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The extraordinary true story of Polish-Jewish child refugees who escaped the Nazis and found refuge in Iran. More than a million Jews escaped east from Nazi occupied Poland to Soviet occupied Poland. There they suffered extreme deprivation in Siberian gulags and “Special Settlements” and then, once “liberated,” journeyed to the Soviet Central Asian Republics. The majority o The extraordinary true story of Polish-Jewish child refugees who escaped the Nazis and found refuge in Iran. More than a million Jews escaped east from Nazi occupied Poland to Soviet occupied Poland. There they suffered extreme deprivation in Siberian gulags and “Special Settlements” and then, once “liberated,” journeyed to the Soviet Central Asian Republics. The majority of Polish Jews who survived the Nazis outlived the war in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan; some of them continued on to Iran. The story of their suffering, both those who died and those who survived, has rarely been told. Following the footsteps of her father, one of a thousand refugee children who traveled to Iran and later to Palestine, Dekel fuses memoir with historical investigation in this account of the all-but-unknown Jewish refuge in Muslim lands. Along the way, Dekel reveals the complex global politics behind this journey, discusses refugee aid and hospitality, and traces the making of collective identities that have shaped the postwar world—the histories nations tell and those they forget.


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The extraordinary true story of Polish-Jewish child refugees who escaped the Nazis and found refuge in Iran. More than a million Jews escaped east from Nazi occupied Poland to Soviet occupied Poland. There they suffered extreme deprivation in Siberian gulags and “Special Settlements” and then, once “liberated,” journeyed to the Soviet Central Asian Republics. The majority o The extraordinary true story of Polish-Jewish child refugees who escaped the Nazis and found refuge in Iran. More than a million Jews escaped east from Nazi occupied Poland to Soviet occupied Poland. There they suffered extreme deprivation in Siberian gulags and “Special Settlements” and then, once “liberated,” journeyed to the Soviet Central Asian Republics. The majority of Polish Jews who survived the Nazis outlived the war in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan; some of them continued on to Iran. The story of their suffering, both those who died and those who survived, has rarely been told. Following the footsteps of her father, one of a thousand refugee children who traveled to Iran and later to Palestine, Dekel fuses memoir with historical investigation in this account of the all-but-unknown Jewish refuge in Muslim lands. Along the way, Dekel reveals the complex global politics behind this journey, discusses refugee aid and hospitality, and traces the making of collective identities that have shaped the postwar world—the histories nations tell and those they forget.

30 review for Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Shepherd

    This is probably one of the most complicated books I have ever tried to read. There is so much history here that I was completely unaware of. Like most American students, I had read and studied the Holocaust, but I had never read about all the refugees and the countries that took them in. The author spent years painstakingly researching her family's experiences as Holocaust survivors. I received an ARC of this book, a paperback edition. It was a true eye-opener for me, simply because there is This is probably one of the most complicated books I have ever tried to read. There is so much history here that I was completely unaware of. Like most American students, I had read and studied the Holocaust, but I had never read about all the refugees and the countries that took them in. The author spent years painstakingly researching her family's experiences as Holocaust survivors. I received an ARC of this book, a paperback edition. It was a true eye-opener for me, simply because there is so much history that I, a college graduate, a social studies teacher, had never read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kartik

    A gripping narrative of Holocaust survival told from an almost vicarious viewpoint. A book about Holocaust unlike any I've read before, one where the focus is on the refugee. A journey that needs to be read to be felt. This book should be used to teach classrooms about the untold stories of the Holocaust. A gripping narrative of Holocaust survival told from an almost vicarious viewpoint. A book about Holocaust unlike any I've read before, one where the focus is on the refugee. A journey that needs to be read to be felt. This book should be used to teach classrooms about the untold stories of the Holocaust.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Bock

