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A riveting memoir of family, the Holocaust, and the search for truth Esther Safran Foer grew up in a home where the past was too terrible to speak of. The child of parents who were each the sole survivors of their respective families, for Esther the Holocaust loomed in the backdrop of daily life, felt but never discussed. The result was a childhood marked by painful silence A riveting memoir of family, the Holocaust, and the search for truth Esther Safran Foer grew up in a home where the past was too terrible to speak of. The child of parents who were each the sole survivors of their respective families, for Esther the Holocaust loomed in the backdrop of daily life, felt but never discussed. The result was a childhood marked by painful silences and continued tragedy. Even as she built a successful career, married, and raised three children, Esther always felt herself searching. So when Esther's mother casually mentions an astonishing revelation--that her father had a previous wife and daughter, both killed in the Holocaust--Esther resolves to find out who they were, and how her father survived. Armed with only a black-and-white photo and a hand-drawn map, she travels to Ukraine, determined to find the shtetl where her father hid during the war. What she finds reshapes her identity and gives her the opportunity to finally mourn. I Want You to Know We're Still Here is the poignant and deeply moving story not only of Esther's journey but of four generations living in the shadow of the Holocaust. They are four generations of survivors, storytellers, and memory keepers, determined not just to keep the past alive but to imbue the present with life and more life.


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A riveting memoir of family, the Holocaust, and the search for truth Esther Safran Foer grew up in a home where the past was too terrible to speak of. The child of parents who were each the sole survivors of their respective families, for Esther the Holocaust loomed in the backdrop of daily life, felt but never discussed. The result was a childhood marked by painful silence A riveting memoir of family, the Holocaust, and the search for truth Esther Safran Foer grew up in a home where the past was too terrible to speak of. The child of parents who were each the sole survivors of their respective families, for Esther the Holocaust loomed in the backdrop of daily life, felt but never discussed. The result was a childhood marked by painful silences and continued tragedy. Even as she built a successful career, married, and raised three children, Esther always felt herself searching. So when Esther's mother casually mentions an astonishing revelation--that her father had a previous wife and daughter, both killed in the Holocaust--Esther resolves to find out who they were, and how her father survived. Armed with only a black-and-white photo and a hand-drawn map, she travels to Ukraine, determined to find the shtetl where her father hid during the war. What she finds reshapes her identity and gives her the opportunity to finally mourn. I Want You to Know We're Still Here is the poignant and deeply moving story not only of Esther's journey but of four generations living in the shadow of the Holocaust. They are four generations of survivors, storytellers, and memory keepers, determined not just to keep the past alive but to imbue the present with life and more life.

30 review for I Want You to Know We're Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    HBalikov

    Foer is on a mission. At times it can be all consuming as she culls the Diaspora and available databases to find out who she is and where she came from. In her words: “When I asked my mother why she didn’t know more or ask questions, she said that after the war people didn’t want to talk about the past.” “While much of what I know about my family history has been deliberately and painstakingly assembled, a lifelong research project that has sent me on a scavenger hunt though libraries, the Interne Foer is on a mission. At times it can be all consuming as she culls the Diaspora and available databases to find out who she is and where she came from. In her words: “When I asked my mother why she didn’t know more or ask questions, she said that after the war people didn’t want to talk about the past.” “While much of what I know about my family history has been deliberately and painstakingly assembled, a lifelong research project that has sent me on a scavenger hunt though libraries, the Internet and around the globe…” “…I had heard so much about (my grandmother) Esther from my mother and from my grandmother’s sisters…that I felt deeply connected to her. My grandmother was murdered holding her grandchildren. She died having no idea that one of her daughters, my mother, survived and that there were now numerous generations of descendants. I often wished I could tell her how life turned out for us…” “I have come to accept that I will never know my father’s full story: how he survived the war, the precise details of what he endured, of what haunted him and continued to cast shadows even on the new life he made in America.” Foer is a “survivor” too, and her search is made more challenging by the geography of politics of this corner of Europe. “This is a part of the world that changed hands eight times between 1914 and 1945: It was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then Russia, Austria, western Ukraine, Poland, the Soviet Union, Germany, the Soviet Union again—and now it was Ukraine. My parents’ neighbors had been Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews, mixed with the various occupiers, including Russians and Germans. The shtetl names had changed too depending on the occupier. I needed all of this information as I searched for maps.” Foer’s saga is that of displaced people beginning before 1940 but continuing after World War II. One of the poignant discussions is that of the effect on people in Europe of the USA’s Displaced Persons Act. An act that President Truman described as follows: “These provisions are contrary to all American ideals.” Yet, he signed it into law. The crux of Foer’s investigation and memoir is captured in this observation: “My parents were well taken care of during our first few weeks in America, but there were few questions about what they had endured in Europe and how they survived. This was typical of survivors’ post-Holocaust experiences in the United States and probably around the world. Survivors were urged to move on, and in doing so, they internalized the horror of their experiences. The general silence in my family about the past suggests that we were no exception.” This recounting of a life-long search filled me with sadness. I do not have a comparable family experience so it is very difficult to put myself in Foer’s shoes. So many things were not to be discussed when she was a child, a young woman or, even a mother with a wealth of life experience. It seemed as if every time with her mother was an attempt to learn something more about the family’s past. And there are hints that her children faced a similar situation. Foer recounts her son, Franklin, as telling her that: “…the most important part of the trip (to Europe with her) was getting closer to me, understanding me better, and that the trip helped him fill an emotional void that he didn’t even know he had.” Esther Safran Foer is in her mid-seventies as she writes this book. It is such a shame that it took so long to gain what she sought.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    You could classify this as just another story about Holocaust victims, or you could see it for what it is, a beautiful, touching and intense report of the author's voyage of discovery with regard to her ancestors, even as close by as her parents. It was a difficult voyage, no one wanted to delve into the atrocities, they just wanted to go forward. This book touched my heart, I felt as if the author addressed me personally. I think it's one of the very valuable stories about this subject. You could classify this as just another story about Holocaust victims, or you could see it for what it is, a beautiful, touching and intense report of the author's voyage of discovery with regard to her ancestors, even as close by as her parents. It was a difficult voyage, no one wanted to delve into the atrocities, they just wanted to go forward. This book touched my heart, I felt as if the author addressed me personally. I think it's one of the very valuable stories about this subject.

