After an open arm’s length of Holocaust books, a pile that would tower over my cat of Holocaust movies, dozens of hours of interviews, and over 700 pages of transcripts from those interviews — not to mention four years of work — the Holocaust book is done……mostly, kind of, pretty much. I add those qualifiers because when writing any book, there’s never a solid completely-done place to arrive until after the book is in print, and even then, there’s usually little tweaks in the second printing and so on. Yet there is a turning point when I can say to myself, this puppy is done, and this is where I’ve arrived.
I started this book without any idea of how I would get it researched, let alone written, given my full-time gig, other obligations and everyday life raising three teens at the time. Like all books, it turned out to be much more work than I imagined, especially as I immersed myself in research on the Polish Resistance, the mechanics behind the Holocaust, German and Polish history and culture, tales of survival and liberation, and moments of horror and overwhelming loss. There were many times when I began to doubt that I could pull together all the research with all the oral histories I’d been recording into a coherent book, yet something told me to keep putting one paragraph in front of the other, one more piece of research into the pile. Last night as I corrected the formatting on endnote #204, the last one, I realized that despite the impossibility of it all, my instinct served me well.
My hope for this book is that those who read it will see not just the history of what two men — Jarek Piekalkiewicz, a Polish Resistance fighter and Lou Frydman, a Holocaust survivor — went through, but in their stories how we might better understand how to live with the enduring traumas of our history, especially those we carry within us. So while the book is done, where it may go from here is just beginning.
Pictures (from top): Some of the books and other company for the journey, and the subjects of this book: Lou and Jane Frydman, Jarek and Maura Piekalkiewicz.