    A story of guts, resilience, and luck -- and the true story of the author Mikhal Dekel's father, aunt and cousin -- and their journey as Jews in a small town in Poland, children of a brewery owner, a successful family generations in this town-- and how they flee east when the Nazis attack into Soviet Union. Their journey is almost unbelievable -- from the Finnish Border where they are forced to work in the winter and cold in the forests -- then evacuated east to Uzbekistan-- and finally, the chi A story of guts, resilience, and luck -- and the true story of the author Mikhal Dekel's father, aunt and cousin -- and their journey as Jews in a small town in Poland, children of a brewery owner, a successful family generations in this town-- and how they flee east when the Nazis attack into Soviet Union. Their journey is almost unbelievable -- from the Finnish Border where they are forced to work in the winter and cold in the forests -- then evacuated east to Uzbekistan-- and finally, the children only to Tehran. However, there is another layer to this incredible narrative -- the search. How Dekel peels back the layers of her family's story (her father has died at the open of the story in his new country of Israel) and tries to cope with generational trauma of the Holocaust, of issues of national identity, of the search, seemingly eternal, for what it means to be a Jew. A captivating, complicated story of the Holocaust, of luck, of resilience for a family. As someone who has studied with Professor Dekel at the City University of New York (there are several references to CCNY) in one of the most meaningful classes that I have ever taken -- the Literature of Trauma-- I could hear her questioning, probing, insistent voice throughout this work. However, one doesn't have to be a student of hers to appreciate the struggle to survive on a personal -- and a national level. This is the most meaningful book I read in 2019. May we have a decade where we understand one another better and with more peaceful intentions than we have in the past -- --Caroline If you are interested...now available on Audible and ITunes....

  4. 5 out of 5

    Micebyliz

    A moving account of the author's father who was lucky enough to survive. I recommend this to anyone interested in Middle East politics and history. There is plenty i did not know which helps explain much of today that i don't understand. (as if that makes sense) I absorbed this book. It's particularly relevant because i just finished The Jews Should Keep Quiet. The two books kind of blend together in some ways. Also brings to the forefront the plight of so many many refugees today all over the wo A moving account of the author's father who was lucky enough to survive. I recommend this to anyone interested in Middle East politics and history. There is plenty i did not know which helps explain much of today that i don't understand. (as if that makes sense) I absorbed this book. It's particularly relevant because i just finished The Jews Should Keep Quiet. The two books kind of blend together in some ways. Also brings to the forefront the plight of so many many refugees today all over the world.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elliott Lemon

    I've always had a fascination of what the holocaust was like for the younger generation of victims. This is one side of the story I had never really heard before. I've always had a fascination of what the holocaust was like for the younger generation of victims. This is one side of the story I had never really heard before.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mich