  3. 5 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    3 stars Thanks to BookBrowse and Tim Duggan Books for allowing me to read and review this ARC. Publishes March 31, 2020. It has been a while since I have read a book on the Holocaust. Although I am not of Jewish faith, each book seems to dredge up feelings and images that are simply overwhelming. Knowing that this was a memoir - dubbed as 'A Post Holocaust Memoir' - I went into it very slowly, while also reading a couple other books, to even out the drama and sadness of this one. I found that I 3 stars Thanks to BookBrowse and Tim Duggan Books for allowing me to read and review this ARC. Publishes March 31, 2020. It has been a while since I have read a book on the Holocaust. Although I am not of Jewish faith, each book seems to dredge up feelings and images that are simply overwhelming. Knowing that this was a memoir - dubbed as 'A Post Holocaust Memoir' - I went into it very slowly, while also reading a couple other books, to even out the drama and sadness of this one. I found that I both liked and disliked this book. There were plenty of sections that delved into the lives of Foer's family - I especially liked the parts referring to her Grandmother. But there were also parts that just seemed out of place - such as her repeated mentioning of her sons achievements. I understand that having to ferret out your past history and family would take a lot of resilience and research. And I admire Foer for what she undertook, especially under the auspice of the Holocaust. However, I believe this book may have been better had her son written it instead.

