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Named one of the best books of 2014 by NPR, The New Yorker, and The Boston Globe When Glenn Kurtz stumbles upon an old family film in his parents' closet in Florida, he has no inkling of its historical significance or of the impact it will have on his life. The film, shot long ago by his grandfather on a sightseeing trip to Europe, includes shaky footage of Paris and the Sw Named one of the best books of 2014 by NPR, The New Yorker, and The Boston Globe When Glenn Kurtz stumbles upon an old family film in his parents' closet in Florida, he has no inkling of its historical significance or of the impact it will have on his life. The film, shot long ago by his grandfather on a sightseeing trip to Europe, includes shaky footage of Paris and the Swiss Alps, with someone inevitably waving at the camera. Astonishingly, David Kurtz also captured on color 16mm film the only known moving images of the thriving, predominantly Jewish town of Nasielsk, Poland, shortly before the community's destruction. "Blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that lay just ahead," he just happened to visit his birthplace in 1938, a year before the Nazi occupation. Of the town's three thousand Jewish inhabitants, fewer than one hundred would survive. Glenn Kurtz quickly recognizes the brief footage as a crucial link in a lost history. "The longer I spent with my grandfather's film," he writes, "the richer and more fragmentary its images became." Every image, every face, was a mystery that might be solved. Soon he is swept up in a remarkable journey to learn everything he can about these people. After restoring the film, which had shrunk and propelled across the United States; to Canada, England, Poland, and Israel; and into archives, basements, cemeteries, and even an irrigation ditch at an abandoned Luftwaffe airfield as he looks for shards of Nasielsk's Jewish history. One day, Kurtz hears from a young woman who had watched the video on the Holocaust Museum's website. As the camera panned across the faces of children, she recognized her grandfather as a thirteen-year-old boy. Moszek Tuchendler of Nasielsk was now eighty-six-year-old Maurice Chandler of Florida, and when Kurtz meets him, the lost history of Nasielsk comes into view. Chandler's laser-sharp recollections create a bridge between two worlds, and he helps Kurtz eventually locate six more survivors, including a ninety-six-year-old woman who also appears in the film, standing next to the man she would later marry. Painstakingly assembled from interviews, photographs, documents, and artifacts, Three Minutes in Poland tells the rich, harrowing, and surprisingly intertwined stories of these seven survivors and their Polish hometown. "I began to catch fleeting glimpses of the living town," Kurtz writes, "a cruelly narrow sample of its relationships, contradictions, scandals." Originally a travel souvenir, David Kurtz's home movie became the most important record of a vibrant town on the brink of extinction. From this brief film, Glenn Kurtz creates a poignant yet unsentimental exploration of memory, loss, and improbable survival--a monument to a lost world.


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Named one of the best books of 2014 by NPR, The New Yorker, and The Boston Globe When Glenn Kurtz stumbles upon an old family film in his parents' closet in Florida, he has no inkling of its historical significance or of the impact it will have on his life. The film, shot long ago by his grandfather on a sightseeing trip to Europe, includes shaky footage of Paris and the Sw Named one of the best books of 2014 by NPR, The New Yorker, and The Boston Globe When Glenn Kurtz stumbles upon an old family film in his parents' closet in Florida, he has no inkling of its historical significance or of the impact it will have on his life. The film, shot long ago by his grandfather on a sightseeing trip to Europe, includes shaky footage of Paris and the Swiss Alps, with someone inevitably waving at the camera. Astonishingly, David Kurtz also captured on color 16mm film the only known moving images of the thriving, predominantly Jewish town of Nasielsk, Poland, shortly before the community's destruction. "Blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that lay just ahead," he just happened to visit his birthplace in 1938, a year before the Nazi occupation. Of the town's three thousand Jewish inhabitants, fewer than one hundred would survive. Glenn Kurtz quickly recognizes the brief footage as a crucial link in a lost history. "The longer I spent with my grandfather's film," he writes, "the richer and more fragmentary its images became." Every image, every face, was a mystery that might be solved. Soon he is swept up in a remarkable journey to learn everything he can about these people. After restoring the film, which had shrunk and propelled across the United States; to Canada, England, Poland, and Israel; and into archives, basements, cemeteries, and even an irrigation ditch at an abandoned Luftwaffe airfield as he looks for shards of Nasielsk's Jewish history. One day, Kurtz hears from a young woman who had watched the video on the Holocaust Museum's website. As the camera panned across the faces of children, she recognized her grandfather as a thirteen-year-old boy. Moszek Tuchendler of Nasielsk was now eighty-six-year-old Maurice Chandler of Florida, and when Kurtz meets him, the lost history of Nasielsk comes into view. Chandler's laser-sharp recollections create a bridge between two worlds, and he helps Kurtz eventually locate six more survivors, including a ninety-six-year-old woman who also appears in the film, standing next to the man she would later marry. Painstakingly assembled from interviews, photographs, documents, and artifacts, Three Minutes in Poland tells the rich, harrowing, and surprisingly intertwined stories of these seven survivors and their Polish hometown. "I began to catch fleeting glimpses of the living town," Kurtz writes, "a cruelly narrow sample of its relationships, contradictions, scandals." Originally a travel souvenir, David Kurtz's home movie became the most important record of a vibrant town on the brink of extinction. From this brief film, Glenn Kurtz creates a poignant yet unsentimental exploration of memory, loss, and improbable survival--a monument to a lost world.

