaust. The Lieblichs are on her mother’s side. Her paternal grandmother, Erica, fled Germany with her brother Werner, settling in Ecuador before ending up in New York. That’s where she met her husband, Ralph, who arrived in the United States in 1936 and served in the US military during World War II. Steinberger never got to know many of the Holocaust survivors in her family, as they died before she was born or just after. “The number (of Holocaust survivors) keeps dwindling, and it feels like the clock’s running out of time to get the story right,” she said. “That’s part of my urgency in working on this now.” Steinberger’s book is titled L’dor V’dor, which is Hebrew for “from generation to generation.” Inside the book are archival photos of Steinberger’s family as well as letters, telegrams, official documents and handwritten notes. “I’m very lucky in that my family did a great job of preserving all this,” Steinberger said. “At my maternal grandparents’ house, I was looking through boxes and all of these documents are like Saran Wrapped and layered in plastic sheets. … They did such an amazing job of preserving everything.” The project also includes quotes from Lieblich’s memoir, “Someone Is Watching Over Me,” and an interview she had given before her death. “This book is a telling of our story, a documentation of our history,” Steinberger wrote. “This book is our memory.” Throughout the book there are also many preserved flowers and foliage. It was something that Steinberger’s mother, an art teacher, had always done in old books, and Steinberger felt like it was the right thing to do here because she is preserving the family’s history like she preserved the flowers. The placement of the various flowers also has added meaning in many spots. In the book’s cover image, seen at the top of this story, flowers cover the face of Lieblich and her young daughter, Gloria, who is Steinberger’s grandmother. The purpose of covering the faces and making them anonymous, Steinberger explained, is to show that this is the story of many Jews who escaped persecution during the Holocaust. In another page in the book, a fern covering Phillip Lieblich’s brother Efraim illustrates how he did not survive the war. Another page shows ivy leaves circling Florence, Philip and others in a bunker, with the faces barely peeking out. This was done to symbolize what life was like in hiding. “A hope of mine is that if and when I eventually get to go to Germany or Ecuador or Poland, I would be able to collect some flowers and leaves from those places as well and include them in this project,” Steinberger said. Steinberger hopes her book and the story of her family can inspire other Holocaust survivors and their descendants to tell their stories before they are lost forever. It is important, she said, to remember the horrors of the Holocaust — and the struggle that families like hers went through to survive. “They are definitely stories of perseverance. They are also stories of change. As these huge changes happen in your lives, how do you adjust and keep moving forward?” she said. Recent news has shown that there are still lessons that need to be learned today. Antisemitic incidents in the United States reached their highest level last year since the Anti-Defamation League began recording them in 1979. “Antisemitism is still alive and well, unfortunately,” Steinberger said. “We’ve had a couple incidents around my high school and around my neighborhood where swastikas were drawn on the concrete or on buildings. I think there was even one like spray-painted onto a tree. And then in college, too, there was a swastika drawn out in the snow.” Steinberger put together her book by hand, and she said she would love to one day get it published. She foresees this being a project that she continues throughout her life. “We repeat the phrase ‘never forget,’ ” she says in the book, “and because of Holocaust survivors like my great-grandparents and grandparents, we won’t.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ifeanyi okowa addressed his fallout with james onanefe ibori. Photoshop is a very complete image editing software. Read also yul edochie unfollows his first wife, may, on instagram two months after she unfollowed.