“When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers” is the story of six anonymous Jewish teenagers. In 2017, hundreds of never-before-published autobiographies of Eastern European Jewish teens from the 1930s were found in the basement of a Lithuanian church in Vilnius. The autobiographies were discovered as part of a trove of 170,000 Jewish documents thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis. They were written as part of a competition announced in 1932 by YIVO, where they asked 13- to 21-year-olds to submit anonymous autobiographies as part of an ethnographic study — awarding a grand prize for the best entry.
Ken Krimstein, a New Yorker cartoonist, journeyed to Vilnius with YIVO and beautifully adapted six of the teenagers’ stories. Here is an excerpt from one, “The Skater.”
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Originally published in “When I Grow Up” by Ken Krimstein, pages 184-189 and 202-207.