“We created a unique tapestry of memories and flavors that are uplifting, but also stories of loss and trauma,” Zalewska says. “It’s a story of hope and triumph of the human spirit, as well as new beginnings and healing.”
At its core, the objective of the cookbook is to bring people together. Historian and director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński explains the importance of the dinner table, food, and tradition, all vital things that were taken from the survivors when they were forced into Auschwitz.
To encourage all readers, Jewish and non-Jewish, to make them for their loved ones in the convenience of their own homes, many of the recipes are simple, have relatively short ingredient lists, and utilize store-bought cake and pudding mixes. The book is a way of preserving a special, ineradicable culture that will continue to live on.
“Flavors, scents, and images, which are connected to childhood memories and cooking, really remain vivid. They fill our hearts with love and appreciation of traditions,” Zalewska says. “It’s something that we don’t forget.”
The collection of recipes tells an array of stories—some are the last meals survivors shared with their families before entering the camps, while others were learned out of necessity once they were liberated. Each survivor has their own blurb explaining why they included the recipe, from Eugune Ginter discussing how his mother fed him chocolate sandwiches to help him recover from emaciation after the war to Lois Flamholz serving her apple cake at Hadassah board meetings.