Additional Background for Herman Snyder's Incredible Story

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Additional Background for Herman Snyder's Incredible Story

The following information is meant to provide additional context for Mr. Snyder's journey. If you landed on this post before experiencing Herman's story of life, love and his overcoming of unbelievable odds, you're welcome to continue reading.

However, we encourage you to start with his profile.  

 

 

About Vilna

Vilna’s location made it susceptible to various strategic plays and occupations by the Soviets, Germans, Lithuanians, and Poles in the years surrounding the end of World War I.   After a number of seizures and occupations, Polish forces ultimately occupied Vilna, located in the northeastern part of the country, in the years between 1920 and the outbreak of World War II.  

The Polish culture and customs were established throughout the city.   At the outset of World War II, however, in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Lithuania and Poland were separated into German and Soviet spheres of interest. In September 1939, Vilnius was seized by the Soviet Union and subsequently handed over to Lithuania in October of 1939. In exchange, Lithuania was forced to allow Soviet military bases to be established in strategic parts of the country. Lithuania moved their capital to Vilnius, a transfer they considered to be a reclamation of their rightful capital, whereas the local Poles considered it to be a Lithuanian occupation, where  “...roughly 50,000 ethnic Lithuanians were brought to the city.”

The Lithuanian authorities started a campaign to rid the city of Polish culture. Then, in June 1940, amidst vehement Lithuanian protests, Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union and Vilnius became the capital of the newly created Lithuanian SSR. Subsequent to this annexation, however, another power struggle occurred.  “In June 1941 the city was again seized by Nazi Germany. In the old town centre two ghettos were set up for the large Jewish population – the smaller of which was "liquidated" by October. The second ghetto lasted until 1943, though its population was regularly decimated in so called Aktionen. A failed Jewish ghetto uprising on September 1, 1943, could not prevent its final destruction. About 95% of local Jewish population was murdered. Many of them were among 100,000 victims of the mass executions in Paneriai, about 10 kilometers west of the old town centre.

 

 

Continue Learning

There is certainly no shortage of material recounting and exploring the personal experiences and historical forces that surrounded World War II and the Holocaust. We hope our brief engagement with it provided an accurate, honest and thoughtful depiction of its events. However, bona fide historians we are not. 

To read further about the Vilnius ghettos, visit The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team Paneriai.

Thank you,

The CLP

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Heavenly Bodies and the Inexorable Brilliance of Smiling Souls                                  (or Shits & Giggles)

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Heavenly Bodies and the Inexorable Brilliance of Smiling Souls (or Shits & Giggles)

HEAVENLY BODIES AND THE INEXORABLE BRILLIANCE OF SMILING SOULS

(Or Shits & giggles)

Whether you have been following our little project for some time or found it recently, I say welcome back. The last few months have been pretty incredible around the CLP and the enormous growth we’ve experienced is all thanks to you. We thank you for your company, your generosity, and your overwhelmingly positive feedback. 

Like always, we encourage you to share us with your friends, your family, the stranger down the street and that cute guy/girl at your favorite coffee shop (hey, it’s a good conversation starter). 

As a token of my gratitude for all of your goodness, I’d like to share something I was lucky enough to learn over the last months.

Shits

Maybe it’s a law of nature. Maybe it’s a common truth lost somewhere behind an all-too-banal, not-shocking-enough headline in the corner of the internet. Maybe it’s even in a book (I believe it’s pronounced like hook, but with a b instead of an h).

We’re all slaves to gravity and it’s simply easier to fall to the ground than reach for the clouds.

I could chalk it up to the universe. We walk on one small rock floating around a much larger rock and because of that, we have to live with the consequences. We’re all slaves to gravity and it’s simply easier to fall to the ground than reach for the clouds.

But some people prove the reach is always a worthwhile endeavor.

&

Mr. James Justice passed away little over a month ago. I knew him for 6 hours. It took me 6 seconds recognize the light bursting out of him. I could live 6 lifetimes and not forget him.

The overwhelming amount of feedback we’ve received since posting his profile seems to prove this light to be another law of some sort (maybe natural, maybe something else). 

What a great person to be in his presence, with a smile so quick to appear when he saw you.
— Shirley W.

His family and friends all saw it.

Total strangers to us, who only knew Jimmy for brief times in their lives, reached out to tell us they felt it too.

Visitors to his profile expressed their similar sentiments after having known him only through this website. 

His light apparently travels over wi-fi.

Giggles

It’s just too damn easy to be cynical anymore. 

The kids are messed up. The established don’t get it. The rich don’t care and the poor don’t don’t work. Look at the news or a newsfeed for too long and just wait for the rage, frustration and jealousy bubble up inside of you. 

You fall into your darkest self and it’s so incredibly easy. Being angry, or hurt is seductive. It gets attention, even if it's the ugliest kind.

Luckily for us, people like Jimmy show up every now and then. People like Fosca, Gene, Vira, Herman and all of our other incredible friends show up. They show up and show us something better.

They show us light. 

They’re walking -however slow- proof, that the right attitude and a good laugh will overcome anything. It’s miraculous that these people even exist, and yet, they're all around us. Encouragement surrounds us everywhere we go if we simply look for it. 

