Envelope sent 09/03/07 to Raluca Oana Baciu (Romania) in reaction on her mail_art call for "childhood" sendings.
I called my sending "Een verdwenen wereld" ("A vanished world", title of Roman Vishniac's famous book with photos of Jewish life in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the Nazi era).
Baciu asked to write some words about childhood, "first in your native language, then into English. Your text will be published in our school magazine". I wrote that, "in Dutch, my mother tongue, 'a vanished world' is called 'een verdwenen wereld'. For most adults, childhood is a vanished world, 'un monde disparu' (French), 'eine Verschwundene Welt' (German), 'a farshvundene velt' (Yiddish)—'o lume disparuta', in Romanian. For this little Jewish cheder* boy and his friends, kindly smiling and laughing on this photo from 1937-1938, adulthood probably never came, however. Their whole world, inner and outer, vanished when they still were children, and all this was due to the anti-Semitism of the German Nazis, who considered Jews as a separate 'race' and this 'race' was inferior, according to them. This led the Nazis—and their collaborators—to kill, between 1941 to 1945, in what is called the 'Holocaust' or the Shoah, approximately six million Jews, not only adults, but also children (in Romania, some 400,000 according to Matatias Carp - 'Holocaust in Romania. Facts and Documents On The Annihilation of Romania’s Jews 1940-1944', see http://www.hungarian-history.hu/lib/carp/carp.pdf). This boy came from Vrchni Apsa in Carpatho-Ruthenia, which means, from what is now Hungary, thus very close to Rumania.
The photo I used on the front of this envelope is entitled 'A cheder boy. Vrchni Apsa, Carpatho-Ruthenia', about 1938. © Mara Vishniac Kohn, with the kind authorisation of the International Center of Photography, New York.
* Cheders (or 'heders') are, according to Wikipedia, 'traditional elementary schools or classes teaching the basics of Judaism and the Hebrew language.
Cheders were widely spread in Europe before the end of the 18th century. Lessons took place at the teacher's house, who was paid for by the Jewish community or by a group of parents. Normally, only boys would attend classes—girls were educated by their mothers in their homes. Boys of different ages were taught in a single group.
Boys entered cheder school at the age of about 5 years.' (from Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheder)"