10/17/2015 – The Holocaust Memoir
Thank you to Steve Feuer and his Gihon River Press, http://www.gihonriverpress.com, whose mission is to honor the memory of the millions who died in the Holocaust by publishing the stories of those who survived. One of his authors is Miriam M. Brysk, a child survivor who has written two powerful books about the Holocaust.
Originally from Warsaw, Poland. her family was interned in the Lida Ghetto in Belarus but escaped to join the Partisans in the Lipiczany Forest. She came to America in 1947, obtained a Ph.D. and worked as a scientist and medical school professor. After retiriing in 2000, she became an artist, writer, and public speaker, depicting the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust.
The Stones Weep: Teaching the Holocaust through a Survivor’s Art by Miriam Brysk tells the history of the unfolding German plan to disenfranchise and then exterminate the Jews in Europe. Stories of the horror and inhumanity suffered are supported by poignant and sad art of the human loss. Half of the book, contributed by educator Margaret G. Lincoln, comprises complete lesson plans that incorporate history, art, and poetry for high school curricula on the Holocaust. The book is difficult to put down and the lesson plans are comprehensive.
Amidst the Shadows of Trees: A Holocaust Child’s Survival in the Partisans,
Miriam M. Brysk’s second book, is a memoir of a childhood hiding in terror in the forests of Belarus. Her head was shaved like a boy’s to keep her from being raped, and she received a pistol instead of a doll for her eighth birthday. She slept in a branch-covered hole dug into the earth beneath the snow. Through it all, she survived, a triumph of the strength of the human body, spirit and heart. A powerful and engrossing description of the day to day horror of the Holocaust.
Gihon River Press doesn’t have a monopoly on Holocaust memoirs. I’ve read several, self-published and engrossing, well-written and well-produced reads. Here are two.
A Journey Through Grief by Rosette Faust Halpern, is a warm and honest book of memories. It opens with the setting, Rohatyn (modern day Rogatin), a small town that was in the Austrian province of Galicia from 1792 until 1919, and from 1919 to 1945, in Poland. In 1945, it became a part of the Ukraine. The author then describes her family’s musical history, her parents and her siblings. Then the horror begins as the Russian soldiers leave and the Germans enter to begin their plan of robbery, disenfranchisement, and murder. Halpern’s memoir takes you close to the day by day terror of living under Nazi rule. The book is engrossing and hard to put down. Highly recommended.
On My Own: Decoding the Conspiracy of Silence by Erika Rybeck is a touching and unassuming account of Erika Rybeck’s childhood and family, lost in the Holocaust. She escaped via Kindertransport and grew up at a Catholic boarding school in Aberdeen, Scotland. She spent the rest of her life in America where she finally unraveled what happened to her parents who had completely shielded her from the Nazi horrors that disrupted her life.