Author: Justin Gordon
Title: Holocaust Postal History: Harrowing Journeys Revealed through the Letters & Cards of the Victims
FOR ME, THIS BOOK REPRESENTS A DUAL JOURNEY—into both the childhood delight of stamp collecting and the adult horrors of Holocaust history. I happened upon both worlds in my youth, and Holocaust philately represents the convergence of the two.
As a child I encountered stamp collecting through my uncle, who gave me an album. Then I was introduced to the Holocaust by a cantor who had survived Auschwitz. Even though I left the two worlds for a time, they converged years later at a stamp show in Chicago. I came across a philatelic exhibit that contained documents from Nazi-occupied Poland and cards and letters from Auschwitz and the Warsaw ghetto. I knew immediately this would be my avocation once again.
Stamp collecting is, on the surface, about journeys of paper but on a deeper level is about the lives of people. As a postal historian, I collect postal covers (envelopes and cards) with all their markings, enclosures, and attachments. I research these elements to find out more about the cover: its origin, where it was sent, and whether or not it arrived. These markings document the object’s journey and provide clues about those who sent and received it.
Over the past 30 years I’ve made hundreds of presentations about these covers. My website, www.holocaustjourney.com, was my first attempt to bring together all of that information. This book is intended to be a permanent, physical record of those talks.
As I worked on the first draft of the book, I realized that an important dimension was missing: details about the people who sent or received the covers. I then began the painstaking process of researching the individuals represented in the cards and letters. Holocaust Postal History, therefore, is a convergence of its own, documenting not only a dark period in Jewish history, but also the victims’ personal histories.