Last Letters from the Holocaust: 1942

"On the Edge of a Volcano"

Last Letters from the Holocaust: 1942


"No one knows better than we do that… we live as if on the edge of a volcano."

Shalom-Shachna Broin-Kahane, Hebrew language teacher at the Jewish high school in Rzeszów, wrote these words in 1942 in what became his last letter from the Zbaraż ghetto to his relatives in the US. Shalom and his wife Chana were murdered during the liquidation of the ghetto. Their daughter Esther-Hadassah survived in hiding in Tarnopol.

Ten last letters are presented in this exhibition. Five were written by parents to their children, whom they never saw again.

Last Letters from the Holocaust: 1942

The letters displayed here were sent from Belarus, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Ukraine, and were written in a variety of languages: Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Polish, Russian and Yiddish. Each letter and postcard reveals the last remaining fragment – physical, personal and unique – of the victims: their handwriting. 

Relatives of the murdered Jews donated these last letters to Yad Vashem for perpetuity, together with photographs of their loved ones.


16 May 1942

Kharkov Region

"Write as much as you can"


18 May 1942

Les Milles

"The giving of the statutes [Torah]… will be in force for as long as the world exists"


16 June 1942


"I am writing this letter before my death"


21 June 1942

Warsaw Ghetto

"… only news from you revives my soul"


July 1942


"When we… know our destination, we will let you know"


23 August 1942


"I leave full of courage"


30 August 1942

Les Milles

"I can hold my head up high"


20 November 1942

Rejowiec Ghetto

"forgive us for the pain and suffering that we have caused you"


22 November 1942


"Do you still remember the songs? I also sing them"


30 November 1942

Zbaraż Ghetto

"We would need the pen of Job to describe… our sorrows"