  4. 4 out of 5

    TL

    I won this via goodreads giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinions are my own. ---- 3.5 stars Had trouble keeping track of some of the names and details (me thing, my memory sucks) of her family and the places. I'm sure I pronounced some things wrong in my head haha. An interesting and powerful journey... it dragged in a couple places but overall I really enjoyed this. Would recommend. I won this via goodreads giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinions are my own. ---- 3.5 stars Had trouble keeping track of some of the names and details (me thing, my memory sucks) of her family and the places. I'm sure I pronounced some things wrong in my head haha. An interesting and powerful journey... it dragged in a couple places but overall I really enjoyed this. Would recommend.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    "I set out to find the family that had hidden my father during the war and to see what I could learn about the sibling I had never known. I set out to find a shtetl that, by all accounts, was no more. I set out to learn about my father. I set out to know about my sister. I set out to let my ancestors know that I haven't forgotten them. That we are still here." Words and stars cannot do this book justice. Beautiful, haunting, and inspirational all at once - a testament to memory, ancestry, fai "I set out to find the family that had hidden my father during the war and to see what I could learn about the sibling I had never known. I set out to find a shtetl that, by all accounts, was no more. I set out to learn about my father. I set out to know about my sister. I set out to let my ancestors know that I haven't forgotten them. That we are still here." Words and stars cannot do this book justice. Beautiful, haunting, and inspirational all at once - a testament to memory, ancestry, faith, and family. I can't recommend it enough. Esther Safran Foer, mother of three famous authors including the one and only Jonathan Safran Foer, is a child of two Holocaust survivors. Her mother and father were both from two small Ukrainian shtetls (villages with large Jewish populations) and narrowly escaped mass shootings from the Nazi Einsatzgruppen or mobile killing squads. Every relative of her mother's and father's - their parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins - were killed. Her mother went on the run with a friend for three years, a refugee moving constantly deeper into Russia and Asia Minor. Although she doesn't know the exact trajectory of her father's journey, she knows he was kept safe and hidden by a Gentile family for a long time. It took Esther years to even get this level of detail - her father tragically died when Esther was just eight years old, and many of these memories were too painful for Esther's mother to recount for more than minutes at a time. Esther savored any small detail she could get about her family's history, life in the shtetl, the hardship of a life spent in hiding. One day, her mom revealed that her father had a wife and daughter in the Chetvertnia ghetto: Esther had a half sister whose name she didn't even know. This book is about Esther Safran Foer taking on the challenge of remembering. Over her life, she becomes an amateur historian and genealogist, collecting documents as small as cancelled checks and ship manifests, documenting her family tree across the world, connecting with distant-distant-distant family members to piece together their shared memory. She recognizes that, in order to truly do justice to her family tree, she needs to go back to Ukraine. She sets off on finding and experiencing the shtetls that her parents came from, tracking down the family who hid her father in their house with only one photo as evidence, and learning something - anything - about her half-sister. Safran Foer perfectly weaves in why exactly this means so much to her: she unfolds to the reader the importance of Jewish memory. She discusses that for Jews, the world is a small world - everywhere you go, you can find distant relatives or in-laws, and Jewish people have stopped being surprised at these b'shert coincidences. She also emphasizes that the responsibility of the living is to affirm, celebrate, and remember the existence of the dead - this is something that she strives so hard to dedicate her life to, a task that seems insurmountable when she considers the number of family members who died with no photos, no stories, nothing to remember them by. Her ancestors have no idea that she is here - that she remembers - that their legacy lives on in her family. The book ends beautifully: after going on this journey of discovery, Esther sums it all up by mentioning how many of her children and grandchildren carry her father's legacy in their names. She duplicates an excerpt from her son's speech at his son's bris, a speech that ends in the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful and poignant way imaginable. "Leo, your mother and I pray that you will never forget where you come from, nor the generations who came before you. May your life be a credit to your ancestors, just as we pray that you will someday have descendants as numerous as the stars, whose lives will be a credit to you." Thank you to Crown Publishing for the early release copy via Netgalley.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This is a memoir of Esther's family - four generations who are unable to pass her mother's stories to each generation because her mother's memories were so terrible that she refused to talk about them. She would occasionally give a small amount of information but would refuse to answer questions. When Esther finds out that her father had been married before and had a daughter, she know that she must travel to the Ukraine to find out all she can about her half-sister. Esther's mother and father we This is a memoir of Esther's family - four generations who are unable to pass her mother's stories to each generation because her mother's memories were so terrible that she refused to talk about them. She would occasionally give a small amount of information but would refuse to answer questions. When Esther finds out that her father had been married before and had a daughter, she know that she must travel to the Ukraine to find out all she can about her half-sister. Esther's mother and father were both the only survivors of the Holocaust in their immediate family. Since her mother refused to share information about this horrific time, Esther spent her entire life searching for answers. Armed with only a hand drawn map and an old photograph, Esther and her son travel to the Ukraine to try to get some answers to her lifelong questions about her parents' lives. She wants to find where her father hid during the war and the people who helped him, she wants to find her mother's village and anyone who remembered her and she wants to find out information about her half sister born before the war started. It was difficult to find out too many answers since so many people were dead but she was able to find children and grand children of the people she was searching for and get information. The town her mother grew up in was totally demolished but she was found someone who grew up there and was able to show her where her mother had grown up. As she and her son travel, they find mass graves where Jewish people were shot and buried. Many of the markers on these mass graves were falling apart and covered in weeds indicating that the newer generations memory of that time in history is being lost. At each mass grave and grave marker of family members, she left a picture of her family to let her ancestors know that part of the family had survived and was 'still here'. This was a beautiful and well written memoir about one person's goal to find the memories of her mother and pass them down to future generations so that family history wouldn't be lost. Thanks to Book Browse for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is about the family history her son Jonathan turned into quirky autofiction (in Everything Is Illuminated): a largely fruitless trip he took to Ukraine to research his maternal grandfather’s life for his Princeton thesis, and a more productive follow-up trip she took with her older son in 2009. Esther Safran Foer was born in Poland and lived in a German displaced persons camp until she and her parents emigrated to Washington, D.C. in 1949. Her father committed suicide in 1954, making him al This is about the family history her son Jonathan turned into quirky autofiction (in Everything Is Illuminated): a largely fruitless trip he took to Ukraine to research his maternal grandfather’s life for his Princeton thesis, and a more productive follow-up trip she took with her older son in 2009. Esther Safran Foer was born in Poland and lived in a German displaced persons camp until she and her parents emigrated to Washington, D.C. in 1949. Her father committed suicide in 1954, making him almost a belated victim of the Holocaust. The stories she hears in Ukraine – of the slaughter of entire communities; of moments of good luck that allowed her parents to, separately, survive and find each other – are remarkable, but the book’s prose, while capable, never sings. Plus, she references her son’s novel so often that I wondered why someone would read her book when they could read his instead (I attempted to reread it recently, but what felt dazzlingly clever on a first read in January 2011 failed to capture me a second time). Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    This beautifully written book flowed so smoothly I felt was having coffee with Ms. Foer as she told her story. I have read countless stories of the Holocaust yet from each I learn something new. The biggest “take-away” for me from this book was that “life was all about moving forward” which may explain why many survivors did not talk about the past. The book is filled with many truly memorable and heartfelt statements. There are stories of heroism and stories of shame (such as how the survivors This beautifully written book flowed so smoothly I felt was having coffee with Ms. Foer as she told her story. I have read countless stories of the Holocaust yet from each I learn something new. The biggest “take-away” for me from this book was that “life was all about moving forward” which may explain why many survivors did not talk about the past. The book is filled with many truly memorable and heartfelt statements. There are stories of heroism and stories of shame (such as how the survivors were so poorly treated in American DP camps that President Truman actually ordered an investigation of the problem). The Jewish people have many traditions of which many we do not know why the tradition exists. I loved Ms. Foer’s take on why we leave stones on a grave instead of flowers, and the significance of a mezuzah on our doorposts. One of the most poignant parts of the book, at least to me, is the statement “Jews are concerned more with memory than with history”. We believe that a person never really dies as long as someone remembers her/his name. This is why Foer was so determined to learn the name of her half-sister that was murdered by the Nazis. Someone, somewhere must know her name. A little girl who had barely lived must be remembered. “History is public. Memory is private.” While Ms. Foer’s parents chose to keep their memories private, fortunately for us she chose to share the memories she uncovered and to keep these stories alive. Thank you to Book Browse for an advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own. I highly recommend this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Judi Easley

