More on Antopol

Google Antopol, and you’ll get lots of hits related to Molly Antopol, the American author of The UnAmericans, a short story collection. Her ancestors, like Stephen Miller’s and David Glosser’s, once lived in that shtetl in the Grodno area, in the Polesie region of what is now Belarus. Visiting Israel in 2000, she was given a “remembrance book” (sefer yizkor in Hebrew, yizkor/yizker bukh in Yiddish) for Antopol. I believe it can be found online (as “Antopol 1972”) at the New York Public Library, as well as an earlier Hebrew volume on Antopol (1966). An English version of the 1972 book is available at JewishGen but some of the images from the Israeli edition seem to be missing.

These memory books are not necessarily reliable sources for the study of local history due to their genre limitations. The Nazis occupied Antopol three days after attacking the USSR, leaving no time for residents to flee. The town’s Jewish community was trapped and later destroyed. If the remembrance book is to serve as a gravestone for the martyrs, it leaves little room for a critical or academic approach. But it’s still a valuable source even for a non-specialist. Its essays and memoirs necessarily idealize the ways and mores of the past but leave no doubt that Antopol was not a “village of subsistence farmers.”

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