So what stops us from being like Jimmy for someone in our lives? Is it even possible to be so thoroughly good that people can’t help but feel our light? I don’t know. We’re human and we forget things. We get cold. We get dark.

If Jimmy proved anything though, it’s that the light is out there. Maybe, we’re all capable of reflecting some of it.

Enjoy

Thanks for stopping by. If you’ve made it this far, I commend you. This article turned out to be a little longer than I expected, but these things happen. I encourage you to enjoy James Justice’s profile if you haven't already. Or check out all the others. We have some pretty incredible stories just waiting for you. 

As for Jimmy, it’s no wonder he spent part of his life flying. The man’s spirit was so strong I’m surprised he stayed on the ground at all. I’m glad he did though, for everyone’s sake.

 

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A lasting love

"So be kind to your mates, or when you get mates; it is an incredible journey."

--Vira

A lasting love

"I took one look at her, and I knew that she was the one for me.”  This phrase is so overly romanticized, yet we all can’t help but wish that loved happened like this, something so uncomplicated and lovely, like the first time that George Bailey looked at Mary Hatch, stunning and shimmering in black and white behind Capra’s lens. That brilliant image could not better capture that elusive feeling of “love at first sight.”  

After having documented a few interviews, I am intrigued by the emerging love stories of these couples that have endured for over a half of a century.  The striking factor lies in the unexceptional nature of their first encounters and courtship, usually lasting for a fairly short amount of time.  I’m sure it’s amusing to see me gearing up for a juicy love story during our interviews only to be met with an endearing yet simple scenario about how they just met and decided to get married one day:  “I asked her to dance, and that was it.” “She signed my receipts, and that was it.”  Oftentimes, this didn’t even come with a proposal; my grandparents just assumed that they would be married.  After a short period of dating, so many of them took the leap down the aisle with a person that would become their partner for life and the mother or father of their children.  How did they do it?  I ask from the perspective of my generation so embattled by dating and relationships; how did they pull off a love that lasted a lifetime, literally?

This is a loaded question, but let me peel off the rose-colored glasses for a minute.  Don’t let the Bailey family fool you; the whole point of the rest of that movie after their “magical” encounter in the gymnasium was to basically describe how much their life sucked afterwards—aka the deep sacrifices and hardships that they faced as a couple, as a family.  The strength of their character, their perseverance, and the enduring nature of their love allowed them to overcome their greatest obstacles.   

Nowadays, love is so misunderstood; love is a fairy tale, love will make me happy, love is a jaunt in the park, love is sharing a bank account or buying a dog, love shouldn’t look 50 at age 50.  We are so grossly misguided; it is embarrassing.  We are frequently asking what love will give ME today?  Why are we so entitled?  The beautiful thing about our elders is that they didn’t set any expectations or make bargains with love, and they didn’t feel entitled by life in general and by its graces.  For them, a lover was a partner with whom they would fight the daily battles, trying to make it all work out and celebrating the good times in between.  It was never meant to be a fairy tale.  

Many times, our relationships are set up for failure because we start out with unrealistic expectations.  It is hard to place blame for our behavior because we live in a society that is so commercialized and obsessed with this “perfect dream of love”.  Back then, courting was so simple and unexciting compared practices today—there were no elaborate engagements, pictures running off into the sunset, and large wedding productions with all the bells and whistles.  These are all nice, but it is so easy to get wrapped up in the celebration and display that at the end of the day, maybe we risk neglecting what really matters:  the strength of the relationship.

It is true: times have drastically changed; our society is complicated. There are so many options and distractions, realities and virtual realities.  We are the odyssey generation, always in search of bigger and better things, focused on self-improvement, bucket-list adventures, yoga classes, and taking selfies.  We lead these exciting lives, yet love is so complicated and elusive. 

It is positive to have more options and experiences but only if we have the right mindset before entering into a serious relationship or when arriving at a crossroads.  It is important to simplify the equation, making sure that our expectations and priorities are in order.  We need to realize that life is hard while learning to love ourselves and not expecting someone else to fix our problems or make us happy.  If we expect anything, anticipate a daily struggle that will be faced together, and take pride in the immense effort that is the sharing of our lives with someone special. 

--Cara

 

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Making connections

Welcome to our blog!

There might never be another generation that will experience such change in a lifetime than that of our participants.  The world today is a different place; it has exploded into the technological age with boundless options, distractions, and constant connectivity.  The dichotomy between our “odyssey generation” growing up in this globalized society and their more localized and simpler coming of age experience is drastic.  Herein lies a great conversation and learning opportunity.

As much as it is vital to preserve their testimony as a record, it is equally important to look beyond the past and allow this information to resonate with our current reality.  This blog is about making this experience accessible to a younger generation, drawing conclusions and parallels that enable us to reevaluate our present day situation.   

Our goal for this blog is to provide an editorial forum where we can freely express our thoughts and responses that arise from the content in our archive.  It is informal, unstructured, and even fun; it is meant to spark a healthy discussion about community and about general topics on life.  We understand and appreciate this great opportunity to learn and draw inspiration from these people, our storytellers. 

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