30 review for Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film

  1. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    This book really hit me hard. I read most of it with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat for the Jewish history it contains, is my history. In World War II, in the Polish shtetl (town) of Nasielsk, the Nazis entered in September, 1939. Of the 3,000 Jews that lived there, only 80 survived. My family's hometown was Nesvizh, Poland which was only about 300 miles apart from Nasielsk.. Like the town Nasielsk, only 25 Jews out of 4,000, lived through the Nazi's reign of terror in my family's sht This book really hit me hard. I read most of it with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat for the Jewish history it contains, is my history. In World War II, in the Polish shtetl (town) of Nasielsk, the Nazis entered in September, 1939. Of the 3,000 Jews that lived there, only 80 survived. My family's hometown was Nesvizh, Poland which was only about 300 miles apart from Nasielsk.. Like the town Nasielsk, only 25 Jews out of 4,000, lived through the Nazi's reign of terror in my family's shtetl. The author, Glenn Hurtz, does a remarkable job in searching and writing about what happened to his Grandfather's village, after he discovered his grandparents took home movie footage in Poland, in 1938, one year before the Nazis arrived. Like my own grandmother, his grandmother refused to talk about it. The memories were just to painful. The book goes in great detail about what happened to the people from Nasielsk as he searches for the survivors. Beautifully written. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. has put the three minute film on its website. Book and film highly recommend. Five stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    I first read about this book in The New Yorker. After reading just a brief blurb, I knew I had to have it. After reading the book itself, I couldn't even talk for a while. The longer version of my thoughts about this book is here. David and Liza Kurtz returned from a six-week European vacation in 1938. Seventy-one years later, their grandson Glenn discovered some old film cans in his parents' closet. Luckily, some of those films had been transferred to video, and Glenn starts to watch one labele I first read about this book in The New Yorker. After reading just a brief blurb, I knew I had to have it. After reading the book itself, I couldn't even talk for a while. The longer version of my thoughts about this book is here. David and Liza Kurtz returned from a six-week European vacation in 1938. Seventy-one years later, their grandson Glenn discovered some old film cans in his parents' closet. Luckily, some of those films had been transferred to video, and Glenn starts to watch one labeled "Our Trip to Holland Belgium Poland Switzerland France and England." He discovered three minutes of footage shot during the grandparents' time in Poland, a place that his father and his aunt named as Berezne, where David's grandmother was born. The original film, badly deteriorated, was handed over to the Holocaust Memorial Museum where it was sent out for restoration. Eventually the author came to realize that the film was more likely shot in Nasielsk, his grandfather's home town thirty five miles northwest of Warsaw. This sends Kurtz on a thorough search for any information about the people who had lived there. While he is spending time in libraries, museums, archives etc., someone else who is digging through historical records comes across Kurtz's film online. He sends a link to family members and one of them, while watching the footage, recognizes her grandfather as a boy. From there Kurtz meets Morris Chandler, who became invaluable to Kurtz. Not only does Chandler have his memories, but Chandler provides Kurtz with connections to survivors who are still living. From that meeting on, Three Minutes in Poland becomes a story of how Kurtz begins to piece together people's lives in Nasielsk, his grandparents' visit in 1938, and what ultimately happened to the Jews who lived there, as their last days approached starting in 1939. It is also a story about relationships -- as some of the survivors begin to come together because of Kurtz and the film. It is a stunning, beautiful book, to be sure, and I am already thinking of a number of people to whom I'm going to give a copy. It is a detective story of sorts, one that takes its readers back to a time of great loss, but also into the vibrant lives of real people both individually and as a community. The author's passion shines through on every page, and it is so well written that even without the photos that are scattered throughout the book, I could visualize things in my head very clearly. When you read a book like this one, you will never forget it. I won't.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Description: Glenn Kurtz discusses his book, “Three Minutes in Poland,“ inspired by a three minute film that his grandfather had made in a predominantly Jewish town in Poland one year before WWII broke out. The book consists of interviews, photographs, documents, and artifacts that tell the stories of seven survivors that lived in this town. Everything you need to know here. Sobering, those three minutes of ghosts. Unrateable. Description: Glenn Kurtz discusses his book, “Three Minutes in Poland,“ inspired by a three minute film that his grandfather had made in a predominantly Jewish town in Poland one year before WWII broke out. The book consists of interviews, photographs, documents, and artifacts that tell the stories of seven survivors that lived in this town. Everything you need to know here. Sobering, those three minutes of ghosts. Unrateable.