- And Every Single One Was Someone by Phil Chernofsky
It is unlikely that one could pick up Phil Chernofsky’s book And Every Single One Was Someone without holding some strong opinions about his project. Chernofsky’s book may spare us literal reading time, yet it forces us to devote considerable thought to his [End Page 277] work. Chernofsky has created a 1,250 page book where, aside from the terse preface (and title page), the reader sees only one word—“Jew”—6 million times. Chernofsky asks us to look at the word Jew and consider its symbolism in both an individual and collective sense. He writes, “Focus on one Jew. Think of that word as one actual Jew. A relative, perhaps, or a friend. Maybe even yourself . . . Now choose a row at random. A whole family . . . all gone . . . A whole page might represent a beautiful Jewish community, somewhere in Europe—wiped out” (n.p.).
This book is notable for what is present—and what is not. This work could have attempted to list the known names of Holocaust victims, but it did not. While we necessarily should give voice—and names—to all victims, Chernofsky’s method reminds the reader of how Nazis saw their chief targets—that is, quite simply, as Jews. Chernofsky’s continuous use of the word Jew serves as a clear reminder of the Nazi genocide because one was (or was perceived or deemed to be) a Jew.
By manipulating font sizes, types, or colors, Chernofsky could have made distinctions among Jewish victims of the Holocaust. For instance, he could have used uppercase versus lowercase lettering to distinguish Jewish adult victims from the more than 1.1 million Jewish children killed in the Shoah—but he did not. There are countless photographs and videos that have recorded the incredible and relentless brutality suffered by millions of Jews, including children. A particularly iconic (and heartbreaking) photograph is a picture of two Jewish brothers, Avram and Emanuel Rosenthal, who were five and two years old when the photograph (below) was taken in the Kovno ghetto shortly before the March 1944 “Children’s Action.”
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According to records from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, during this two-day action, children under the age of 12 were shot or deported by train to be killed. The cherubic Rosenthal brothers were among those children who were murdered. As can be clearly inferred from the photograph, where both boys were forced to wear very prominent Jewish Stars, to Nazi perpetrators and collaborators, the “crime” of the boys was being Jewish. This picture offers another example of why Chernofsky’s method was indeed appropriate and powerful, as it relentlessly hammers the point that the predominant victims of the Holocaust were targeted for one reason alone: their Jewishness. The photograph of Avram and Emanuel certainly helps us to humanize two of the “Jews” listed in Chernofsky’s book. In doing so, we can only wonder what these young children experienced before their deaths—and what their lives could have been like had they not been murdered. Why Nazi and related perpetrators could not view the Rosenthal brothers (like millions of others) as innocent children but only as Jews to be murdered remains a haunting question for historians, social scientists, and psychologists to address. Indeed, one could say that highlighting the deaths of Jewish children and babies in particular...