Friday, April 18, 2014

Yad Vashem Interviews with Moyshe Rekhtman and about Kaluys Now Online

I found these amazing records about my grandfather and his village at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial Museum. I am really happy they are preserving the stories and memories online.

This is a video of my grandfather talking about the murder of his family and all the residents of his village

This is another video where he describes marking the mass grave with his family in it, with a headstone, nearly 30 years after the events. He did this without permission, after being officially denied for many years:

Here is the more information about the memorial my grandfather set up.

Yad Vashem also has records about my grandfather's village Kalyus, Ukraine.

Also (graphic language warning), the museum describes the mass killing of Kalyus Jews here. And provides the official Soviet report of the opening and examination of the mass grave. The original document is online with an English translation here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

HMHOS Hits #1 in Kindle Russian History Chart

It's been a long time since my last update and a lot of interesting things have happened since. After I published Here My Home Once Stood in the Kindle it really didn't start to sell. But after I signed up for a few promotions, including Kindle's Match program I started to see modest sales. Sales continued to increase over the next few months.

Recently I signed up for an Amazon countdown deal and this happened:

Thank you Amazon for giving my grandfather a voice and a way to get read. It is wonderful that his memory lives on like this.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Here My Home Once Stood Now Available on Kindle

I am very excited to offer HMOS on Kindle. The economics of physical printing didn't allow me to offer the book at a reasonable rate. $29.99 is steep for about 150 pages. But digital publishing changes everything. I set the price at $3.99. Now anyone that has an interest in the topic can buy it and read it on a Kindle, iOS device, Android device, PC or Mac.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reviews of Here My Home Once Stood

I am very happy to be getting some favorable reviews. A few people have made positive comments on Amazon. The latest is from Kirkus Discoveries:

A gripping tale that traces the unlikely survival of a Ukrainian teen during the Holocaust.

The atrocities of the Holocaust have provided the backdrop for many books and films, but few are as detailed and harrowing as Rekhtman’s stomach-churning account. Transcribed and translated from Russian by his grandson, this slim volume serves as the only record left of an entire Ukrainian village wiped out in 1942. While such a scenario often leads to heavy-handed sentimentalities and overwrought emotions, the author resorts to very few of those elements. Instead, readers are served a clear-eyed retelling of the cruelty and inhumanity that reigned during World War II. The story opens with a description of the secluded village of Kalyus, where Rekhtman was born and few of its 850 residents ever left. At 14, Rekhtman experienced a peaceful existence in which Jews and Ukrainians lived and worked together. Of course, this reality changed quickly when Communist officials fled during the night and rumors of German brutality toward Jews floated to the town. As the German army advanced into the Ukraine, the author’s neighbors and childhood friends began treating Jews with distrust and hate. A police unit arrived to enforce intense, useless labor such as moving snow from one side of the road to the other, on the Jewish residents. The author was transported to a labor camp where he worked in a stone quarry and became accustomed to constant beatings and starvation. His village was turned into a ghetto enclosed by barbed wire. When it was announced that the Kalyus ghetto was closed and everyone would be transported to another ghetto, none of the villagers realized that they were walking to their deaths until it was too late. Able-bodied people who could work were picked out, including the author’s father, uncle, great-uncle and his two sons. His father refused to leave his family and was shot by rounds of machine guns along with the rest of the village. With quick wit and a huge will to survive, Rekhtman evaded Nazi killing fields and death camps for four years, despite failing eyesight and an emaciated body. This story holds no bitterness or outrage but reveals the unfathomable strength of the human spirit.

A well-crafted, touching account of horror and fortitude.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Here My Home Stood - Now Available

I am sorry I have not posted in the last several months. I had been busy putting the final touches on the book.

It is now available on many major sites including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.Any proceeds from this book, and I am sure there will be little, will go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

This book is the result of three years of audio recording by my grandfather an an additional three years of translation and writing by me. It was both emotionally and physically draining, but worth every minute I had spent with it. My grandfather is my hero and bringing his story to print is a realization of a lifelong dream for me.

Thank you for your support. I hope you buy it. If you find it too expensive, please e-mail. I want it to be available to all who care to read it.

Much love,

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Each of us knows him in our own intimate and vastly different way. To my mother, he was a strict father, unyielding when it came to curfews, academics, and discipline. He was a young father, lanky and impossibly thin. He loved to read and was known to lift the books others were reading and lock himself in the bathroom with them for hours. He had so many volumes a curious toddler grandchild would later ask him why he had so many copies of the same book.

To me, he is a loving grandfather and, in many ways, my best friend. He taught me to read, play chess, and ride a bike. He was the one I could always count on during a turbulent childhood. He was there for the long and confusing trek from the Soviet Union to the United States via Austria and Italy. He walked me to school long after I stopped needing an escort, turning back a few blocks short to spare an insecure high-school sophomore any undue embarrassment. That was the last year his sight allowed him to walk by himself, and he must have known it. If he did know, he made no fuss about it. He simply gave me a kiss, turned around, and walked home each day, considering himself exceedingly fortunate.