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    This will probably be my favorite book of the year. It starts as a historical detective tale - the author finds a homemade travel film made by his grandfather in 1938 that includes 3 minutes of film shot in the village of Nasielsk, Poland. These three minutes portray a small slice of life of the Jewish population that by the end of WWII will be reduced by the Holocaust to 100 people out of the town's 3,000 Jewish inhabitants. The author begins a quest to figure as much as he can about the film an This will probably be my favorite book of the year. It starts as a historical detective tale - the author finds a homemade travel film made by his grandfather in 1938 that includes 3 minutes of film shot in the village of Nasielsk, Poland. These three minutes portray a small slice of life of the Jewish population that by the end of WWII will be reduced by the Holocaust to 100 people out of the town's 3,000 Jewish inhabitants. The author begins a quest to figure as much as he can about the film and the people in it. He travels, searches archives and libraries, scours the Internet, and begins to locate a few survivors, all in their 80s and 90s. He finds answers to some of his questions, and in the process, he is able to link families and friends together. However, trying to find out about the vibrant life of this town also leads everyone involved down the road of remembering and facing the horror that tore it apart. There are detailed remembrances of a few of those who survived and how they came to live. This book melds a detective story with history. It makes one realize how history slips away as those who lived it pass away with their memories, as well as how those memories can be clouded with age, time and perspective. It gave me real appreciation for the work of historical archives like the Film and Video Archive of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv and actually all people and institutions like the Wisconsin Historical Society that preserve and make available the stories of our lives. It also makes me think about how these stories will be preserved in our digital age with fewer documents and photos being committed to paper. Afer I read the book I found a link to the 3 minutes of film that inspired it here: http://www.ushmm.org/online/film/disp... All of this makes me think of the quote attributed to George Santayana "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This book has many happy as well as sad moments and is well worth reading.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Here's a book where my interest in family history, archival photographs and films, writing and research all come together to explore the holocaust (yet another interest) in a most intriguing way. When writer Glenn Kurtz stumbles across the original of a home movie taken by his immigrant-American grandparents on a summer trip to Europe in 1938, now moldering slowly but surely in a canister deep in a closet in Florida, he recalls his family mentioning that it includes a sequence of footage from on Here's a book where my interest in family history, archival photographs and films, writing and research all come together to explore the holocaust (yet another interest) in a most intriguing way. When writer Glenn Kurtz stumbles across the original of a home movie taken by his immigrant-American grandparents on a summer trip to Europe in 1938, now moldering slowly but surely in a canister deep in a closet in Florida, he recalls his family mentioning that it includes a sequence of footage from one of their grandparent's home villages in Poland, a village in which their Jewish friends and relations probably all perished. He decides to donate the film to the US Holocaust Museum. Perhaps, Kurtz feels, this is a small way to preserve the lives of these victims and provide a glimpse for future generations of what life was like for the small-town Polish Jewish community just before it was snuffed out. With help and support from his sister, who is an avid genealogical researcher, Kurtz tries to find survivors who can tell him more about the people and community his grandfather filmed. At first he only gets as far as confirming that it is his grandfather's home town of Nasielsk and not his grandmother's birthplace of Berezne as he originally suspected. He seems to have hit a dead end. Some time later he gets a phone call from a very excited family who have been researching their family history, stumbled across the film in the museum archives, and miraculously identified their grandfather in parts of the footage. Now in his late eighties, Morry Chandler appears as one of several children in the street clowning around and trying to stay in frame as Kurtz's grandfather panned his camera up and down the main street of Nasielsk back in August of 1938. The families meet up and thus begins an unravelling of the mystery of the names and circumstances of a small Jewish community in Poland, captured in a 3-minute home movie. Morry has an excellent memory and a surprising number of contacts amongst the few survivors. One may think that the research of an old family film would be hopeless and rather dull--perhaps still a jumble of muddled anecdotes, dates and names. Although there is a slight aspect of this, Kurtz does an incredibly fine job of making his journey of discovery rather gripping. We come along with him on intimate interviews where survivors sift through their memories and explain how they personally survived such testing times. We learn more of Polish history and Jewish customs of the pre-war period. We surprisingly become familiar with many of the names of the people, of the actual street names and community businesses rediscovered in the film. As my family's self-appointed archivist, this book gives me hope that saving our films, capturing the past in family stories and documents can indeed be a rewarding experience. Although it cannot bring back the victims of the atrocities of war, perhaps Kurtz has shown us that the act of memory, remembering the lives, names, details of a vanished community preserves something important for all of humanity.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lissa

