On My Own: Decoding the Conspiracy of Silence, by Erika Schulhof Rybeck and published last year by Summit Crossroads Press, is just one of the increasing number of Holocaust memoirs from survivors who want to tell their stories.
Rybeck escaped the Holocaust by traveling via the Kinder Transport train to Scotland in 1938. She grew up there in a Catholic boarding school, protected from the horrors of the war and the fate of her parents by a “conspiracy of silence.” As an adult, she spent years seeking the truth of the Holocaust and how it claimed her family.
That is just one story. On my desk are two recent memoirs from Gihon River Press, founded in 2008 by Steve Feuer to publish memoirs and biographies by and about Holocaust survivors. As he says, “I am in awe of these people and their stories of survival. World War II and the Holocaust have been over for more than sixty years. Survivors are becoming fewer with each passing day. I believe there are many stories of bravery and heroism among Holocaust survivors still to be told.”
Gihon River Press published Amidst the Shadows of Trees by Miriam M. Brysk, which won the 2014 Independent Publishers of New England’s (IPNE) Narrative Non-Fiction award. Brysk was originally from Warsaw, Poland, and the book tells of her internment in the Lida Ghetto in Belarus, then escape with her parents to join the nearby partisans in the Lipiezany Forest. She came to America in 1947, obtained a PhD from Columbia University, and had a career as a scientist and medical school professor. After retiring in 2000, she became an artist, writer, and public speaker, depicting the plight of Jews during the Holocaust.
Brysk collaborated with Margaret G. Lincoln to produce another book called The Stones Weep: Teaching the Holocaust Through a Survivor’s Art. Also published by Gihon River Press, this unique and effective book won the IPNE 2014 Book of the Year Award and the Academic Award. The book combines multiple aspects of a survivor’s art with teacher-created and tested lesson plans that meet state and national core curriculum standards.
Steve Feuer grew up just after World War II and had five uncles who served and came back without serious injuries. He listened to the stories they told and the discussions about the war, but as he grew older he realized that one aspect of the war was never discussed–the Holocaust. He thought that his family did not know anyone affected by the Holocaust.
Then he came across some old photos of family members he knew nothing about. In searching for more information about this missing family, he learned that he had lost members of his own family at Auschwitz. Then he discovered that a survivor lived in upstate New York and through her he learned that he had a cousin in Israel, each of them with children and grandchildren.
“As an adult and a Jew, and now that it IS personal,” he says, “I have much more than a passing interest in the Holocaust.” For Gihon River Press, Feuer looks specifically for stories of people who saved or were saved by others, both Jews and non-Jews alike. He is interested in manuscripts and self-published books that have some historical significance and would resonate with mainstream audiences.