Letter from a reader of Remember Us.

Thank you for sharing your personal letter!

 

Dear Mr. Shayne,

Thank you for reading experience with the the book “Remember Us”. I am just at the end of it and I must say it really is a moving story.
I have read a lot of books / biographies depicting these horrific times – and still one meets a Holocaust denier, even here in peaceful Sweden; just recently realized one of our friends is just that…
There has been scary statistics presented in media here, how little the youth of Sweden know about this sad period of our recent history.

As for my own family, on my father’s side, they had top pay a heavy toll; my grand father was a brave man who together with som friends organized escapes for jews and other persecuted people. They managed to get them out from Hungary to Romania through Transylvania where they lived. Ultimately, of course, Gestapo found out and my grandfather, grandmother (and unfortunately, my uncle, who was over from Budapest for the weekend) were taken away, never to come back again.

My grandmother on my mother’s side, helped Jewish directors of their savings bank to get Swedish papers from Raoul Wallenberg, and I know that many of them made it to freedom. My grandfather though never came back from the Eastern Front, where hundreds of thousands of Hungarians lost their lives for a totally lost cause.

Yours truly

Peter v. F.

Massachusetts couple saved thousands from Nazi death camps

Ken Burns documentary details the rescue mission of Massachusetts couple, Martha and Waitstill Sharp. screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-5-24-30-pm

The Sharps, who lived in Wellesley, Massachusetts, were sent by their church to lead a secret and perilous rescue of refugees and dissidents in Europe before and after the start of World War II. They directly helped over 100 people escape and had a part in helping over 2,000 people avoid deportation to Nazi death camps.

“What is so remarkable about this project is how many people are coming forward today saying, the Sharps helped us in this way. We have documents that show the Sharps helped us. And this very large network of underground, you know, rescuers, both the Jewish community, the Protestant community, the Catholic community, others who saw rescue as something that they had to do for their faith.”

 

‘Remember Us’ makes it to two important best-seller lists

My nonfiction biography of concentration camp survivor Martin Small, Remember Us, has made it to two important best-seller lists, including Amazon’s Historical Biographies and the Wall Street Journal’s list.Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 5.51.50 PM
wall street journal best seller listOn the left is the Wall Street Journal listing. My book is number 3 under Nonfiction Books.

To the right is the amazon.com best seller listing where the book is in the first position.

 

Eric Clapton Auschwitz movie set for release

Documentary film Three Days In AuschwitScreen Shot 2016-04-05 at 5.42.13 PMz, with soundtrack by Eric Clapton, will be launched in May

A documentary movie about the Auschwitz concentration camp, featuring a soundtrack by Eric Clapton, will be released in May.

Three Days In Auschwitz is director Phillipe Mora’s personal exploration of the Nazi death camp and its lasting impact. His mother would have been sent there, almost certainly to die, if she’d been processed by Nazi officials one day earlier, while many of his father’s family were murdered during the Holocaust of the Second World War…

Read more by clicking here:

 

Latest writing projects & publications

 

Stressing Out Over Happiness

— exploring the effects of stress, meditation and happiness

BOOK RELEASE

screen shot of stressing out over happiness cover. pngStressing Out Over Happiness is a new self-help book that merges the wisdom of ancient sages, neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers and quantum physicists to explore the nature of happiness, the physiological and mental aspects of stress, and how the mind works. This book also delves into the two forms of Buddhist meditation that have been shown in university studies to lessen the effects of stress and lead to greater happiness.

If you are stressed out (who isn’t), anxious, depressed or wandering in a daze, this book should prove very helpful to you. If you are a natural health practitioner, nurse, or therapist, you should read what this work has to say because there is definitely a missing link in today’s health care picture — a holistic paradigm.

The mind is very complicated instrument. Or is it an instrument at all? The truth is that, despite our scientific effort, we are no closer to understanding the mind in terms of its shape, form or existence. We know it by its actions, but we cannot measure it or observe it except by means of its effect on the brain. To study the mind, we have to look into the nature of consciousness, and that is a big undertaking. In this book, though, we do just that. My hope is that this book will compel you to ask your own questions and explore the workings and nature of your own mind and your own existence. In the end, this should not only bring down stress levels, but it should also make you much happier.

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Ups and Downs With No Regrets: George Lichter’s story amazing adventures.