    First thoughts: Amazing. A genealogy search crossed with a deep dive into the Holocaust archives and local histories by a Jewish girl trying to be sure those that died are not forgotten. Powerful and personal. Full review coming. I Want You to Know We’re Still Here A Post-Holocaust Memoir Esther Safran Foer Tim Duggan Books, Mar 2020 288 pages Memoir, Historical, Holocaust, Genealogy Provided by Edelweiss ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The cover is perfect for this story. It looks like an old photograph, which I’m sure it was ta First thoughts: Amazing. A genealogy search crossed with a deep dive into the Holocaust archives and local histories by a Jewish girl trying to be sure those that died are not forgotten. Powerful and personal. Full review coming. I Want You to Know We’re Still Here A Post-Holocaust Memoir Esther Safran Foer Tim Duggan Books, Mar 2020 288 pages Memoir, Historical, Holocaust, Genealogy Provided by Edelweiss ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The cover is perfect for this story. It looks like an old photograph, which I’m sure it was taken from. The subtle font in pale gray and the ragged-looking edge like an old document all add up to the telling of an old story, which this is. A story that hasn’t been told completely. Too many of its parts have been lost, covered up to be kept secret or simply lost to time and death of those who carry the story. The Jews of Europe had to keep things secret. Where they were. How many of them there were. What they had. Their very existence had to be kept secret. For if they were discovered, their lives were forfeit to torture or death. Families were separated, to begin with. Husbands from wives, parents from children, siblings from each other even, mostly by gender. Shipped off to different camps and most never to find each other again if they lived through the war and what they were put through in the camps. Esther records her family’s personal history of changed names and birth dates and many more secrets. She shares her hunt for information, confusing as it was. Europe’s boundaries changed many times and so many records were lost, moved to different locations, or destroyed since then. What was once a governmental record is now in the hands of each parish and such. But these countries, states, and towns are very different from what they were at the time of the war. What once was Germany might now be another country. What once was Ukraine, might now be Germany. Where do you apply to find records of that time? And what name do you look for when people were trying to hide who they really were and using aliases? Changing their birth dates? Denying their family ties? Yes, the author provides a confusing number of names and such in her book that seem superfluous to those not familiar with a family search. However, being familiar with the ways of genealogists and what happens when you go looking for your ancestors, I understand why there are so many names. The story is written as it happened to the best of Mrs. Foer’s ability. It’s a story that needs to be told so that it won’t be forgotten. I highly recommend this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Barbara H

    I heard this author in an interesting discussion and review on NPR. I am eager to read this book when it is available. (3/30/20) ************* 12/9/2020 Esther Safran Foer has presented the reader with an extremely affective account of her painstaking saga of tracing her huge family, all killed in the Holocaust. It also involved her seeking the shtetls, or towns, in Ukraine, where her relatives were known to have lived prior to the inhuman slaughter by the Nazis. This, in part was fueled by the boo I heard this author in an interesting discussion and review on NPR. I am eager to read this book when it is available. (3/30/20) ************* 12/9/2020 Esther Safran Foer has presented the reader with an extremely affective account of her painstaking saga of tracing her huge family, all killed in the Holocaust. It also involved her seeking the shtetls, or towns, in Ukraine, where her relatives were known to have lived prior to the inhuman slaughter by the Nazis. This, in part was fueled by the book her son had written, Everything Is Illuminated , a fictitional account of this place, Trochenbrod and nearby tiny settlements. It is impressive to read how Foer and her son pieced together small clues to construct the solution to the larger puzzle. They traveled to areas where towns no longer existed due to Nazi destruction, or inhabited by surviving non-Jewish residents. This was not surprising when considering the complete decimation of many Polish and Ukrainian sites during this period. Vivid, detailed descriptions have been made by many of once teeming, cultured shtetls, including Eishyshock. It had been heavily populated by Jewish citizens, all of whom were eradicated during the Holocaust.* It is impressive to discover how helpful many Christian people were involved in the Foer's search. One small criticism about the recording of events in this tale is the huge number of people mentioned with difficult to pronounce names for the English speaker. However, it was certainly a necessity to determine family names, past relationships and to designate those helpful, kind people. Many assisted in the horrifying task of identifying the sites of brutal, mass slaughters, terrifying to observe, but important to remember... Foer's youngest son spoke at the time of his youngest son's birth: Leo, your mother and I pray that you will never forget where you came from, nor the generations who came before you. May your life be a credit to your ancestors, just as we pray that you will someday have descendants as numerous as the stars, whose lives will be a credit to you. P.218 *An impressive, lengthy production by PBS some 20 years past presented a heartbreaking picture of this There Once Was A Town . There once was a town (VHS tape, 2000) [WorldCat.org] www.worldcat.org/title/there-once-was...... 4.5

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...