    David and Lena Kurtz, two Jewish Americans whose families had emigrated from Poland in the late nineteenth century, returned to their homeland while on a European vacation in 1938, a little over a year before Hitler invaded Poland. David Kurtz, now a successful businessman, had purchased a video camera for the trip and recorded three minutes of their stay in Nasielsk, Poland, where David had been born. The footage fragments, shot in colour and black-and-white, shows a small town full of children David and Lena Kurtz, two Jewish Americans whose families had emigrated from Poland in the late nineteenth century, returned to their homeland while on a European vacation in 1938, a little over a year before Hitler invaded Poland. David Kurtz, now a successful businessman, had purchased a video camera for the trip and recorded three minutes of their stay in Nasielsk, Poland, where David had been born. The footage fragments, shot in colour and black-and-white, shows a small town full of children and Jewish life. In only a few years, most of the people in this short film would be dead, victims of the Shoah (Holocaust). The film sat in storage for decades, nearly forgotten, before Glenn Kurtz, David and Lena's grandson, found it and donated it to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The film, which would have been irreparably damaged in only a few more months, was painstakingly restored, and David became obsessed with piecing together his grandparents' trip and what happened to Nasielsk and the people in the film. He found a handful of Nasielsk survivors still living, carefully collecting their memories and piecing them together to attempt to create a narrative of Nasielsk before the Shoah and the Nasielsk Jewish population's destruction. I first heard about this book on the NPR Facebook page, and I instantly purchased it. The Shoah is one of those periods in history that has always captured my attention; I've relatives who span the breadth of the Shoah - (barely) pre-war immigrants, survivors, and victims. And, also, it's still utterly amazing to me that this could happen in the twentieth century in Europe, that people could turn against the Jewish population and virtually eradicate them. On the day that Poland was invaded by Germany (September 1, 1939), there were about 3,500,000 Jews. Approximately 3,000,000 of them were killed in the next six years. That is mind-boggling. I still can't comprehend it. Most of those who survived did so in Soviet-occupied Poland or Siberia; in the forests; or as partisans. Those Polish Jews who ended up in the ghettos and camps overwhelmingly did not survive. Nasielsk Jews fared even worse than Poland over all. Of approximately 3500 Nasielsk Jews, less than 100 survived the war, and virtually all of those either lived in Soviet-occupied areas or escaped from the camps or ghettos. Those who stayed in the ghettos and were taken to the camps and survived number less than ten. There are no Jews living in Nasielsk today, and only about 25,000 Jews living in the entirety of Poland today. The first portion of the book was a little dry to me - it mostly discussed how the film was found and restored, the process of decay of film, how film at this time was made and where the decay happens, etc. As I'm not all that interested in the mechanics of film, I skimmed this portion. But once the author starts talking to the survivors (particularly Morry) and travels to Nasielsk, the United Kingdom, and Israel, the book is absolutely fascinating. There are a lot of names to remember, along with place names and Yiddish and Polish words (most of which have a translation). The author is almost fanatical in tracking down every last lead and thread that can tie into the story of Nasielsk and the fate of its Jewish residents. He combs through archives, travels around the world to view documents and to meet descendants of survivors, and paints an incredible look at the town before the war came and changed everything. The result is heartbreaking, as well as, at times, uplifting - he manages to reunite some of the scattered people from Nasielsk once more and helps shed some light on what happened to distant relatives. And what happened to the Nasielsk Jews was incredibly bleak. If they survived the German occupation of their town, they were herded up and sent to the Warsaw Ghetto, where they were slowly starved and mistreated until being rounded up once more, this time to Treblinka, a notorious death camp where they were murdered shortly after disembarking from the train that took them there. Meanwhile, back in Nasielsk, the headstones from the Jewish cemetery were used to pave the roads of the town. Any Jewish-owned property was confiscated, never to be returned to their rightful heirs (if they had survived, which most did not). The Poles, who the Jews had considered their neighbors and, sometimes, friends, had ratted them out to the Germans and had no place for them in post-war life. The synagogue was torn down and its bricks were used to build a dairy farm. Even to this day, there is distrust of the Jews, with some Poles worrying that the "Jews will come back" (nevermind that most of them are dead) and take what was rightfully theirs. I highly recommend this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Beatrice Hogg