BOOK RELEASE

World War II veteran combat pilot Captain George Lichter who passed away at age 91, is the subject of a new biography called Ups and Downs With No Regrets.

Ups and Downs, written by Vic Shayne, follows George’s life through his growing up years in Brooklyn where he was first smitten with dreams of flying while standing transfixed on the beach at Gravesend Bay watching a tourist plane take off from the surf. By age six, George knew he wanted to become a pilot, and when he saw the silent WWI movie Wings in 1927, he realized that flying combat would be the ultimate thrill. George’s dream came true in December, 1941 when the United States entered World War II. Pearl Harbor was attacked on Sunday, December 7, and George lined up to join the Army Air Force the next day.

Ups and Downs is all about George, an athletic kid whose idea of fun always meant pushing his luck, taking crazy risks, and looking to try something new. These traits made him an ideal candidate for pilot training and air combat. In fact, his daring nature nearly got him killed on more than one occasion, including the time in 1943 when he and a fellow pilot decided to buzz New York Harbor and flew under the nose of the Statue of Liberty.

By the end of the war, George had flown more than 88 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe. Though he crashed and had his plane shot full of bullets, George emerged from the war unscathed but highly decorated with the European Theatre Ribbon and four battle stars, battle stars for air war service and battle stars for flying combat during the invasion of Normandy (D-Day). Only a couple of years after WWII had ended, and trying to settle down in the business world, George discovered that the new nation of Israel was about to be attacked by its Arab neighbors on the even of being granted its independence by the United Nations.

“I knew I couldn’t just sit by and do nothing,” George recalls. “I thought it was going to be a slaughter, but we had to try to fight back.”

George contacted the Israelis and joined their war effort. But instead of sending him to fly combat, the Israelis had more important plans for him, not to mention that the Israelis had no fighter planes in service. They sent him to Czechoslovakia where the new Israeli pilots were to be quickly trained for aerial combat as an air force was being centered around remnants and spare parts from used WWII planes. Ironically, the Israelis’ first aircraft were reconfigured German Messerschmitts made in Czechoslovakia.

Given his war record and exceptional piloting skills, George was chosen to be Israel’s chief trainer. Within months, the Israelis had put together an air force and took control over of their territorial skies to answer the bombing strikes of the Egyptian Air Force. During his tenure as chief instructor, George led a group of new fighter pilots through dangerous skies on a mission to bring Spitfires into Israel. For this perilous flight, rescuing a novice pilot lost in the fog near Yugoslavia and for his dedication, the nation of Israel recognized him as the one of the most treasured of their machal (foreign volunteer) military experts.

Nancy Spielberg (Steven’s sister) is currently finishing a feature documentary on the exploits and service of the machal fighters, featuring George Lichter among the living pilots involved in Israel’s War of Independence, 1948.

Ups and Downs With No Regrets features the favorable reviews of two celebrities — actor Jerry Stiller and television personality/author Dr. Ruth Westheimer, both of whom are personal friends of George Lichter. Dr. Ruth served as a sniper during Israel’s War of Independence. The book is not only about George’s war service, but also about his personal life, sexual exploits, stints as a trumpet player in college and in the Catskill Mountain resorts, battle with antisemitism, and world travels.

Ups and Downs With No Regrets is the personal story of George Lichter written by Vic Shayne and available on amazon.com. Published 2013. Shayne is also the author ofRemember Us: From my shtetl through the Holocaust, a first-person memoir of survivor Martin Small, 2009, Sky Horse Publishing.

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new remember us coverRemember Us: the amazing Holocaust survival story of Martin Small

Remember Us is now available in book stores across the country. It has reached the amazon.com and Wall Street Journal best seller lists and has received wide acclaim. You can also order it online by clicking here for amazon.com.

This book is the remarkable true story that begins in a world of Yiddish culture, bucolic countryside life in pre-war Poland and family relationships that were once the foundation of Jewish life. Living an idyllic life with family, friends and community, Martin Small was steeped in tradition, learning and culture only to be swept away in the storm of the Holocaust. His unchosen journey took him into a slave labor camp, into the forests as a partisan, into Mauthausen concentration camp, through displaced persons camps and further, all of which presented tests of body and soul.

