About We Are Here


We Are Here

Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust

University of Nebraska Press, March 2012

We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust

Winner of the Grub Street National Book Prize for Nonfiction, the Towson Prize for Literature, a Prakhin International Literary Foundation Award, the Silver Medal in History from ForeWord Reviews, and the Best Book Prize from the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies. Shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.

Ellen Cassedy set off into the Jewish heartland of Lithuania to study Yiddish and connect with her Jewish forebears.

Then her uncle, a survivor of the Lithuanian Holocaust, pulled a worn slip of paper from his pocket.

“Read this,” he said.

When she did, she learned something she had never suspected, and her journey to Lithuania changed forever.  What had begun as a personal quest expanded into a groundbreaking exploration of how people in Lithuania – Jews and non-Jews – are confronting their Nazi and Soviet past in order to move forward into the future.

Probing the terrain of memory, massacre, and moral dilemmas, Ellen found herself challenged to ask:  How do we honor our diverse heritages without perpetuating the fears and hatreds of the past?

Ellen’s journey changed her outlook on bystanders, victims, collaborators, rescuers – and herself. Her rich and deeply-felt account offers important insights – and hope.

Read an Excerpt

About Ellen Cassedy

Grub Street National Book Prize Ellen Cassedy

Ellen Cassedy receiving the Grub Street National Book Prize


Ellen Cassedy has explored the world of the Lithuanian Holocaust for ten years. Her work has been published in Huffington Post, Hadassah, The Forward, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Polin, Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal, and other publications. She lives near Washington, D.C.

Learn more about Ellen Cassedy.

Praise for We Are Here

“A grave and beautiful accomplishment.”
Jane Brox, judge
2013 National Book Prize from Grub Street

“Cassedy resists Lithuanian attempts to place Jewish and Lithuanian suffering ‘side by side’….She listens to all the voices and perspectives….She attempts to know and comprehend rather than judge.”
Christopher R. Browning
New York Review of Books

“Brilliantly balanced, totally engaging, and constantly penetrating.”
Philip K. Jason
Jewish Book Council

“Well-researched and very up-to-date…fresh…vivid.”
Beth Dwoskin
Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

“Unusually engaging…a model for the study of interethnic relations.”
 Sean Martin  
American Association for Polish-Jewish Studies

“Focused…dramatic…Ellen Cassedy’s quest…leads her to questions of responsibility, guilt and morality….Yiddish words, musings, and, above all, the Yiddish poetry she quotes have a subliminal effect….They add a musicality to her clear prose and additional emotional resonance….”
Nahma Sandrow
Hadassah Magazine

“Balanced…engaging and lucid…quite an achievement…”
James M. Boubonis
Lithuanian Heritage magazine

“She allows us to travel with her through a difficult and rewarding emotional and physical landscape.  I truly enjoyed this book.”
David Wilk

“Pioneering… will reach out to Jews, Lithuanians, and all those who care about not replaying in this new century the disasters of the century that has just ended.”
Dr. Michael Steinlauf
Author of Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust

“Challenges us to think again about what it means to remember the Holocaust in the present….”
Dr. Laura Levitt (Temple University)
H-Judaic, H-Net Reviews

“Immersing herself in the study of Yiddish was like a prayer for her, a connection to her people….
Jewish Forverts

“The Vilnius Yiddish Institute has found its bard!  Cassedy…writes with a rare sensitivity toward all sides.”
Afn Shvel, the Yiddish journal  

“[A]n intimate, investigative approach…poignant.”
Baltimore Jewish Times

“Cassedy assembles and weaves together a historical quilt that provides an important context to a complex narrative.”
Jerusalem Post

“Deeply moving…her book offers a unique perspective…rooted in an oft-forgotten Yiddish cultural context, a tapestry of events which elsewhere too often appear as one-dimensional. Readers will doubtless be immensely enriched by her experience.”
Dr. Saulius Suziedelis
Millersville University, PA

“A most captivating read. Cassedy offers an extraordinary perspective, human and moving, to concerns which often are hidden by tired cliches, sentimentality, or anger. A rare document.”
Samuel Bak
Artist, author of Painted in Words, survivor of the Vilna Ghetto

“This eloquent book can help us to reach out, open our hearts, and rediscover one another in a spirit of mutual understanding.”
Hon. Valdas Adamkus
Former President of Lithuania

“A courageous, moving, and informative book….Cassedy is unwilling to accept easy answers, to make easy condemnations.”
Outlook: Canada’s Progressive Jewish Magazine

“Engaging, informative, thought-provoking.”
Compelling Stories: Jewish Lives Lived

“Ellen Cassedy is on to a crucial story of a new, post-Holocaust Eastern Europe, in which a few committed individuals are working to catalyze national introspection…. Ms. Cassedy asks herself and other Jews if they, too, might have reason for some self-questioning about the myths of the past.”
Dr. Erica Lehrer
Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

“[A] thorough and fascinating examination of a still contentious subject in Lithuania.”

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