Dov Forman Wants You to Know His Great-Grandmothers Holocaust Story – The New York Times

Posted By on June 8, 2022

This was a lockdown project, Dov Forman said modestly in a video interview from the London home where he interviewed Lily Ebert, his 98-year-old great-grandmother, for several hours a day at the peak of the pandemic.

Those conversations, and her detailed, painful, heartbreaking and, later, meticulously fact-checked memories of surviving the Holocaust, are the basis of Lilys Promise, which debuted at No. 2 on the paperback nonfiction list. The book follows Ebert from her hometown in Hungary to Auschwitz (she fiercely protected two younger sisters after their mother and two other siblings were killed) and then to Switzerland and Israel, where she rebuilt her life after the war. Rebuilt doesnt adequately encompass the enormity of starting all over again as a young adult in an unfamiliar place with limited resources, and after surviving unimaginable atrocities.

Ebert had three children, and now has 10 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren. Forman, who is 18, described the queen of our family as being very much involved in everyones life, wanting to know what everyone is getting up to. The two were always close, even before Forman launched Ebert into social media stardom (her TikTok account has 1.9 million followers), so it made sense that he would help her keep a promise to tell the world what she had endured. Words can barely describe what happens next, Ebert writes of the journey to Auschwitz. But words are all I have.

For years, Ebert didnt talk about the Holocaust. It was always very hard for her to speak to her children; she never really did, Forman said. And then to her grandchildren, it was also very difficult. And then when it got to her great-grandchildren, it was less so. At 98, she has that urgency. She knows how important it is to transfer her testimony not only into history but from history into memory.

While other teenagers played video games and FaceTimed with friends, Forman recorded his great-grandmothers stories of hiding a beloved pendant in a piece of bread stashed in her armpit; of receiving a telegram from her long-lost older brother; of holding her first baby and missing her mother, who bravely lit candles in a field during their last Sabbath together.

The Holocaust survivors have lit their own lights, Forman said. They shone that light on the world for so many years. Now its our responsibility to continue to relight that candle.

Elisabeth Egan is an editor at the Book Review and the author of A Window Opens.

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Dov Forman Wants You to Know His Great-Grandmothers Holocaust Story - The New York Times

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