    In this little known and harrowing story of the Holocaust, Mikhal Dekel traces the journey of 800,000 Poles and 400,000 Jews, along with her own grandparents and parents as they were forced out of their native Poland as Russia joined with Nazi Germany to carve up Poland. 250,000 out of the 350,000 Polish Jews who eluded Nazi extermination (out of an initial population of 3,000,000) survived through deportations in the Soviet Union and then as exiles in Central Asia, Iran, India, and Palestine. T In this little known and harrowing story of the Holocaust, Mikhal Dekel traces the journey of 800,000 Poles and 400,000 Jews, along with her own grandparents and parents as they were forced out of their native Poland as Russia joined with Nazi Germany to carve up Poland. 250,000 out of the 350,000 Polish Jews who eluded Nazi extermination (out of an initial population of 3,000,000) survived through deportations in the Soviet Union and then as exiles in Central Asia, Iran, India, and Palestine. The Teitel family lived in Ostrow for the last eight generations, a 75% Jewish town located in the northeastern part of Poland. They owned a brewery and were among the wealthiest. Dekel herself visits and retraces the journey of her family focusing on her father Hannan and Aunt Regina, who were 12 and 8 at that time, along with her grandparents, Zindel and Ruchella. In September, 1939 both Jews and Poles were piled into overcrowded cattle cars where many died of disease and starvation and shipped to Siberia to live in Gulags and "settlements". Conditions were horrific with freezing cold, starvation, forced labor, and antisemitic attacks inflicted by fellow Poles. Following the German invasion of Russia, in September 1941 Poles and Jews were "released under an amnesty" and the Teitels, along with hundred of thousands of Jews and Poles were sent to Tashkent and Samarquand in Uzbekistan where conditions were equally horrible. While relief organizations throughout the world, including the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee attempted to send relief packages of food, clothing, and medicines to all the refugees, very little found its way to the Jews as the Poles and Uzbeks seized them for their own use. While attempts to avoid starvation were made by young men by joining the Polish Free Army headed by Anders, they were excluded by the antisemitic contingents. Anders himself cautioned against antisemitism as he was conscious of negative world opinion that would affect his army but separately told them as reported outside of the book, "after the battle is over and we are again our own masters, we will settle the Jewish matter in a fashion that the exalted status and sovereignty of the homeland and simple human justice require."(https://www.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Mi...) From Uzbekistan they were all sent to Teheran, Iran which had good relations with both Russia and Britain. There, they barely subsisted and the British and neighboring Arab countries, particularly Iraq, refused to let the Jews go to Palestine despite all the efforts of both the Jewish and larger world communities. Finally, 1,000 children were permitted to leave and it took them 48 days to travel from Teheran to Palestine via Karachi, Aden, and Egypt to Haifa a trip of 5,200 miles where they arrived in February, 1943 to tumultuous welcome. Dekel's father and aunt and a cousin were placed in a kibbutz. Starting from Poland they had traveled over 13,000 miles. While non-Jewish Poles were allowed to go to Palestine, and many did, the Jewish parents had to remain in Uzbekistan. Only when the State of Israel was declared did the many Jews who were sent back to Eastern Europe from Central Asia get a chance to come to Israel though many were forced to stay behind the iron curtain and many did not survive to see their Tehran children. This story is supported by extensive scholarly research and interviews with the Teheran Children who survived along with other adults who were involved. Dekel's approach interweaves her own tracings and journeys to recount the story as she describes her own feelings in a highly charged telling.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “Tehran Children: a Holocaust refugee odyssey,” by MIkhal Dekel (Norton, 2019). The catastrophe of the Holocaust in Europe is a fundament of modern knowledge. The experience of the Shanghai Jews is relatively well-known. But this is about what happened to the Jews (and Poles and Russians etc) who fled east into the Soviet Union and what happened to a small subset of them. Mikhal Dekel is an Israeli professor of English at CCNY, and her father was a strange, reserved man who loved his mother more “Tehran Children: a Holocaust refugee odyssey,” by MIkhal Dekel (Norton, 2019). The catastrophe of the Holocaust in Europe is a fundament of modern knowledge. The experience of the Shanghai Jews is relatively well-known. But this is about what happened to the Jews (and Poles and Russians etc) who fled east into the Soviet Union and what happened to a small subset of them. Mikhal Dekel is an Israeli professor of English at CCNY, and her father was a strange, reserved man who loved his mother more than he loved his daughter. Gradually, while building an academic career, Dekel became interested in who he was and what happened to him. She thus gradually uncovered and unraveled a story much larger than that of one man. The Tehran Children were a group of about 1,000 Polish Jewish children who managed to make it thousands of terrible miles to Iran in 1942, and from there were transported to Palestine. Mikhal’s father, Hannan, and his sister Rivka were the children of Zindel Teitel, one of the owners of a prominent brewery in the Polish city of Ostrów Mazowiecka in eastern Poland. They lived a comfortable middle class life not terribly affected by the anti-Semitism that was one of the undercurrents of Polish society. But within days after Hitler invaded Poland, the families loaded themselves into two trucks and began fleeing east toward the USSR. Very long, unbearable story short, they were among the millions of refugees who entered a not-very-welcoming Soviet Union. They traveled, mostly by foot, occasionally crammed into railway cars called Red Cows, rarely on motor vehicles, thousands of miles. North to Archangelsk, thence 2,000 miles southeast to Arys and Samarkand in Uzbekistan, 1,200 miles to the Caspian Sea, then into Iran, ultimately by sea to Karachi, Pakistan, through the Arabian and the Red Seas northwest to El Qantarah in Egypt and finally to Palestine. It was indeed an odyssey. Dekel describes in fearsome detail the hells they went through, starving, freezing, tortured, attacked and imprisoned by Russians, Poles, and almost every culture they traveled through. Families died or disappeared, friends stole food from one another. The most shocking anecdote involves a boy who finally decides to eat the one tiny bit of bread he had---and then someone older shoves his hand into the boy’s mouth and steals it! Into this history Dekel also weaves her own odyssey, trying to find survivors, people who knew of or knew the family in Poland, trying to untangle truth from self-serving lies. Despite her best efforts to remain balanced, she documents extensive evidence that even in their exile the Poles treated the Jews badly, even to the point of rejecting anyone who wanted to join the Anders Army of Polish troops that fought for the Allies in the Monte Cassino campaign. Thousands of dollars worth of aid and supplies meant for the Jews were kept by the Poles or Soviets. Many refugees disappeared into the gulags. Dekel’s partner in this search was an Iranian, also a professor, who joined her in traveling through Europe and digging through files. They eventually drew apart through their separate patriotisms: hers Israeli and Jewish, his Iranian and Muslim. Throughout, Dekel is passionate yet humane, clear-eyed and compassionate. Her descriptions of life in contemporary Russia, Uzkekistan, Poland, and finally the kibbutzim of the new Israel are candid, unblinking yet somehow non-confrontational. A powerful, eye-opening, beautiful book. https://mikhaldekel.com/tehran-children/

