Today is Yom Hashoah, the day of remembrance for the six million Jews that were genocidally murdered during the Holocaust. It seems fitting that I should remember my own small part in ensuring that the world never forgets. In 2010 I self-published my novel In the Face of Evil which I based on my mother Dina’s survival of the Holocaust. Happily, Dina survived, and was liberated seventy years ago today at Bergen Belsen. In the years that followed, she created a life of renewal, dedicating herself to her husband and children. She was the only survivor of her immediate family. Only two other cousins of her extensive family of uncles, aunts, and cousins would remain when the ashes of the crematoriums of Auschwitz and Treblinka finally stopped raining ashes upon the blood soaked earth.
My journey to bring Dina’s story to life was fraught with obstacles from the beginning. I was unable to secure a traditional publisher (perhaps I didn’t try hard enough). I was a first time author (I’ve written three more books since then under my pseudonym), and it was my first time on the race track without any “how-to” as far as PR, social media, and marketing. I made lots of mistakes. First, thinking I could self-edit and not have a professional editor. That ended with me having to pull the book when the comments were scathing as to the amount of errors present in the manuscript. Then a lawyer who had read and loved my book, even with all the erratum, contacted me and offered her FREE services to edit the book, which she considered an honor. I will be eternally grateful Jennifer Livingston, you certainly gave more than you got. Soon after, on a lark, I submitted my book for the National Jewish Book Awards, and received Finalist recognition for my labor of love. I was on a roll. Now, after writing three more books, and having improved significantly in my writing, I would love to edit, perfect, and republish In the Face of Evil, but alas, I’m busy with the editing of a new book, and the creation of the next one after that. Perhaps, one day I will return and update In the Face of Evil. I have received so many reviews that expressed disbelief that this book is not a bestseller. In fact, to this day I am rated 4.62 stars on Amazon and 4.23 stars on Goodreads, which is strutting with the stars by any measure.
My family and I have been blessed to still have Dina with us, and of sound mind. Well, as sound of mind as an eighty-six year old can be, or for that matter as sound of mind as her significantly younger daughter is.
In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day I leave you with an excerpt from In the Face of Evil. It is a passage that takes place on April 15th, 1945, the day Dina was liberated from Bergen Belsen.
“It feels like years since we got here, yet I know it is only a few months. Starvation has taken its toll and my body has shrunk to that of a small child. My pashak swims on me, I have no breasts and my menstruation has never come. Death lurks in the shadows for all of us, but lately I feel the cold hands encircling me in an icy embrace. I eat less and sleep more, happy to slip into the darkness of dreams where I relive my childhood. I dream of my mother’s cooking, of holiday meals with my family. The dreams are so real that sometimes I wake in pain having bit my tongue, my mouth pungent with the metallic taste of blood.
I know that I am dying and I feel tranquility… peace. Sometimes my soul rises out of my body and I see myself lying below. All the pain and hunger have left me. I am nearly free of the ties that bind me to this life. Like a butterfly I glide across the sky, now and again lifted by the fingers of the wind. I barely hear Lusia, who calls to me in my stupor. Her voice is a distant echo from far away, calling me, but I pay her no heed. I am soaring toward the sun.
Someone is shaking me! DYNKA, DYNKA, WAKE UP! WAKE UP! YOU HAVE TO GET UP! WE ARE LIBERATED! THE ENGLISH ARMY HAS LIBERATED US. THE WAR IS OVER!”
“Let me sleep, Lusia, why are you telling me lies? Go away and let me die. Please, do not tease me!” I am falling from the sky, plunging to Earth.
“Get up, we are free! The English are sharing their food. We are moving into the Nazis’ housing in Bergen. I swear, Dynka, the war is over! You are not going to die! Not now!”
Pulling me to my feet with her arms supporting me, she leads me outside. Now I am surely living in a dream. Everywhere I look I see handsome men in uniform smiling at me. No one ever smiles in Bergen-Belsen. Perhaps I am dead already. All around me everyone is smiling, laughing and crying with joy. It is surreal, I am still not able to comprehend the reality of the moment until I see a group of Nazi SS women being led away, their hands on their heads, fear in their eyes. With whatever strength I have left I pick up a stone and throw it in their direction. I hit Aufseherin Bormann squarely on her temple and she winces looking at me, her face now hideously gray and lined with fear. Suddenly I am filled with strength as my blood soars through my veins. With the joy of revenge pulsing through me, I spit in her direction.