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Lettres de Mir

Gugenheim, Ernest. 2006. Lettres de Mir: d’un monde de Tora effacé par le Shoah [Letters from Mir: a world of the Torah erased by the Shoah]. Paris: Biblieurope. ISBN 2-84828-051-4
Today, sixty years after the Shoah, the public shows a particular interest not only for its victims but also for its survivors. The correspondence contained in this work is also to some extent a survivor: it survived the war and the persecutions of the Jews. Dating from the year 1938, it provides an echo of the life of a Polish shtetl and, more particularly, of life within the largest European yeshiva of the time, with more or less direct repercussions of the ravages of Nazism and Polish anti-Semitism.
What could be more natural for Ernest Gugenheim, a young Alsatian Jew descended from a long rabbinical line, than to go to seek his diploma in Paris, at the Séminaire Israélite de France, then directed by Grand Rabbi Maurice Liber! But what stand out is his decision to deepen his Talmudic knowledge in a yeshiva of Central Europe. In a time when few traveled and when Jewish studies worthy of the name were reserved for a small number, few young people in France shared this experience and the majority of adults were unaware of what a true yeshiva was.
This is what Ernest Gugenheim reveals to his correspondents, from January to September 1938, discovering with admiration hundreds of students from various countries who devoted themselves completely to discovering and deepening their knowledge of the Talmud. While preserving a critical perspective on the primitive conditions of the material life and certain aspects of the mentality that reigns in Mir, he was sufficiently attracted to wish to remain a second year. But lacking the necessary financing, he gives up and compensates for his disappointment by a tourist voyage during his summer holidays, exploring the country and its “Rabbis”, an objective description of which he gives his family - historical testimony of a Judaism and of its “monuments” entirely disappeared today.

Recalled prematurely to France because of the crisis that preceded the Munich agreement, Ernest Gugenheim served seven years in uniform, then joined the Séminaire Israélite de France to teach Talmud and rabbinical law there, while endeavoring to transmit to his disciples (among whom his children) the passion of the Study that he drew from the Source!

The summary has translated from the back cover of the book by Frank Proschan


Review of the book Lettres de Mir
Updated August 2007


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