    Esther Safran Foer is the mother of three authors (including Jonathan Safran Foer), so it isn't surprising that she is intelligent, open, and writes beautifully. This memoir is a story of family, ancestry, faith and inspiration. It is the tale of war and its impact on future generations. It is the story of loss, Judaism, the Holocaust, grief and PTSD. Ms. Foer's parents were both raised in Ukrainian shtetls. Both narrowly escaped mass shootings that took their entire families. Her mother survived Esther Safran Foer is the mother of three authors (including Jonathan Safran Foer), so it isn't surprising that she is intelligent, open, and writes beautifully. This memoir is a story of family, ancestry, faith and inspiration. It is the tale of war and its impact on future generations. It is the story of loss, Judaism, the Holocaust, grief and PTSD. Ms. Foer's parents were both raised in Ukrainian shtetls. Both narrowly escaped mass shootings that took their entire families. Her mother survived by running. She and a friend were constantly moving deeper into Russia, and Asia, trying to stay ahead of the Nazis. Her father survived, hidden by a Gentile family. When he left their care his story is unknown. Ms Foer was not told any of this for years. Her father died when she was only 8 and her mother refused to talk about any of it in any detail. She was surprised to learn one day that her father had a wife and daughter who were also killed. Ms Foer eventually becomes a family sleuth. She takes DNA tests, searches family trees, collects documents, and connects with distant (previously unknown) relatives. At one point she decides that she will visit the Ukraine and the shtetls where her parents lived. The book that results shows why this search for her story is important to her, to her sons, to the collective Jewish memory. It shares the emotional impact of meeting the people who knew her sister, and other family members. It shares the horrors of the Holocaust, but it also shares the beautiful acts by individuals. And she ends the book in a poignant, moving, heart-wrenching, devastating, and beautiful way, as she shares a quote from her son's speech at her grandson's bris, which ended like this: "Leo, your mother and I pray that you will never forget where you come from, nor the generations who came before you. May your life be a credit to your ancestors, just as we pray that you will someday have descendants as numerous as the stars, whose lives will be a credit to you."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Taunya Miller

    *I received this ARC in exchange for an honest and fair review* I Want You to Know We're Still Here is the author's experiences as she hunts for the truth about her family. Her father and mother were both survivors of the Holocaust. Like so many of the Jewish communities during Hitler's reign, the shtetls where her parents were raised were devastated, the Jewish people executed. Esther and her sons travel to meet surviving relatives and to search for clues that lead to where others may be buried. *I received this ARC in exchange for an honest and fair review* I Want You to Know We're Still Here is the author's experiences as she hunts for the truth about her family. Her father and mother were both survivors of the Holocaust. Like so many of the Jewish communities during Hitler's reign, the shtetls where her parents were raised were devastated, the Jewish people executed. Esther and her sons travel to meet surviving relatives and to search for clues that lead to where others may be buried. At the forefront of her and her sons' investigation, is always the search for her unknown half sister to whom she doesn't even have a name. The book is not only about this search for what happened to the lost loved ones, but also a memoir that describes her mother and father's journey to safety. In all honesty, I cannot describe this book and do it any justice without repeating what has already been included in the description. I felt like I was in this book with Mrs. Foer. I was invested. Like her, I had to know what had happened to these people, her family. The Jewish people were/are brave, they have a strength and resilience that is unbelievable. I have read so many books and watched so many documentaries about the Holocaust. It was a time of so much cruelty. I just don't understand why.....to know that Mrs. Foer was able to get some closure...I just can't imagine. I love the title of this book. Yes, they are still here. They (the author and her family) searched for the truth of her family's history. They left reminders that their lost family members are not forgotten. I just can't express how beautiful, and at times, heartbreaking, this memoir is and how thankful I am that I have been allowed to review it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    WOW. It's hard to put into words the way I felt when reading this. In so many ways, this book felt like a spiritual experience (even though I am not Jewish) because of the way that Safran Foer writes these memories into a history, as she emphasizes as important in Jewish culture. I felt completely moved by these stories and the determination to give dignity back to each affected person of the Holocaust. The only reason for 4 stars instead of 5 (I really wish I could do 4.5) is due to the fact tha WOW. It's hard to put into words the way I felt when reading this. In so many ways, this book felt like a spiritual experience (even though I am not Jewish) because of the way that Safran Foer writes these memories into a history, as she emphasizes as important in Jewish culture. I felt completely moved by these stories and the determination to give dignity back to each affected person of the Holocaust. The only reason for 4 stars instead of 5 (I really wish I could do 4.5) is due to the fact that I found some parts of the texts difficult to follow without a visual of a map or family tree somewhere. At certain parts, this made it hard to actually understand what was going on, who was being talked about, or why a certain person was being mentioned at that particular part (because truly, each person Safran Foer mentions hold their own importance in this history). If these moments had not detracted from my complete understanding of the text, I would have easily given the book 5 stars. BONUS: I got so many book recommendations for what to read next because of this book!! ***I was provided with an e-ARC of this book from Crown Publishing through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions below are my own.***

