Beit Tal is an organization in memory of Trochenbrod and Lozisht Jewish community. members of the organization include all generations of people originated in the towns.
This website is a virtual museum and monument for the people of Trochenbrod and Lozisht.

THE HEAVENS ARE EMPTY: Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod is the product of twelve years of research on four continents by Washington, DC resident, Avrom Bendavid-Val. Trochenbrod was a bustling commercial center of more than 5,000 people, all Jews, that was hidden deep in the forest in northwest Ukraine. Its isolation allowed it to thrive as a tiny Jewish kingdom unnoticed and unknown to most people, even though it was “the big city” for surrounding Ukrainian and Polish villages. The people of Trochenbrod were slaughtered in the Holocaust; soon nothing remained of this vibrant 130 year-old town but a row of trees and bushes in a clearing in the forest. The Heavens Are Empty tells the story of the life and death of one of the most unusual but unknown shtetls in Eastern Europe. An imagined Trochenbrod was the setting for Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, Everything is Illuminated, and the movie by the same name.

In his book, Bendavid-Val tells Trochenbrod’s history not as a scholarly presentation, but as a story, including a bit of how he uncovered what happened in this vanished place. The book is unique in the variety of first person accounts Bendavid-Val draws on, including those of Jews born in Trochenbrod, as well as of Ukrainians and Poles who knew the town as children. The book is also unique in the large number of photographs and maps it contains. The emphasis of Heavens is on the life and vibrancy that was Trochenbrod, not just on the town’s destruction in the Holocaust.

Here is an excerpt from Heavens that describes how some of the businesses there grew in the interwar period:

Then there was Avrum Bass. Avrum was a farmer who sold his produce at market, and had a horse and wagon to transport his goods. He would often bring produce back from the market in his wagon to sell in Trochenbrod, so he became both a farmer and a produce trader. His familiarity with horses led him to sell the one he had and buy another, and before long he was also a horse trader. Sometimes he brought bread back from the market to sell in Trochenbrod. Why not bake it here and offer fresher bread that people from the nearby villages might also come to buy? Soon enough Avrum Bass was a relatively well-to-do businessman who grew and traded produce, was a trader in horses, and owned a bakery in Trochenbrod.

Dairy owners in Trochenbrod took their milk and butter to Lutsk, Rovno, and Kolki to sell. Why come back with empty wagons? They began bringing back sugar, cooking oil, and eventually a wide variety of other goods from the cities to sell in Trochenbrod. They expanded their dairy shops into grocery stores and thought of themselves not just as dairymen, but as dairymen, grocery shopkeepers, and traders in city goods.

Ellie Potash started out making shoes and selling them in his small Trochenbrod shop like so many others. To get an edge on the competition he bought a horse and wagon and made rounds in the villages to take orders from customers and sell shoes directly to them. People would ask him for other leather goods, especially boots, belts, and bridles. Steadily he expanded his “export” business, and by the mid 1930s had a workshop in its own building (next to the post office) making a wide variety of leather goods for a steady market of customers in the villages around Trochenbrod. He made a good living from this, and was able to build a very nice new house. He could not have imagined that just a few years later his house would be selected by the Germans as one of the places to store the belongings of their victims, and then to quarter themselves, while Ellie and his family struggled to survive the winter hiding in the Radziwill forest.

THE HEAVENS ARE EMPTY: Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod is available at bookstores throughout America, and at online booksellers. For the Heavens page on click  Heavens at Amazon

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