    I love this book! I first heard about it on NPR & when I went to LA a few weeks later in November 2014, I had planned to attend a reading with Kurtz in the Wilshire District, but I didn't make it. After reading the book, I wish that I had met the author. Kurtz's grandparents and their friends made a voyage to Europe in 1938, just before the start of World War II. They visited his grandfather's hometown, Nasielsk, Poland, where David Kurtz filmed three minutes of footage with a 16 mm home movie c I love this book! I first heard about it on NPR & when I went to LA a few weeks later in November 2014, I had planned to attend a reading with Kurtz in the Wilshire District, but I didn't make it. After reading the book, I wish that I had met the author. Kurtz's grandparents and their friends made a voyage to Europe in 1938, just before the start of World War II. They visited his grandfather's hometown, Nasielsk, Poland, where David Kurtz filmed three minutes of footage with a 16 mm home movie camera. Little did the author realize that when he found the deteriorating film in 2009 at his parent's Florida home, it would change his life and become a link - not only to his family, but to the survivors and descendants of survivors of a small town that was destroyed by the Holocaust a year later. Kurtz had planned to write a novel with a similar story line, but the real life story was more compelling and exciting than any fiction. He met survivors who were able to identify and tell stories about the people shown in the movie. Many survivors saw images of family members that they had not seen in over 70 years. Even though his journey started with curiosity about a long-forgotten family movie, Kurtz realized that, "this had been my role all along: to carry fragments; to establish relationships among them. I felt like a switchboard operator, connecting long-distance messages from one end of the Nasielsk Diaspora to another." It is a detective story, a Holocaust narrative, and a story of survival, reconnection and perseverance. Like Kurtz, I wish that he could have identified every person and every place shown in those three minutes of Jewish life in Nasielsk on August 4, 1938, but of course, that was impossible. This beautifully written book is an important one, a story that I recommend to everyone.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    I read this book when I was asked to created the 1938 map frontispiece for the book. This is history up close. Glenn Kurtz folds time, forward and backwards, in many small stories told within the larger story of the second world war. A wonderful book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    If you're at all interested in genealogy, particularly Eastern European (particularly Polish, Jewish) diaspora/holocaust survivorship, this seems like required reading. It's an impressive, highly detailed, personal journey (nay, quest), made accessible to the reader, and - if that's what you're looking for - I expect you'll find the experience hugely gratifying. Personally, I thought the book was worth reading, but my (individual) frustrations with it made it less than fully satisfactory. First - If you're at all interested in genealogy, particularly Eastern European (particularly Polish, Jewish) diaspora/holocaust survivorship, this seems like required reading. It's an impressive, highly detailed, personal journey (nay, quest), made accessible to the reader, and - if that's what you're looking for - I expect you'll find the experience hugely gratifying. Personally, I thought the book was worth reading, but my (individual) frustrations with it made it less than fully satisfactory. First - I read the book on a Kindle - bad idea . (And, of course, that's my fault, not the author's.) The author seasons the book throughout with scores of fascinating photographs which play a critical role in the story. Alas, reading on a screen, and lacking the ability to expand the photos (as opposed to the text), the photos were near-useless thumbnails. Even with a superb, color screen, the photos were - basically - of little utility. (Granted I have an old Kindle, and my alternative reading device is my smart phone - so maybe you'll have better luck - but neither gave me useful access to the photos.) Second - given the actual content, the book could've been 100, maybe 200 pages shorter, tighter, cleaner - without sacrificing much. (I am confident many readers enjoyed the stately pace, mis-steps, back-tracks, and ruminations - but I found the progress plodding and unnecessarily so.) Consistent with this, it doesn't surprise me that NPR rated this highly. In some ways this reminded me of David Greenes' recent Midnight in Siberia, another (to my mind, unnecessarily) chatty recitation, extremely well suited for radio (in particular, NPR) and maybe public presentation, but unnecessarily inefficient (or flabby) for a book. In other words, but for the photos, of course, I'm guessing this would have been better appreciated as an audio book - it would be like listening to a casually told (leisurely presented) tale in installments. In other words, this might be two types of books meshed into one: (1) a brief history of a small Polish town during WWII, its horrific losses, and its survivors; and (2) an autobiography of an American writer immersing himself in genealogy and the related self discoveries and observations. If that's the case, I preferred the first to the second. Moreover - in a world currently full of good holocaust literature, this disappointed.... Having said that, for folks who didn't grow up with the literature (or, for example, are unfamiliar with the concentration/extermination camps or the world's major holocaust museums and memorials, e.g., in DC and Jerusalem, and, more recently, even in Berlin) this might be a great introduction. Ultimately, I found almost everything that Kurtz discovered in his (painstaking, diligent, and, quite simply, impressive) research interesting, instructive, and well worth my time. But I think I was simply less interested in (and, in retrospect, all-too-often bored by) his personal revelations and musings. [Without interjecting a spoiler, I was flummoxed by the constant references to the other book that he was writing, but ultimately abandoned. Again, fine for a radio talk show, but I'm not sure how the editor concluded that story/side-line was worth keeping....] In other words, I was interested in the history, but must less taken with the author's all-too-often intrusive focus of himself as the cog in the story's wheel.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    To say this book (and the footage it chronicles) has haunted me sounds slightly dramatic, I know. But the fact is, it has. Several times a week for the last month or so, I find myself watching an 80 year old home movie of a stranger's sightseeing stop in Nasielsk, Poland. There is no audio. Some of it is very grainy, or damaged. It's only minutes long. Old women laugh. Young men stand around talking. Kids with missing front teeth smile and mug for the camera (this will always bother me the most) To say this book (and the footage it chronicles) has haunted me sounds slightly dramatic, I know. But the fact is, it has. Several times a week for the last month or so, I find myself watching an 80 year old home movie of a stranger's sightseeing stop in Nasielsk, Poland. There is no audio. Some of it is very grainy, or damaged. It's only minutes long. Old women laugh. Young men stand around talking. Kids with missing front teeth smile and mug for the camera (this will always bother me the most). People enter a synagogue. People leave a synagogue. Villagers go about their daily business. It seems like a pretty inconsequential tourist video, except that it's the summer of 1938 and this is the Jewish quarter. I don't know why I'm compelled to watch this over and over again. I feel like I'm bearing witness. Maybe I'm looking for answers or trying to make sense where there's none on offer. Of the 3000 Jews who lived in Nasielsk, less than 100 would survive the maelstrom that was fast approaching. There is no sense to be found. But behold this beautiful, alive world of Before. 'Three Minutes in Poland' is the story of this footage, of this town, and the very personal journey of the author investigating his own family history and that of the people who stumbled into the path of his grandfather's video camera that day. Remarkably, one of them is alive and well, a 13 year old schoolboy on the day he appeared before the American man with the fancy camera. And his memory is amazingly sharp. His family contacts the author, and that is where the story really takes off. As much as I want to detail his revelations, I also want to avoid spoiling anything. We do learn the fates of a good number of those caught on camera that day. Many others, we are only left to wonder. This is obviously a troubling story. The Holocaust is perhaps the all-time low point in human history and there are parts of this book that are deeply disturbing. I'm a student of history, the highs and the lows, but the almost machine-like destruction of the Holocaust will always throttle my imagination. The numbers and statistics are unbelievable enough. Thankfully this book spends as much if not more time on the stories of peoples' lives (and deeds and relationships and foibles and everything that made them humans before they were victims) as on their deaths. I basically want everyone in the world to read this book, and just to remember. There are so many books on the cold facts of the Holocaust, and horrifying footage recorded in the aftermath of the liberation of the camps. They are important. But it is just as important, and interesting, and heartbreaking to behold even this one community and these lives the way it was before it was destroyed. It's essential that the film be viewed, IMO, in order to fully experience the book, and vice versa. You can find it here: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lauriann

    The author discovered in a closet, old reels documenting his grandfather's own journey to Europe in 1938. Of these reels, three minutes documented his time spent visiting his childhood home town of Nasielsk, Poland. That the journey took place just before the town was taken over by Nazi's, and ultimately most of the Jewish residents killed, makes this documentation particularly relevant. The author began a search for the few survivors, most in their late eighties and nineties. Not only were thes The author discovered in a closet, old reels documenting his grandfather's own journey to Europe in 1938. Of these reels, three minutes documented his time spent visiting his childhood home town of Nasielsk, Poland. That the journey took place just before the town was taken over by Nazi's, and ultimately most of the Jewish residents killed, makes this documentation particularly relevant. The author began a search for the few survivors, most in their late eighties and nineties. Not only were these survivors helpful in identifying people in the frames of the reels, but for many, it was the only link they had to memories of a childhood brought to a sudden end, memories that as children they couldn't possibly conceive of ending in a manner so horrific. When I began this book I couldn't imagine giving it less than five stars, because there was so much to be truly revered about it. But ultimately my rating slipped. It is only fair to state the strong points and the weak points. STRENGTHS 1. This book has a strong impact on the readers. I can only imagine what it meant to those who lived in Nasielsk as children. The author has changed their lives in a way they couldn't have imagined possible. 2. This book documents the demise of one town in the larger picture of a holocaust that is so huge, unimaginable and terrible that it must never be forgotten. 3. The author was punctilious in finding restoration specialists who would maximize content retrieved and minimize further damage to an already fragile film. He was generous in donating restored footage to museums and appropriate archives. 4. The author is determined and unwavering in his efforts to find as many survivors as possible, to obtain their stories, document their memories and connect the dots to reconstruct the Nasielsk of 1938. I am currently in the process of trying to determine the location and historical background of the Gila Bend, AZ stagecoach/muleteam "station" that was operated by my grandfather's aunt in 1874. I can, on my own small scale, understand that dogged determination, as I pursue historical societies, state archives, deeds from town clerks, museums, and as I stare at one picture in the family collection that could be it. I can totally relate to the author's depth of research and inability to let go of a single detail. And that was for one little stagecoach station! Kudos to the author for the research, travels, conversations that made this a brilliant book. WEAKNESSES: Generally speaking, this became a very, very confusing book to read. 1. First, the names. As soon as I realized I was in for a challenge, I began to write names on the inside covers and title page. I filled three pages with these notes. In many cases, such as "Avrum" there were more than one person by that name. And in this case, I believe Avrum was also the Jewish name for Abraham, so that name entered the picture. If I recall correctly, there were two "Fishls.” And numerous,numerous people with the same last name. It would have been very helpful to me if the author had included a glossary of names, arranged alphabetically, and the context in which they fit into the picture. 2. Many words were presented in the Yiddish form, confusing me more. I also began my own Yiddish glossary on the back cover. This would have been done more adeptly by the author. 3. The story was illuminated by pictures, placed here and there throughout the telling of the story. Many of the pictures were of townspeople in front of buildings in Nasielsk in 1938. But none of the pictures were labeled with names or context. The author, over and over again referenced back to pictures shown earlier in the book, but did not indicate which picture of which he was speaking, or even if it was a picture that actually made the book. It would have made more sense to me to have a picture section at the back, with pictures labeled A,B,C....." I will say that in a sense, I was glad to have a book I could dig into in a scholarly fashion, to try to construct my own glossaries and label pictures myself. (I could NEVER have done this with a library book!) But at times frustration just washed over me, causing my interest to wane.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Glenn Kurtz discovers a family film taken in 1938, as his grandparents documented their holiday to Europe with friends. Within that movie, is three minutes of film taken in one of their home towns showing local people and businesses. Little did they know that most of the populations seen on the movie would be killed shortly in the next few years. So Glenn sends the film to the Holocaust museum and is contacted by several people from that village, some of whom appear on the film as youngsters sev Glenn Kurtz discovers a family film taken in 1938, as his grandparents documented their holiday to Europe with friends. Within that movie, is three minutes of film taken in one of their home towns showing local people and businesses. Little did they know that most of the populations seen on the movie would be killed shortly in the next few years. So Glenn sends the film to the Holocaust museum and is contacted by several people from that village, some of whom appear on the film as youngsters seventy years ago. It is their stories that help to make this a fascinating read. It makes you consider the terrible plight of the Jewish communities who were destroyed in the war, how their history and stories were lost. Also it makes you realise how our own photos and movies may get lost over the generations as technology changes.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mila