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    An engrossing, emotional account of the Jewish refugees who fled Poland for the Soviet Union during WWII. The history follows the members of a well-off Polish Jewish family as they flee East to the Soviet Union, are transported to Labor camps in Siberia, where they are forced to work in bitter cold, with meager food; then released to be transported to Central Asia, where they are plagued by disease and hunger. It follows the children as they make their way through to Iran and finally are resettl An engrossing, emotional account of the Jewish refugees who fled Poland for the Soviet Union during WWII. The history follows the members of a well-off Polish Jewish family as they flee East to the Soviet Union, are transported to Labor camps in Siberia, where they are forced to work in bitter cold, with meager food; then released to be transported to Central Asia, where they are plagued by disease and hunger. It follows the children as they make their way through to Iran and finally are resettled in Israel. It is a history that thousand of Polish Jews experienced, but that has been mostly overlooked in Holocaust histories and memoirs. Thanks to the author for her well-researched, immersive, and riveting account.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Really interesting historical thread; I started reading this because the subject matter is great and I thought at first that it would be very readable and personal. It became dense and academic, in that it's certainly coming from academia and is intended for that to be the audience. I appreciate the book existing and the story it tells, it's just ultimately more of a coursework read (and that's how we become old and uninformed, because no school is making us finish a book anymore if we don't imm Really interesting historical thread; I started reading this because the subject matter is great and I thought at first that it would be very readable and personal. It became dense and academic, in that it's certainly coming from academia and is intended for that to be the audience. I appreciate the book existing and the story it tells, it's just ultimately more of a coursework read (and that's how we become old and uninformed, because no school is making us finish a book anymore if we don't immediately feel like it. Lol).

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Squires

    I am amazed at how much of an obscure topic can be found by hunting through records and talking to whomever was left to tell the tale. I am grateful that this small remnant of youngsters from the Jewish community of pre-war Poland was saved. My own maternal grandparents were fortunate to leave Poland separately; my grandfather coming to America in the early 20's and my grandmother and their son (my uncle) in 1928. I am amazed at how much of an obscure topic can be found by hunting through records and talking to whomever was left to tell the tale. I am grateful that this small remnant of youngsters from the Jewish community of pre-war Poland was saved. My own maternal grandparents were fortunate to leave Poland separately; my grandfather coming to America in the early 20's and my grandmother and their son (my uncle) in 1928.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    This is a memoir of her father and of his amazing story . Born in Poland, when the Nazis invaded he and his family fled east. Along with thousands of other refugees they traveled to "special settlements" in the Soviet Union, to Soviet Central Asia, then to Tehran. There he and his sister were resettled in Israel with about one thousand other children. Besides the story of the refugees the author describes the politics of so many countries that impacted their lives. This is a memoir of her father and of his amazing story . Born in Poland, when the Nazis invaded he and his family fled east. Along with thousands of other refugees they traveled to "special settlements" in the Soviet Union, to Soviet Central Asia, then to Tehran. There he and his sister were resettled in Israel with about one thousand other children. Besides the story of the refugees the author describes the politics of so many countries that impacted their lives.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Namrata

    This extraordinary novel sounds like such an important story! If more people read this they will be aware about what kinds of issues are going on in this world, and not just where they live. I hope everyone will get their hands on a copy, and read it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Nerbun

    Worth the read Very interesting historical view of the times but often confusing transitions that made for some confusion.would have liked more interviews of non Jewish Polish refugees for a fuller picture of Polish refugees and relationships.

  14. 4 out of 5

    TR Peterson

    100% Completed. A fascinating, brilliant read. The author takes you along on the journey as she travels in the footsteps of her Jewish-Polish refugee father, one of the “Tehran Children” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nissa

    Such a terrible time in history, but if you enjoy books about the Holocaust, then I would recommend this highly.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Don Bright

    an incredible story i won't soon forget. an amazing journey through time and space. an incredible story i won't soon forget. an amazing journey through time and space.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Csimplot Simplot

    Excellent book!!!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    3.5

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amir

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ash Obel

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nelle Brown

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angelica

  23. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  24. 5 out of 5

    mgoblue 1120

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shari Gonzales

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maegan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sean

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anna Gallegos

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Devora Haeuber

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