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Biographies and Memoirs: Books of Local Interest

Jake Geldwert Book Cover

From Auschwitz to Ithaca, by Jake Geldwert with intro by Diane L Wolf, edited by Ross Brann 

-Mr. Geldwert recalls his life growing up in the predominantly Jewish town of Auschwitz prior to World War II, the rise of Nazism and outbreak of World War II that results in his imprisonment at the Auschwitz concentration camp, a recounting of that imprisonment, and an account of his eventual liberation, marriage to his wife Jeannette (who was also in Auschwitz), and their post-war adjustment period. He goes on to describe their emigration to America, and new life in Ithaca, New York, where for many years he worked at the grocery story of his wife's relatives. The book ends with Mr. Geldwert's expressed hope that younger generations will "remember what happened to the generation before, to watch out to do the best they can to have a peaceful world."

Something That Belongs to You, an autobiographical play by Roald Hoffmann   

In 37 short scenes, alternating between 1992 in Philadelphia and 1943-1944 in Gribniv, Ukraine, there emerges in “Something That Belongs to You” a story of survival and memory, of complex Ukrainian-Jewish relations, of struggles to remember and forgive. The language of this partially autobiographical play is poetic (especially in the wartime scenes!)  and there are in it flashes of humor, even burlesque.  The underlying themes are of coming to term with great loss, of the importance of both remembering and forgetting on the way to forgiving, and of the choices, always there, that human beings must make between good and evil in terrible times.

The Hidden Children(1997) by Howard Greenfield (Roald Hoffmann's story as a Hidden Child is one of the 15 stories)

From School Library Journal

Grade 4 Up-The experiences of 15 children who survived the Holocaust in hiding are presented here within the historical context of the Nazi rise to power and World War II. These youngsters were sheltered in a variety of private homes and institutions by "righteous Gentiles," family friends, and those simply looking for additional money; some were resented, some treated compassionately, and others mistreated and abused physically. Greenfeld has interviewed these survivors, who are now living in the U.S., and has recorded their memories. Both the mundane and the unusual are remembered; the most commonly described feelings are the fear that family members would perish and the sense of guilt at having survived while others did not. There are reminiscences of narrow escapes and poignant remembered pleasures of edible treats. While the chronological arrangement of the book makes it difficult to follow a specific child's story (it is possible by using the excellent index), it succeeds admirably in allowing readers to place the experiences described within the framework of the Holocaust. An excellent selection of black-and-white photographs and an open design contribute to making this an important and accessible resource.
Susan Kaminow, Arlington County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Witness to Annihilation, Surviving the Holocaust: A Memoir, by Samuel Drix (father of Ithaca High school teacher)

When the German Army captured Lwów, Poland, in 1941, the city contained a vibrant Jewish community of 160,000 people. By 1945, all but a few hundred were dead. Witness to Annihilationis the book that Samuel Drix vowed he would write. Drix endured nearly a year in the Janowska concentration camp, escaped and hid from the Nazis, was liberated by the Red Army, and eventually fled from behind the Iron Curtain to America. This rare Holocaust memoir by a caring physician will both horrify and inspire.

Miracles, Milestones, & Memories: A 269-Year Reflection, 1735-2004 by Fred Voss, (Fred Voss, retired to Ithaca --  a local Holocaust speaker since 2002)

This memoir begins with the history of nine generations of the Voss family. For nearly 200 years, like most Jews in Germany, they lived in peace. Then, in 1933, the Nazi government came to power and denied Jews the right to live in Germany. Two brothers, Emil ("Ed") and Fred Voss, escaped Germany with their parents and one grandmother, but not before suffering as victims of the persecution against Jews. In this book, Fred Voss includes his brother's memories and his own, tracing the story of how they found their freedom again in the United States of America. 

Yours Always: A Holocaust Love Story by Kitty Zilbersmit (1996)  – (Occasional Publications of the Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Program of Jewish Studies, Cornell University, V.2)

Yours Always is the true account of a young, engaged Dutch Jewish couple suddenly separated by the Nazi invasion. Distinguishing this work is the diary of Kitty's fiancee, Don, who joined a Dutch brigade during the war. This diary, Red Cross letters, and Kitty's memoirs make this an unusual recollection of that terrible time.

When Heaven's Vault Cracked Zagreb Memories by Zdenka Novak  (mother of retired Ithaca College Professor)  -- self published online for download

Zdenka Novak lived with her sister and parents in Zagreb, Yugoslavia before World War II.  As a bright and talented student, her father sent her to Paris in September 1939 to study languages. Zdenka returned quickly as the war started, thinking that she had escaped the worst in France by returning to Zagreb and marrying her beloved Fritz.  While following the news on the world stage, she continued her studies at the University of Zagreb.  Her family's fate changed on April 6, 1941 when Nazi Germany invaded Yugoslavia.  Zdenka's parents and her sister were arrested by the Nazis, and she was exiled to Susak (under Italian occupation).  After Germany invaded Italy in 1943, Zdenka joined the Partisans living in the woods of Croatia, surviving under difficult conditions.  At the end of the war, she returned to Zagreb under communist rule, but eventually spent the remainder of her life in Israel.