In my talk on the making of the book, Careful Old Letters, I narrate a journey of artifact and memory, of love and loss — part detective story and part history lesson, both personal and universal.

It all starts with the chance discovery of an old cardboard box in my mother’s closet, marked “Careful Old Letters.” Sent by long-lost loved ones from the Lodz and Warsaw ghettos during World War II, these 169 letters and postcards are all that remain of lives cut short in the Holocaust. Filled with desperation, but also hope and warmth, they create a vivid picture of a fight to survive. And in the process of translating and researching them, I discovered a part of my family’s history none of us understood.

It’s a tale all-too familiar for Holocaust survivors, and it can’t be told enough. While my parents escaped Europe for the US just in time, they had no idea they’d never see their relatives. And like many Jewish families whose parents and relatives died in the Holocaust, we did not talk about what had happened. My parents talked about the happy moments in their childhoods in Poland and young adulthood in Poland and France.

In this this presentation I talk about the project of restoring this forgotten past — a labor of love but also of responsibility to speak for those who died and left their voices behind in 169 letters and postcards. From finding an old box in a storage unit to retracing forgotten lives — in Lodz, Warsaw, Paris and Nazi concentration camps — writing Careful Old Letters was a project that deeply changed me.

To Book Speaking engagements please contact Alexandra at sandyweinbaum@gmail.com.