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shannon A

    As a history major, I was intrigued by the subtitle of this memoir. I’m always keeping an eye out for the untold history and this book became one that stayed with me for days after I’d finished it. We all have photos of people that we know are family but no one can tell us who they are; as too much time has passed; that is what happens here. One photo sparked the search for one single name in an attempt to know; as to claim the existence of one person, for to keep the memory of them alive. Broug As a history major, I was intrigued by the subtitle of this memoir. I’m always keeping an eye out for the untold history and this book became one that stayed with me for days after I’d finished it. We all have photos of people that we know are family but no one can tell us who they are; as too much time has passed; that is what happens here. One photo sparked the search for one single name in an attempt to know; as to claim the existence of one person, for to keep the memory of them alive. Brought to life here is the sense that is memory which has given us a true look at the past not soon to be forgotten.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I read the Advanced, Uncorrected Proof of this book which someone picked up at a book convention where they saw the author speak. The person who gave me this book to read was very impressed with the author and the story she had to tell and thought I might be also. And, indeed, I was impressed with the story she had to tell. Safran Foer, who, as she reminds us way too many times, is the mother of Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everthing is Illuminated, a holocaust book about a semi-fictional tow I read the Advanced, Uncorrected Proof of this book which someone picked up at a book convention where they saw the author speak. The person who gave me this book to read was very impressed with the author and the story she had to tell and thought I might be also. And, indeed, I was impressed with the story she had to tell. Safran Foer, who, as she reminds us way too many times, is the mother of Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everthing is Illuminated, a holocaust book about a semi-fictional town in Poland/Ukraine. Her goal in her own book is to enlighten the reader as to what happens to concentration camp survivors - or just survivors in general - between liberation and resettlement, a time period nearly completely overlooked in the holocaust canon. It is definitely an interesting slant that makes for an interesting story as survivors attempt to overcome their trauma and learn to live - or not -with their overwhelming PTSD. As this was an uncorrected proof, I can't comment too harshly on how it is written but that's my problem with the book. Suffice it to say, I hope the finished version found a good editor. The book, in its current state, is a wonderful resource for her own family - the level of genealogical research she completed and the number of relatives and stories she has uncovered is impressive indeed. And far be it from me to criticize anyone's true holocaust story. I have nothing but respect for anyone who survived Nazi persecution. I am glad I read the book - it is educational and enlightening; heartbreaking and hopeful - I just hope the finished copy is better edited.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    As soon as I read the synopsis of I Want You to Know We’re Still Here I knew I needed this book in my hands as soon as possible. Thank you so much Crown Publishing for granting me this early copy. Esther Safran Foer-I usually do a quick thank you to the author as well but thank you is not enough. It has been such an honor and a privilege to read your memoir. Thank you so much for sharing your family history and journey to uncover the truth. This book is something that will stay with me for a lon As soon as I read the synopsis of I Want You to Know We’re Still Here I knew I needed this book in my hands as soon as possible. Thank you so much Crown Publishing for granting me this early copy. Esther Safran Foer-I usually do a quick thank you to the author as well but thank you is not enough. It has been such an honor and a privilege to read your memoir. Thank you so much for sharing your family history and journey to uncover the truth. This book is something that will stay with me for a long time. When I am able to purchase a physical copy upon its release, it will have a permanent home on my shelves. Things I loved About This Book- The History/ Subject Matter- I love history. Especially anything to do with WWII and the Holocaust. It just fascinates me. There are so many people and accounts- so many stories to be told. Each one so unique and important. The Honesty- Esther Safran Foer is very open and honest about her family in this book. It is something that I admire. The book opens with a revelation. With a family secret. Her father was previously married during the war and she had a half sister. Both of them perished. The author also touches upon her fathers death and the circumstances surrounding his death. I imagine that it was not an easy task putting some of her words to paper. I was emotional myself at certain points just reading what was written. The Journey- The author travels to Ukraine to find family and witnesses. Anyone she may be able to talk to in order to piece together her fathers life before and during the war. Anyone who may have information on his previous wife and child. I felt like I was on that journey with her. I was eager for the answers she was searching for. That is all I can say at this time. I urge you to read this book. If you are a fan of history, non fiction, memoirs or genealogy I recommend this highly. I feel very bad about not giving this memoir 5 stars. The reason it did not make it there has to do with the beginning of the book. At times it was hard to follow. I don’t want to use the words info dump but a lot of names and connections were explained towards the beginning. It was just a lot at first but once I made my way past that section all was good.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Caren

    Esther Safran Foer "had grown up surrounded by ghosts." Her mother, a Holocaust survivor, kept secret much of the tragedy she had experienced in her birthplace, Ukraine. Similarly, the author's father had never spoken about his Holocaust experience; his suicide at the age of 44, however, was testament to his inability to survive with the ghosts he carried within him. When the author discovered, years later, that her father had lost his first wife and a daughter, she was further driven to journey Esther Safran Foer "had grown up surrounded by ghosts." Her mother, a Holocaust survivor, kept secret much of the tragedy she had experienced in her birthplace, Ukraine. Similarly, the author's father had never spoken about his Holocaust experience; his suicide at the age of 44, however, was testament to his inability to survive with the ghosts he carried within him. When the author discovered, years later, that her father had lost his first wife and a daughter, she was further driven to journey into the past and find the answers to the questions she had never been able to ask. The subject is engaging, as is the author's energy in her life-long pursuit of her lost and murdered family's fate. However, I found the memoir "clunky" in many parts, needing to be better structured and more fluid in the writing. Perhaps my expectations were unfair, as Esther Safran Foer is the mother of two respected authors (Josh and Jonathan). In fact, Jonathan Safran Foer was acclaimed worldwide for his fictional representation of his mother's shetl in Ukraine. The culmination of the author's search took her back to Ukraine, back to the site of the mass graves in the towns now devoid of Jews and of the traces of their lives. What I found impressive throughout was the author's devotion to her family, to the memory of those she never knew but could now put names to and thus honour by imprinting them in her memory and in the memories she was providing for her children and grandchildren. Her final comments in the Epilogue do so with a full heart.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Lahey

