December 3, 2021
Uncovering a family’s last letters
In 1935, Chaim and Chaya Friedman’s son, Benjamin migrated from Rasein, Lithuania to South Africa with his wife Rosa.
The family kept in touch, and about 160 letters written in Yiddish reached Benjamin and Rosa over a three-year period between 1937 to 1939.
The letters have remained unread for years, lovingly bound in a leather album, which one can page through from first to last.
Leatherbound book and letters, written in Yiddish. November 2021.
The cover of the album bears a gold inscription:
In memory of my parents
Chaya Sorre and Chaim Hirshl Friedman
of Rasein, Lithuania
where they lived with dignity and did not
lose their Jewish pride in the cruel hours
of their tragic death
What will the letters reveal about the conditions in which the writers lived before they were murdered?
Donor, Mina Staskun, holding her father’s precious album of letters, November 2021. Photo by Roslyn Sugarman.
Recently donated to the Museum, these letters are likely to keep the curators and a Yiddish translator busy for at least three years.
Once they have been translated, our curators will review the content as a whole, and place them in a wider historical context.
With one letter scheduled to be translated every week, it could take up to three years to gain a complete understanding of their individual lives, the larger story that unfolds regarding what happened to the Jews of Rasein, and what knowledge this might add to the historical record.