Introduction by Naomi Gryn
Some years ago,
ashamed of my father's rather tired tallit, or prayer
him a new one - a grand affair, creamy white with gold trim.
My father was thrilled with my gift, but instead of wearing it draped over
head as I'd envisioned, he scrunched it up and wore it like a football scarf.
Undaunted, the following year I tried to replace it with a different design -
much slimmer and pure white - which, I explained, would looked good with the
white robes he wore on the Jewish High Holy Days - Rosh Hashana and Yom
Dutifully he succumbed to my whim, but as soon as Yom Kippur was over, he
reverted to the white and gold one which he wore, scrunched up, for the rest
After he died, I asked for his body to be wrapped and buried
oversized tallit, now soaked in his prayers and solitary
I first saw the cover of Chasing Shadows - off-white
with his name,
Gryn, embossed in gold letters - the symbolism was not
lost on me. The
publication of this book represents the conclusion of my mourning for my
father; it is my final burial rite.
Naomi Gryn is currently
The death of Rabbi Hugo Gryn in 1996 was an occasion of great sadness for
millions who had enjoyed his contributions to Radio Four's THE MORAL MAZE.
Few though knew of the extraordinary life he had led before becoming a highly
respected London rabbi. This autobiographical work, written at two different
points in his life, offers a compelling portrait of one of Britain's
spiritual figures and broadcasters.
Hugo Gryn was born in the
Carpathian town of Berehovo, in what was then
Czechoslovakia, in 1930.
Berehovo was a fairly prosperous market town with a
large Jewish community of which the Gryn family were active members. In
the Hungarians moved in and the life of the town and the Gryn family changed
for ever. In 1944, Hugo and his family were forced into the ghetto in
and six weeks later transported to Auschwitz. Separated from his mother and
brother, Hugo and his father were used as slave labourers and were lucky to
survive two death marches.
After liberation, Hugo Gryn returned home
to find a town whose vibrant
Jewish community had been destroyed, a town
where there remained only 'a small
handful of survivors, dispirited, most of them waiting in vain for the return
of other members of their families' Miraculously, one of those survivors was
his mother; he brought her the tragic news that his father had died just a
days after the arrival of Allied troops.
In 1951, while training in
Cincinnati to become a rabbi, Gryn started
writing about his experiences in
the camps. Though he abandoned the narrative
abruptly, the pages were discovered in a desk drawer by his daughter, Naomi.
In 1989, she had persuaded him to make an emotional return to Berehovo to
a film about the experience; and later to begin writing about his childhood,
family and experiences during the war.
These two pieces of writing,
brought together and edited by Naomi Gryn, make
up a wonderful account of a
remarkable life and a vanished world.
'Everyone should read this book. In
the moral maze of life he was a guide
to give thanks for'
'It is remarkable how
little bitterness there is in this
sunny temperament and essential goodness inform the whole
'This book should have as
an audience as possible
the danger of revisionist
of the Holocaust and throws into relief the
reality of individual suffering in ethnic cleansing. Most importantly it
shows, in Gryn's words, that "Evil is real". So is good. Much of this
goodness is personified by Gryn himself'
The Daily Telegraph