Published: Feb. 15, 2017

Anṭopol: Anṭipolye: sefer-yizkor, Ben-Tsiyon Ḥ. Ayalon (Tel Aviv: Irgun yotsʼe Anṭopol be-Yiśraʼel uve-Ameriḳah, 1972)

 sefer-yizkor, Ben-Tsiyon Ḥ. AyalonYizkor (memorial) books (called yizker bikher in Yiddish) have long functioned as a literary vehicle for Jews to commemorate and remember lost individuals and communities. Books performing this function were produced in the Middle Ages, and some argue that the biblical Book of Lamentations can be understand as the earliest Jewish memorial book. Modern memorial books, commonly called yizker bikher since so many were produced in Yiddish, memorialize towns and communities lost during the Holocaust. They were often created by volunteer committees of survivors from the particular town being honored.

In the book From a Ruined Garden (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), a study of yizkor books from Poland, scholars Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Boyarin explain that yizkor books function in four ways for Jewish communities. They serve as substitutes for traditional Jewish memorial services, they can be read as holy texts, they function as chronicles for times and places now lost, and they are memorials to a town’s Holocaust martyrs. The books often contain maps of the town, with those dedicated to smaller shtetls showing each house with a listing of the former addresses of the town’s residents. Dr. Ida Selavan Schwarcz has noted that there are no exact data on the number of yizkor books published, but there may be as many as 1,000 volumes. The vast majority are in Hebrew or Yiddish (or both). Some include other languages, usually English, in brief abstracts. The Mazal collection includes such examples as this one from Antopol, a small town near Brest, now situated in the country of Belarus. Jews lived in Antopol from the middle of the seventeenth century until the liquidation of the town’s Jews in 1942. This book, written in Hebrew, includes a detailed English abstract, and two maps of the town shows the locations of former Jewish businesses and homes.