What happened to you? Tell me. Tell me everything.

Thousands of letters pour in on torn scraps of paper. Pages and pages of handwritten Russian or Yiddish, with no punctuation… stories of love and loss, good and evil, friendship and betrayal. The horrors of war unfold in a torrent of words spilling into the margins.

They had never told any of this to anyone before. No one had ever asked.

My dear American friends,
I am Hirsh from Nemencine, Lithuania. I received your wonderful letter and check, for which I am very grateful. Your letter is like a breath of fresh air for me. Other than you, no one writes to me. It is such a pleasure when somebody remembers you.Hirsh
Thinking about you, each time I am amazed that there are such wonderful people as you. I hold on only to this.
In my long life I have learned to understand that the most important thing in this world is goodness and compassion. In the most difficult days of life you begin to understand a lot.
My health has been deteriorating and my wife’s condition is a lot worse. She is hanging in there only because I am still here. She can no longer speak. So I was very glad to receive your letter, since most of the time I spend alone. The people around me are strangers. I don’t have any friends here and I cannot go anywhere.
I always worked a great deal, studied hard and didn’t have time to think. Only now I’ve started thinking and realize how I have lived my whole life as if with closed eyes. I looked, but didn’t see, didn’t understand.
Hirsh (young)A week before the War started, our family was arrested and sent to Siberia for 19 years. Our father was sent to a camp, from where almost no one returned. Only at the end of the war did we find out that all of our relatives left in Lithuania were murdered in 1941 and buried in one common pit.
A lot of time has passed since then, but I still cannot forget how my mother cried when she found out that all of her family was murdered. She lost her parents, two brothers, a sister and all their children. She remained the only survivor of the entire family. I was too young then and could not understand a lot.
We’ve had a lot of bad things in life. Everything has passed now. Most of all, I regret that when it was time for it, I did not devote enough attention and tenderness to my mother. It was too late when I realized it.

With great esteem and love,


The Survivor Mitzvah Project brings emergency aid to elderly Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe still struggling to survive. Today Hirsh is 90 years old, lonely, destitute, and in very poor health. Living with his bedridden wife in a tiny utility shack with little food, inadequate heat, and no one to help, they both need constant care. Last winter, he fell on the ice while chopping firewood and broke his arm. It has not healed. It is increasingly difficult for him to be his wife’s caregiver. He needs our help.
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To help Hirsh and others like him, click HERE.
To see Emmy Award winning actor Ed Asner read this letter, click HERE.

© 2013 The Survivor Mitzvah Project from the series IN THEIR OWN WORDS