The next generation sees him much differently, and he sees it not at all. To his great-grandchildren, he is a figure only able to give love, a lot of love. He has given himself to his family for many years and now he is frail. His mind is sharp, but his eyes have been eaten away by time, illness, and hardships few can fathom. His youngest great-grandchild, my son, lives three thousand miles away from him and sees his diedushka only two or three times a year. Yet this aged patriarch has a profound impact on my son. There is something surreal about the way the toddler loves this hulking figure who seldom gets up from his armchair. They have a bond, as all of us do, that only an unbroken link from so far away and so long ago can explain. The tot zooms by as his great-grandfather tries to hug him, arms flailing helplessly but without panic or frustration. To the little one, it’s a game. He may run past his grandfather many times but there will always be the embrace and kiss at the end. He won’t do it right there and then, but my son will talk about his love for his grandfather later. Back home he will ask me to call him and greet grandpa’s excited voice with the same words we all speak to him “Ya tebia lublu, dieda”—I love you, grandfather.

There is this Moyshe Rekhtman, weathered and sightless, loving and patient. There was the Moyshe of the long walks to school, the one who taught the letters and the chessmen’s moves. There was the young Moyshe who struggled to raise two daughters in the impoverished postwar Soviet Union, the one who stayed with his youngest daughter in the crumbling USSR as the rest of the family moved to New York in the late 1970s.

But before this Moyshe Rekhtman, there was another one. There was the one who refused to die in the Nazi killing fields of the Ukraine. Everything he was, everything he is, everything we are, and everything we will become was forged in those blood-soaked years when a 14-year-old walked out of the valley of death to give us life. And whether we have known his story for many years, as I have, or are yet to learn it, as my son will, our hearts are filled with deep love, sympathy, and admiration for this great man.

Just as sight was escaping Moyshe’s failing eyes, my cousin Alex asked him to tell about everything that had happened to him in those dark war years. Instead of telling his story to one grandson, he decided to tell the story to all the generations that will follow. In 1992, Moyshe felt for the record button on his tape player and recorded the contents of this book in Russian.

I first heard the story in 1995 and it moved me deeply. A few years later, I tried to translate it to English to preserve the memory of my dear grandfather. Alas, working with the noisy cassettes in a tongue growing more foreign to me by the day proved too much for me. It was only in 2003 that I could take to the task in earnest. The technology to digitize my grandfather’s recording had finally arrived. It was then, ten years after my grandfather felt for the stop button, that I gathered the dictionaries and my laptop and finally willed myself to feel for the play button on my iPod. The time has come.

Phil Shpilberg, July 2007

My Village - Kalyus

I want you to know about my family and friends, and about my village, Kalyus, where I passed my short and difficult childhood. Unfortunately, I cannot take you to the place where I was born because, among other reasons, we now live very far from where I once lived. My children and grandchildren will likely never visit the soil where my family history took place. Instead I will tell you everything I remember, so that you will at least have some idea of what happened in those times. I also want you to know where you come from, and who your ancestors were. As the years pass, you will undoubtedly ponder these questions, and nobody will be there to answer them. Much time has gone by, and there are many things that I have forgotten. Yet there are many scraps of memories that remain, and I shall put them together for you.

I was born on November 15th, 1927, in the village of Kalyus, Novoushitski Province, Kamenets- Podolskaya Oblast (Currently called Khmelnitskaya Oblast).

The village lay on the Dniester River, which was, at that time, the natural and political border with Romania’s Bessarabia. Kalyus was far from any railroad stations or major roads, and it seemed to be forgotten by both God and man. It was flanked by mountains on one side, on the other by a pine forest. A small river flowed through the middle of the village, dividing it into two parts. On one side lived the Jewish population, and on the other the Ukrainian people. Ukrainians and Jews lived well together, knew each other by name, studied and worked together, and helped each other in their daily lives. Today, my village no longer exists. In the early 1980s, a hydroelectric station was built on the Dniester River, and the village was submerged under a reservoir. Therefore, no trace of my childhood neighborhood remains.

About 250 families lived in the village, and they were mostly poor. The adults worked on the Jewish collective farm or in the tobacco factory. My father, Shika, and mother, Rachil, worked on the farm until 1939. When a hat factory opened, my father began working as an artisan in the hat-making trade, the craft he had learned as a young man. I was the oldest of three children. My sister Ronya was born in 1934, and my brother, Isaac, in 1940. I can no longer recall their faces, but I have never stopped loving them. My paternal grandparents, Iosif and Mira, were tailors who made new clothes and mended old ones for the Jews and Gentiles of Kalyus and the surrounding villages. They were kind, honest people and were known and liked by Jews and Gentiles alike.

My parents were simple people who earned everything they had with their own toil and sweat. They had no formal education and were illiterate. Their lives were difficult, but they persevered. My mother lost her father at age seven. Her mother, Menya, lived in Luchenets in Vinitskaya Oblast but visited us often. My mother was a gentle, kind person who was compassionate to those around her. She came to live in Kalyus when she married my father. My paternal grandparents loved her as if she were their own child. My father loved her and was deeply devoted to his family. The loving home of my parents is omnipresent in my memories and, even now, I can see their faces and hear their voices.

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