I spent an intensive three and a half years interviewing and talking with Martin Small, going through his documents and photos, and listening to him address audiences with his message of loss and redemption. The result of these years is this book, Remember Us, in which I wrote Martin’s life story in the first person.

I invite you to read this book that has been heralded by Nobel Prize recipient Eli Wiesel, actor Jerry Stiller, actor/producer Ed Asner and many others, including veterans of World War II.

Remember Us is available in bookstores nationwide, as well as online.

Remember Us: The Idea Behind the Book

Several years ago Martin Small, in his late 80s, approached Vic Shayne about writing his memoirs. Following a couple of initial meetings, Shayne decided that this project was well worth delving into for two main reasons. First, Martin Small was an outspoken and fascinating subject. Second, his story was literally a hero’s journey.

(Martin Small is pictured to the right at a recent book signing for Remember Us, his life’s story)

Shayne says of the book’s subject, “Martin Small is the rare and wonderful type of person who makes friends wherever he goes. His entire life, by virtue of his extroverted personality and natural curiosity, is marked by the relationships he forges. And he forges them quickly because he’s interested in people, who they are, where they come from, their families, their languages and their customs. It is no wonder that he has mastered more than 10 languages. His inquisitive nature dictates that he jumps head-first into every culture he comes into contact with. Within ten minutes of speaking with Martin Small, he knows all about you. And the reason is that he really cares.”

When you read Remember Us, Martin Small’s story, you’ll see that he started out in life speaking three main languages: Yiddish, Russian and Polish. By the time he was five he was speaking and reading Hebrew as well. After the war, which is a period of great wonder, as covered in the book, Martin Small took a train to Italy from Salzburg, Austria, as thousands of Italian POWs were returning home from Russia. Instantly making friends with an Italian officer, Martin at last made it to Rome and in no time was speaking like a native. He made plenty of friends from Anzio to Ostia to Turin and back.

The second reason Vic Shayne took on this project, as stated, is that Martin Small’s life follows the format of a hero’s journey. An avid reader of Joseph Campbell, Shayne recognized this aspect of Martin’s story right away. He says, “The hero’s journey is a mythical format that offers readers not just an interesting story, but the kind of story that touches you to the core; it is felt in the heart and finds its way to the depths of the mind. The hero’s journey takes the protagonist from his home, away from those he loves and all that is familiar to him and brings him into the world on an adventure filled with obstacles, dangers and even rewards. Martin Small’s book, therefore, reads like a novel, yet knowing that it is true puts you on the edge of your seat. It’s a fascinating adventure, but you would never want to go through it yourself. I am still in awe of Martin Small and all that he has witnessed, lost, accomplished and learned. To me he will always be a hero. Certainly, he has been victimized, but Martin Small is not a victim. He is, in his own words, a survivor. There’s a tremendous difference.”

The hero’s journey finds the hero, by the end of the journey, a changed and wiser individual who sees the world in a new light. Nothing could be more true of Martin Small’s journey from his shtetl in Poland to the concentration camps of the Nazis, wandering as a displaced person after the war, into Italy, and beyond.

Remember Us: From my shtetl through the Holocaust is available for purchase through amazon.com online by clicking here.

A New Look at World History: What if we just say it never happened?

By Vic Shayne

I’ve been a writer for the past 30 years, and my most recent challenge was a book for a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor. This project involved endless hours of research that has led me not only to a dearth of post-war testimonials, but also organized websites denying that this event ever happened. This revisionist teaching is based on a desire to invalidate human suffering, and recognize the loss of millions of lives, mass murders and a genocidal program that was anything but a secret.

I got to thinking: Is it possible to just rewrite history, deny that events ever happened, tell eye witnesses and participants that they were all deluded and that atrocities never occurred? It made me wonder how far we can take this idea of revisionism.

What if we, from here on, decided that we would not teach about the reality of American slavery and the struggle for civil and human rights? In this terrible scenario, African Americans would be denied their claim to a heritage of suffering, senseless lynchings, being torn from their families and tribes in Africa and being treated as subhumans. Did this really happen? Who says so? No witness is alive to testify that slavery and hardships were ever foisted upon these Africans. Just like the Holocaust, we could deny it ever happened. We could say, sure there were some Africans brought on ships to America, but they didn’t die because they were bound by chains in the hulls of rickety ships. They died merely of old age or because they were sick before the voyage ever began. And when they came to America they weren’t really slaves, they were just servants, volunteering for work. They have no right to complain or demand the world’s attention for any injustice.