    This was an amazing story! I must admit that I found the writing to be a bit tedious but I think that's because the author was very dedicated in documenting everything that he was told by the people whose stories he was listening to. The girl recognizing her grandfather's photograph when he was 13 years old was unforgettable. I also enjoyed watching the author discuss this book on YouTube. This was an amazing story! I must admit that I found the writing to be a bit tedious but I think that's because the author was very dedicated in documenting everything that he was told by the people whose stories he was listening to. The girl recognizing her grandfather's photograph when he was 13 years old was unforgettable. I also enjoyed watching the author discuss this book on YouTube.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melody Schwarting

    If you read just one book about the Holocaust, let it be this one. Three Minutes in Poland details Glenn Kurtz’s discovery of a film his grandparents took on their 1938 trip to Europe. Three minutes of film capture the daily life of the Jewish community in Nasielsk, Poland. The film had been stored in a metal tin in a cardboard box in Florida, and he rescued it just months before the film decayed entirely. He journeys across America, to Canada, England, Poland, and Israel, discovering fragments If you read just one book about the Holocaust, let it be this one. Three Minutes in Poland details Glenn Kurtz’s discovery of a film his grandparents took on their 1938 trip to Europe. Three minutes of film capture the daily life of the Jewish community in Nasielsk, Poland. The film had been stored in a metal tin in a cardboard box in Florida, and he rescued it just months before the film decayed entirely. He journeys across America, to Canada, England, Poland, and Israel, discovering fragments of memory along the way. The film is on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website here. Kurtz does not go into detail about the war outside Poland, or the Nazi programs of extermination beyond what was done to those from Nasielsk. Three Minutes in Poland presents a unique glimpse of an intact Jewish community before the war, and traces as far as possible the lives and deaths of those in the community. He is rather brutally honest about non-Jewish Poles during and after the war. When he prepared for his trip to Nasielsk, he encountered some ambivalence, later learning that some Poles who benefited from the taking over Jewish residences and plundering what the Nazis did not loot, were terrified of being approached for reparations. Three Minutes in Poland is a story of fragmentary connections, coincidences that are too precious to be happenstance. I came to this book with a personal connection. The Richman photograph album Kurtz references so heavily is now with my parents’ neighbors, Keva Richman’s descendants. My father recommended this to me, after reading it based on his neighbor’s recommendation. The family is from Nasielsk, and Keva Richman emigrated to the US at age three, only one month before Germany invaded Poland. Less than 1% of the Jewish population of Nasielsk survived the war; it is estimated that 80-100 of the 3,000 people, around 0.02%, survived. My dad listened the audiobook, and I read the physical copy. I’d recommend it for the pictures (stills from the film, and photographs). Yet, I’m sure the audiobook is helpful with the Polish, German, and Yiddish names and words. My dad says the narrator did voices and accents for each interview subject, making it easy to follow. Kurtz does describe the photographs in detail, but nothing beats seeing the images themselves. Ideally, Three Minutes in Poland would be a documentary--I hope it comes to be, someday. Kurtz did an hourlong talk in 2015 at UC Santa Barbara, for the Herman P. and Sophia Taubman Endowed Symposia in Jewish Studies. You can watch it here. Kurtz shares accompanying images, making up for the loss of visual resources in the audiobook. Kurtz writes very clearly, without much commentary. The stories are riveting--I could hardly put the book down. Besides its clear historical value, as a preservation of a lost community, Three Minutes in Poland will be of interest to those doing oral and family history. The challenges are clear, and unflinchingly recorded by Kurtz, but the value of the work stands above all.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    From my own interest in discovering what I could about a couple uncles and an aunt and the circumstances of their lives, I had lots of interest in Kurtz's own efforts to unravel the people, places and relationships in a small town that his grandfather filmed during a visit from America in August 1938. Nasielsk was predominately Jewish and a year later those people were being murdered. Improbable as it is that Glenn found this film in a closet at his parents' when it was nearly disintegrated, eve From my own interest in discovering what I could about a couple uncles and an aunt and the circumstances of their lives, I had lots of interest in Kurtz's own efforts to unravel the people, places and relationships in a small town that his grandfather filmed during a visit from America in August 1938. Nasielsk was predominately Jewish and a year later those people were being murdered. Improbable as it is that Glenn found this film in a closet at his parents' when it was nearly disintegrated, even more improbably he finds survivors who appeared in the film--children in 1938, now in their late 80s and 90s. Though their memories are repressed or hazed with time, more connections are made. Kurtz gathers all their stories, visits the locations and does all the research possible to tell some of the story that is the tribute to all these lost ones. At times there is too much detail, and the weaving of connections among friends, layers of cousins and in-laws just too much of a maze. Perhaps tighter editing and a chart or family tree would have soothed some of my frustration, but generally I found the book fascinating and touching.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    The author finds three minutes of film, documenting his grandparent's visit to a small village in Poland in the late 1930s. Within a few years, nearly everyone was murdered by the Nazi Germans. If handled ineptly, this book could have been boring or depressing, but the execution is marvelous. The stories of the survivors themselves are engaging, but the book also raises bigger questions. How is your own existence documented? What are the limitations of some of our current forms of documenting a The author finds three minutes of film, documenting his grandparent's visit to a small village in Poland in the late 1930s. Within a few years, nearly everyone was murdered by the Nazi Germans. If handled ineptly, this book could have been boring or depressing, but the execution is marvelous. The stories of the survivors themselves are engaging, but the book also raises bigger questions. How is your own existence documented? What are the limitations of some of our current forms of documenting a life? (E.g., how to make video a "searchable" resource? what is the lifespan of current documentation methods?) What about the untold stories? Bittersweet and insightful, sad and uplifting: I experienced so many mixed emotions while reading this book, and it will haunt me for some time to come.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jim McCarthy

    Now, more than ever, we need to understand the history of the Nazi genocide. With this knowledge, we can do a better job of battling authoritarian, racist and anti-Semitic forces in our societies. "The Minutes in Poland" is set in the past, but is highly relevant for today. Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, Glenn Kurtz has done us all a favor by writing this great book. Now, more than ever, we need to understand the history of the Nazi genocide. With this knowledge, we can do a better job of battling authoritarian, racist and anti-Semitic forces in our societies. "The Minutes in Poland" is set in the past, but is highly relevant for today. Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, Glenn Kurtz has done us all a favor by writing this great book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eugenia

    if judging by the fact that I cried six times, this book blew my mind. I loved every moment of the book, even while crying.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Judy Decaigny