    Ester Foer's search for her family history is both inspiring and challenging. Her parents had lived through the Holocaust and were enigmatic about their experiences. Her father died and she was unaware of the circumstances until she was much older. Over the years, Foer did intense research across several continents to unearth her parent's history. I read many books about the Holocaust - both fiction and non-fiction. Most are written about survivors from the death camps and their horrific experie Ester Foer's search for her family history is both inspiring and challenging. Her parents had lived through the Holocaust and were enigmatic about their experiences. Her father died and she was unaware of the circumstances until she was much older. Over the years, Foer did intense research across several continents to unearth her parent's history. I read many books about the Holocaust - both fiction and non-fiction. Most are written about survivors from the death camps and their horrific experiences. What I haven't read much of, nor has there been much written about, concerns the post-Holocaust. This was a time that was just as hard for the surviving Jews and one that people just assume had to be easier given that the death camps were closed. Foer's book highlights this difficult time period and opened my eyes to a situation I knew little about. Foer's book is a true life detective story. Her writing is just as gifted as her three sons who are also writers. It takes her years to finally piece her family's past in place. You can feel her emotion when she finally arrives at her father's ancestral home land and meets the family that saved her father. This is an important book that needs to be added to the catalogue of "must-read" Holocaust books. It covers a period that most readers know little about. I highly recommend this book and am grateful for the opportunity to read it and learn more about this terrible time in World War II.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    Esther Safran Foer has written a family history/memoir, “I Want You to Know We Are Still Here”. The book is about her family- both sides - who lost countless relatives in the Holocaust. She was born in Ukraine to parents who had survived German occupation of Poland and Ukraine and who had gotten together after the war. They married and were lucky to come to the United States after several years in a German DP camp. They prospered here, though her father committed suicide several years after he a Esther Safran Foer has written a family history/memoir, “I Want You to Know We Are Still Here”. The book is about her family- both sides - who lost countless relatives in the Holocaust. She was born in Ukraine to parents who had survived German occupation of Poland and Ukraine and who had gotten together after the war. They married and were lucky to come to the United States after several years in a German DP camp. They prospered here, though her father committed suicide several years after he arrived. Her mother raised Esther and her brother. Esther later married Bert Foer and raised three very versatile writers. With this book, Esther has joined her sons. Most of the book concerns the search done both electronically and in person about the family members lost in the Holocaust. She and her sons, particularly Frank, investigated the shtetls her parents came from. Her son, Jonathan, wrote a fictional work about the search he conducted in the late 1990’s, “Everything is Illuminated”, which was made into a movie. Safran Foer’s book is interesting but it’s taken me a week to finish it. The story of travel and discovery is a bit confusing and really could use some judicious editing. I’m glad I read it, but I’d advise anyone thinking about reading it to read it to check all the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joe Kessler

    There are many personal accounts of the Holocaust out there, but I think this new memoir may be the first I've read from the child of survivors, exploring what it's like to grow up with that sort of household trauma hanging overhead. Esther Safran Foer's father killed himself when she was eight years old, and her mother long resisted sharing details of their experiences from before emigration to America. As a result, the author has spent much of her life trying to reconstruct that story and trac There are many personal accounts of the Holocaust out there, but I think this new memoir may be the first I've read from the child of survivors, exploring what it's like to grow up with that sort of household trauma hanging overhead. Esther Safran Foer's father killed himself when she was eight years old, and her mother long resisted sharing details of their experiences from before emigration to America. As a result, the author has spent much of her life trying to reconstruct that story and track down relatives both living and dead -- helped along by the attention raised through her son Jonathan's famous fictionalized version of events, Everything Is Illuminated. This is a good companion piece to that 2002 novel, but it also works fine as an independent meditation on the Jewish diaspora, Nazi violence, and the difficulties in researching a time and place with so little existing documentation. Foer's narrative stretches forward and back over multiple generations, making clear how deep these scars linger in everyone's memories, continuing to shape countless facets of the family's existence for decades to come. Find me on Patreon | Goodreads | Blog | Twitter

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karima

    Written by the mother of Jonathan Safran Foer who wrote Everything Is Illuminated (2002) as well as a slew of other fiction and non-fiction books. Such a literary family! All three of her sons are writers as well as many other extended members of the family. This book serves as somewhat of a companion piece to Jonathan's Everything is Illuminated, but stands well on its own. What I found most remarkable about this account, notwithstanding the far-reaching, deeply researched search for family ties, Written by the mother of Jonathan Safran Foer who wrote Everything Is Illuminated (2002) as well as a slew of other fiction and non-fiction books. Such a literary family! All three of her sons are writers as well as many other extended members of the family. This book serves as somewhat of a companion piece to Jonathan's Everything is Illuminated, but stands well on its own. What I found most remarkable about this account, notwithstanding the far-reaching, deeply researched search for family ties, is the physical journey that Esther took with her grandson Franklin. VERY moving and inspirational.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Foster

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Thank you to Crown Published and Net Galley for an advanced copy of this book. It's not often I go to write a review about a book and end up not knowing where to start. Firstly, I am saddened and horrified to not know so much about the Holocaust. I thought I was educated, but reading this book opened my eyes to atrocities I had never heard of, had never imagined, could never imagine. I was captivated by the premise of this book, so was excited when I was granted advanced access to it. I had expe Thank you to Crown Published and Net Galley for an advanced copy of this book. It's not often I go to write a review about a book and end up not knowing where to start. Firstly, I am saddened and horrified to not know so much about the Holocaust. I thought I was educated, but reading this book opened my eyes to atrocities I had never heard of, had never imagined, could never imagine. I was captivated by the premise of this book, so was excited when I was granted advanced access to it. I had expected this book would play out giving answers to the situation posed in the premise. And it does, sort of, but it also does not. Which I think made everything about this book, and a different realization about the Holocaust so much realer to me: there are no longer ways to get answers to questions of the past for millions of people because six million people were wiped out. Their history went with them. Their generational history. Their stories. I can't imagine the atrocities that occurred then. That still exist in places today. I can't imagine turning in one of my neighbours or helping to eradicate people from existence. I just don't understand it. It's hard for me to recommend this book as a good read, but I do think it is an important read. And for that, I would recommend picking it up.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Veronique

