Retired journalist helps translate Jewish-Lithuanian doctor's WWII journal into book

Tamala Edwards Image
Thursday, June 8, 2023
Retired journalist helps translate Jewish-Lithuanian doctor's WWII journal into book
EMBED <>More Videos

Local retired journalist Andrew Cassel helped translate a Jewish doctor's WWII journals into a book called 'Notes from the Valley of Slaughter.'

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Retired journalist Andrew Cassel has spent the last few years helping to lift Dr. Aharon Pick's voice off pages from the past, using the title of Pick's World War II journal for the now published book, "Notes from the Valley of Slaughter."

Cassel says he became aware of this journal that Dr. Pick had written in Hebrew in about 1997 and wished he could read it, because the doctor was connected to his grandfather.

"They got together to collect folk music," says Cassel.

He says his grandfather and Pick wrote down "more than 150 lyrics, which went into this collection that was published in 1901."

"I don't think they ever saw each other again after 1904," he says.

Cassel's grandfather immigrated to the U.S., while Pick remained in Europe.

While doing research, Cassel found that Dr. Pick "was a very prominent guy" in his community of iauliai, Lithuania, but then the war came and changed everything for the people living there.

In 2018, Cassel discovered Dr. Pick's journal on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's website.

"It was quite a lucky break," he says.

Through the museum, he linked up with retired engineering professor, Gabriel Laufer. Laufer did the translation, while Cassel says he worked on "the editing and a lot of the research around it."

"It's about 300 pages in Hebrew, written," says Cassel.

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 90% of Lithuanian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. It's one of the highest victim rates in Europe.

Cassel has a photograph of Dr. Pick where he estimates him to be in his 50s.

"When he went into the ghetto, he was almost 70," says Cassel.

Dr. Pick started journaling in 1942.

"And he continued to write until spring of 1944, which is when he died," says Cassel.

He says the journal "describes a lot of things in great detail," including when the Germans arrived and "how his job disappeared."

"You're thinking about what it might have been like from his point of view, and it's very gripping," he says.

Cassel says he hopes that by getting Dr. Pick's journal translated into English, it "gives it to a lot more people around the world."

For more information:

'Notes from the Valley of Slaughter: A Memoir from the Ghetto of iauliai, Lithuania

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum