In Memory’s Kitchen: A Legacy from the Women of Terezin

edited by Cara De Silva translated by Bianca Steiner Brown foreword by Michael Berenbaum
Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, N.J., $25

Reading “In Memory’s Kitchen,” you almost feel crumbling in your hands the pages of the original manuscript—a makeshift cookbook scribbled on scraps of paper by women incarcerated at the Nazi concentration camp of Terezin. The book traveled for decades, from Czechoslovakia to Israel and then to America, until it found its way to the daughter of Mina, who had collected these recipes from the starved before she died in the camp.

This book gives voice to the elite, assimilated Jews who were taken to Terezin and who hoped—indeed expected—to be released. In her introduction to the book of pictures and recipes (in German with English translations), De Silva writes of the constant talk of food in the camp, of the psychological necessity to “quell the hungers of the soul.” “‘We called it “cooking with the mouth.” Everybody did it,'” she quotes one survivor as saying. “‘And people got very upset if they thought you made a dish the wrong way or had the wrong recipe for it.'”

There are no crematoria here, no corpses or torture chambers. This is the story of our kin, determined to maintain a vestige of normal life. In its reference to small details of normalcy, this heart-stopping document gives human-sized presence to the monumental disaster of the Holocaust.