    I was drawn to reading this book for two reasons. First, I loved her son Jonathan’s fictional account of their family history ....” Everything is Illuminated”. Second, I was curious to read her personal journey of discovery about this very little known part of the Holocaust, known as Holocaust by Bullets. If you want to know more about this time period , you should read Father Patrick DeBois ‘s two books. “Holocaust by Bullets” and “In Broad Daylight” . Here you will get a clear understanding of I was drawn to reading this book for two reasons. First, I loved her son Jonathan’s fictional account of their family history ....” Everything is Illuminated”. Second, I was curious to read her personal journey of discovery about this very little known part of the Holocaust, known as Holocaust by Bullets. If you want to know more about this time period , you should read Father Patrick DeBois ‘s two books. “Holocaust by Bullets” and “In Broad Daylight” . Here you will get a clear understanding of this, the precursor of the final solution, which quickly became the death camps. Her book left me disappointed, and sometimes rather impatient. Though I admire her need to research her family history, and her commitment and success in its discovery, i was disappointed in the writing . There was too much needless information, about secondary and tertiary family members, that I could not retain , and frankly did not care about. I wish she could have stuck to the meat of the story, cut it down a bit..... or better still , had her son Jonathan, write about it. Talking of which, “ Everything is Illuminated” , though fiction, said more and had more emotional impact on the same subject matter. Sometimes , it takes a work of fiction to teach the lessons of the Holocaust in a more personal and intimate way.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    A truly amazing story. I admire her tenacity in digging up her family's history, and how incredible the memories of those who lived in those terrible times. i suppose we also, remember where we were on 9-11, when the riots happened, when we first stayed home due to covid, and what we did, but there is potential for much of that to be lost. A truly amazing story. I admire her tenacity in digging up her family's history, and how incredible the memories of those who lived in those terrible times. i suppose we also, remember where we were on 9-11, when the riots happened, when we first stayed home due to covid, and what we did, but there is potential for much of that to be lost.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shawna

    World War II literature is one of my favorites. I've read many books, fiction and nonfiction, about the Holocaust, however I've never read anything like I Want You To Know We're Still Here. What a powerful, thought provoking memoir. Esther Safran Foer shares her journey to discover more about her mother and father's experience during the Holocaust and the years just after. Like many whose experiences were too difficult to talk about, her parents didn't speak about the past. "History is public. M World War II literature is one of my favorites. I've read many books, fiction and nonfiction, about the Holocaust, however I've never read anything like I Want You To Know We're Still Here. What a powerful, thought provoking memoir. Esther Safran Foer shares her journey to discover more about her mother and father's experience during the Holocaust and the years just after. Like many whose experiences were too difficult to talk about, her parents didn't speak about the past. "History is public. Memory is personal." "Life was all about moving forward." Both heart-wrenching and heartwarming, her memoir will resonant with many readers about secrets in their own family, and the need to be remembered by descendants. There is much for book clubs to discuss. It is a short book, but will stay with you long after you finish reading.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Janine

    Powerful and moving memoir of a post-Holocaust survivor. The importance of preserving memory of family and not keeping silent about the past is beautifully shared in this book. The author’s quest to find a half-sister she hadn’t known existed and learn more about her father’s life before coming to America was very moving. But it was sad too to learn that the mass graves of Ukrainian Jews are falling into disrepair shoring up the importance of not forgetting and keeping memory alive. I thoroughly Powerful and moving memoir of a post-Holocaust survivor. The importance of preserving memory of family and not keeping silent about the past is beautifully shared in this book. The author’s quest to find a half-sister she hadn’t known existed and learn more about her father’s life before coming to America was very moving. But it was sad too to learn that the mass graves of Ukrainian Jews are falling into disrepair shoring up the importance of not forgetting and keeping memory alive. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and intend to read it again.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stefani

    I will be thinking about this book for a long time. I felt as if I were reading my own journey tracing my ancestors back to their pogrom and Holocaust ravaged shtetls in Eastern Europe. Weaving research details, family stories and lore, along with her inherited Jewish values, her story of finding her parents' towns and people was a bittersweet read. The story reads as if you're sitting with her over coffee. At times I cried, laughed out loud, and found myself highlighting sentences and paragraph I will be thinking about this book for a long time. I felt as if I were reading my own journey tracing my ancestors back to their pogrom and Holocaust ravaged shtetls in Eastern Europe. Weaving research details, family stories and lore, along with her inherited Jewish values, her story of finding her parents' towns and people was a bittersweet read. The story reads as if you're sitting with her over coffee. At times I cried, laughed out loud, and found myself highlighting sentences and paragraphs to come back to later.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lorri

    I found Esther Safran Foer's memoir to be a bit dragged out in sections, and also repetitive in spots. I do realize that she wanted to include her struggle to find out familial information, inputting all of her known information into the memoir. I applaud her for her determination and endeavors, throughout the years, to find answers to her many questions. I found Esther Safran Foer's memoir to be a bit dragged out in sections, and also repetitive in spots. I do realize that she wanted to include her struggle to find out familial information, inputting all of her known information into the memoir. I applaud her for her determination and endeavors, throughout the years, to find answers to her many questions.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Judith Rosenbaum

    Beautiful, honest, and sensitive telling of her family's story and her own process of uncovering it. Beautiful, honest, and sensitive telling of her family's story and her own process of uncovering it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Simultaneously repulsive and engaging - one wishes it were not all true.

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