    Incredible. Remarkable. Difficult read, but in the end, well worth reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Glenn Kurtz is rummaging around in his parents' closets when he discovers an old family video shot by his long-deceased grandfather in Poland in 1938. The entire video lasts roughly 14 minutes, but it is the three minutes that capture life in a Jewish community destroyed in World War II that capture his attention. Through painstaking detective work, that leads him to a number of immigrants as well as Holocaust survivors, he learns more about the film, the town, and the people in it. Admittedly, i Glenn Kurtz is rummaging around in his parents' closets when he discovers an old family video shot by his long-deceased grandfather in Poland in 1938. The entire video lasts roughly 14 minutes, but it is the three minutes that capture life in a Jewish community destroyed in World War II that capture his attention. Through painstaking detective work, that leads him to a number of immigrants as well as Holocaust survivors, he learns more about the film, the town, and the people in it. Admittedly, it starts a bit slowly, as Kurtz explains the science behind restoring old film, for example. However, once he connects with the survivors or Nasielsk's Jewish community (no small feat given that out of a community of 3,000 fewer than 100 would survive, and that Kurtz did not begin his search for them until some 65 years after the war ended), the book transitions from rather dry scientific discourse to a testament of perseverance - that of Kurtz and of Nasielsk's survivors - and also to the strength of the human spirit. Eighty-six-year-old Maurice Chandler, in particular, is the unsuspecting star of this book. His faculties fully in tact, he is able to recall not only the day when American visitors arrived in 1938, but so many facets of life, both large and small, about growing up in a strict religious household in the interwar years. As for Chandler's many narrow escapes from the Nazis: these are worthy of an entire book in their own right.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    I would rate it 5 stars, but I thought some of it was long-winded and not the most linear (made it confusing at times). But, wow! Guy finds 3 minute video of his grandparents visit to Poland from the 1930s and it ends up as part of the museum display at Auschwitz. This brief glimpse of a small Jewish community of about 3,000 is cemented in time. They had no knowledge how important it would be and that almost all these people and their footprints would be erased in several years. Most of us might I would rate it 5 stars, but I thought some of it was long-winded and not the most linear (made it confusing at times). But, wow! Guy finds 3 minute video of his grandparents visit to Poland from the 1930s and it ends up as part of the museum display at Auschwitz. This brief glimpse of a small Jewish community of about 3,000 is cemented in time. They had no knowledge how important it would be and that almost all these people and their footprints would be erased in several years. Most of us might find a video and think nothing of it—the author goes on a lengthy search to uncover the story of the town and the few survivors. The details are given piecemeal and it can get confusing with all the names and lapses in the survivors memories now, but it was a captivating read once you got past the beginning parts. It’s lots of coincidences bringing people together to remember all the lives quickly erased from history (and hopefully making them less erased). This is such a good read that I got through all of the almost 1300 pages on my tiny phone (which isn’t the most enjoyable way to consume a story). Also, I read most of this way on my way to Poland and tracking down where a photo of my family was taken in the 1930s so this was more poignant for me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    An American tourist, in 1938, while visiting the small Polish town, Nasielsk, 35 miles northwest of Warsaw, shot three-minutes of 16 mm Kodachrome movie film. Those few moments show details of this small-town about a year before the Nazi blitzkrieg. The author's grandfather was the filmmaker. As it is, movies of pre-war Poland are rare, especially of this particular town. Seventy years after its making, the film made using a base of cellulose diacetate plastic had deteriorated and required exten An American tourist, in 1938, while visiting the small Polish town, Nasielsk, 35 miles northwest of Warsaw, shot three-minutes of 16 mm Kodachrome movie film. Those few moments show details of this small-town about a year before the Nazi blitzkrieg. The author's grandfather was the filmmaker. As it is, movies of pre-war Poland are rare, especially of this particular town. Seventy years after its making, the film made using a base of cellulose diacetate plastic had deteriorated and required extensive restoration by specialists. There's a good discussion about the chemical instability of movie film/photographs and the impermanence of modern memory media including computer hard drives. The author's research mission was to extract maximum information from the three-minute movie. Notoriously unreliable human memory was one challenge. Finding the people who could help, now in their 90s, was another difficulty. The restored movie inspired the book and it also helped to overcome research hurdles. I listened to the superb audiobook version, narrated by P.J. Ochlan.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This is an interesting story- the author discovered old film footage that his grandparents took while on vacation in Europe shortly before the start of WWII, and some of it captured life in a Polish town where the vast majority of the Jews were killed in the Holocaust, leading him to connect with the town's survivors to identify the people in the film. But the book is a lot longer than it needs to be, and there are a lot of boring details about film restoration that I had to skim. This is an interesting story- the author discovered old film footage that his grandparents took while on vacation in Europe shortly before the start of WWII, and some of it captured life in a Polish town where the vast majority of the Jews were killed in the Holocaust, leading him to connect with the town's survivors to identify the people in the film. But the book is a lot longer than it needs to be, and there are a lot of boring details about film restoration that I had to skim.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I read most of this book on trip to Poland where I learned even more about the country's tragic history especially for Polish Jews. The book succeeds in painting a picture of a community of people in a small village near Warsaw - those who escaped. suffered and perished. Part of the book near the beginning when it covered film technical topics stalled a bit. I am glad I persisted. Truly a worthwhile read. I read most of this book on trip to Poland where I learned even more about the country's tragic history especially for Polish Jews. The book succeeds in painting a picture of a community of people in a small village near Warsaw - those who escaped. suffered and perished. Part of the book near the beginning when it covered film technical topics stalled a bit. I am glad I persisted. Truly a worthwhile read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thomas S

    Patient, persistent mental work unravels a series of reveals and insights that compare with Dickens for plot twists -- and it's not fiction. Kurtz unassumingly takes on a dutiful burden of effort, and produces a surprising -- to him, as well -- amount of new understandings. His methods remind me a good deal of some of Errol Morris's work -- especially in trusting the details as they become visible. Patient, persistent mental work unravels a series of reveals and insights that compare with Dickens for plot twists -- and it's not fiction. Kurtz unassumingly takes on a dutiful burden of effort, and produces a surprising -- to him, as well -- amount of new understandings. His methods remind me a good deal of some of Errol Morris's work -- especially in trusting the details as they become visible.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I have had the privilege of being in Nasielsk, Poland with Glenn and other descendants of the town. Although there is no Jewish presence in Nasielsk today, Glenn's book made this small town come alive for me. I'm very versed in Polish Jewish history but the testimonies and remembrances in this book made me understand aspects of the Holocaust in new and impactful ways. Well done, friend! I have had the privilege of being in Nasielsk, Poland with Glenn and other descendants of the town. Although there is no Jewish presence in Nasielsk today, Glenn's book made this small town come alive for me. I'm very versed in Polish Jewish history but the testimonies and remembrances in this book made me understand aspects of the Holocaust in new and impactful ways. Well done, friend!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    I don't really have the words to do this book justice. It opened my eyes to a world that I was unfamiliar with and made me think deeply about the people of that world. I am so sad when I think of what hatred, blind, ignorant, self aggrandizing hatred did to decimate those people and to damage their few descendants. I don't really have the words to do this book justice. It opened my eyes to a world that I was unfamiliar with and made me think deeply about the people of that world. I am so sad when I think of what hatred, blind, ignorant, self aggrandizing hatred did to decimate those people and to damage their few descendants.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Edward Newman

    This superb book is not only a recounting of the amazing detective work by the author to identify the Polish town and people caught in three minutes of home movie footage shot by his grandfather in 1938--but a moving reconstruction of an entire world, lost 75 years before.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I’m really a 4.5 — fascinating true story of finding people and history from a town all but wiped out in Poland during WWII. I’d give ‘The Lost’ a stronger nod, but it may be because I read that one first. I’m still teary eyed from Kurtz’s story.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vida

    I started out liking this book, it's interesting and well-written, but it got bogged down in too many details and became tedious. I started out liking this book, it's interesting and well-written, but it got bogged down in too many details and became tedious.

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