b'BOOK OF MEMORY FOR HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAYA VANISHED WORLDGABY MORRISM y grandparents, their grandparents before them, maternal and paternal, were Vizhnitz Chassidim, from the Mramaros region of Carpathian Ruthenia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A few months after the birth of my father in 1918, in the carving up of the spoils of war, their village, Nysni Apsa became part of newly created Czechoslovakia (my grandfather Meshulem had fought on the losing side in WW1). Superficially, Nysni Apsa seemed a remote, sleepy backwater of the newly configured Europe. But that belied that in Jewish heritage terms it was culturally rich, some of the greatest early Zionists and religious luminaries were from this area. My uncle was one of the pioneers to make Aliyah in the early 1920s and helped build what would become Netanya. Elie Weisel came from the nearby town of Szigit. Nysni Apsa is strangely familiar to us today, it was captured by the photographer Roman Vishniac in his 1938 book A Vanished World. The Joint, JDC, commissioned the Russian-American photographer Vishniac to highlight the real challenges and isolation of Upsha and its surrounding Jewish towns and communities. Industrialisation and right-wing politics were forcing change for the Jewish community and in the behavior of their non-Jewish neighbours.The photos are as powerful today as when they were taken 80 years ago. As recently as 2019 there have been two important exhibitions in London featuring them. Vishniac noted in his book without really realising the prescience (this extract also with thanks to the US Holocaust Museum);In 1648 a group of Jews crossed the Carpathian Mountains seeking refuge from the massacres and tortures of Bohdan Khmeltinsky. In this bleak, desolate part of the world, they founded the village of Upper Apsa, which was unknown to the outside world. Here farmers still grew the same type of corn Columbus had brought from the New World. It took great exertions and heavy pressure for their plows to furrow the earth. The peasants were all so uneducated that you could not speak with them about anything. Their interest was just vodka; only alcohol to drink. But a Jewish peasant - he was a wise man who knew about life, without having a radio or newspaper or any information, nothing but his own thought and understanding. And this made him most interesting for all discussions. He asked me if a danger existed and if Hitlers police would come, arrest him, and send him to death. I feared this, too, but could not advise him. There was no place to go. The whole world was closed, and nobody was interested in saving the Jews.My grandparents, Meshulem and Blima and their four childrenmy father and his siblings Meshel, Pepi and Sam, left for Antwerp six years before Vishniac took the photos, but my great-grandparents were still living there along with more than 80 maternal and paternal cousins, aunts and uncles.When the Nazis occupied Antwerp, as a Jewish foreign resident of the city, my grandfather Meshulem didnt stand a chance, he was forced to be a slave labourer in the Ardennes, 25'