Or we could look at the plight of the Irish and the supposed potato famine. We can say this was not a real event. We can rewrite this period of history and say that the Irish never suffered mass starvation, prejudice and near annihilation. We could all agree that they came in waves at the turn of the last century just to seek their fortunes, with no other motivating factors; that they were selfish fortune-seekers, drunks and misfits. We could say that the half million to a million who starved to death in agony never existed, that the Irish were never mistreated by the British; that they just made everything up.

In China, in 1937, history tells us that the Japanese invaded the city of Nanking and created a bloody, horrific, murderous event. Did this, what is now called The Rape of Nanking, ever really happen? Who says so? Maybe, we could say, it never happened. There is nobody who can prove that a six-week massacre yielding 300,000 dead ever really happened. We could chalk it all up to war. Maybe we could even say that the Chinese women, children and men deserved to be tortured to death, with adolescent girls gang raped while their parents were forced to watch in horror; they were partly to blame for the events that led to babies being bayoneted, picked up by their legs and tossed into the air into vats of boiling water, and the women and girls deserved being raped because this is what soldiers do. But it’s all overblown, exaggerated.

Maybe Japanese Americans were never forced across the United States into internment camps during World War II. Maybe their homes were not lost to them, as well as their jobs and their relationships and their livelihoods. Maybe it never happened that there was a discriminatory policy applied to them that didn’t apply to white Americans. Maybe the Japanese Americans are just complaining about a little misunderstanding. Perhaps they are making it all up because they just want attention or to collect money in some way.

And perhaps we can say that all those American soldiers who came across the Nazi death camps were just seeing things. The smell of death that could never leave their sinuses was a figment of their imagination. Plus, those American in WWII who died a slow and miserable death on the death marches in Asia were lying.

Where does any of this end? Are we to allow hate groups to define history for us? History is a human event, not a collection of statistics, troop movements, military campaigns and weaponry. History is defined by what happened to real people with real families and cultures and homes and relationships. The Holocaust in WWII Europe happened, and it was worse than history records, because you cannot quantify human suffering, night mares, emotional breakdowns, recurring anguish, heartbreak or unresolved trauma. Real were the concentration camps, gas chambers, killing fields and precise plans for genocide. Testimonies exist from American soldiers, General Eisenhower, Nazi officials, resistance fighters and thousands of victims. This event happened, and it was actually even worse than is recorded by our official history.

What also happened was a genocidal policy against Native Americans who were marched to death through unbearable winter weather from the east to Midwest. These people who survived the brutality of the Trail of Tears were put on reservations, given small pox, robbed of their culture. Ruined and left to rot. The Irish were nearly destroyed by British racism. The Japanese waged an unforgettable massacre on the Chinese, and the Chinese on the Tibetans. Since February 2003, the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the government-sponsored Janjaweed militia have used rape, displacement, organized starvation and mass murder to kill more than 400,000 and displace 2.5 million. Violence, disease and displacement continue to kill thousands of innocent Darfurians every month. This is happening NOW. Can we say that it is not?

Will we be allowed to be bullied by racist, extremist, ignorant, unread, hateful revisionists? Will we sit by and accept the president of Iran’s hateful campaign of Holocaust denial as a means to invalidate the nation of Israel? Did Martin Luther King die for no good reason? Were our brave young soldiers massacred on the shores of France to the point wherein the sea turned the color of human blood for a non-event erroneously called the Normandy invasion? Do we not recognize their heroism because some group claims it never happened? As a great nation of free thinkers representing a wide array of rich cultural, religious and ethnic diversity, we as proud Americans must validate the suffering of others and disallow the hate that is historical revisionism that hides behind a veil of pseudo-intellectual discussion. If we don’t stand up to this ugliness in our schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, communities and media, then we will allow history and all its lessons to dissolve and we will lay the foundation for greater atrocities to come.

Martin Small’s Passing Marks End of an Era

Martin Small, the subject of Remember Us: From my shtetl through the Holocaust, passed away late November, 2008, nearly making it to his 92nd birthday.

Pictured here with his wife Doris (circa 1950), Martin Small led a life that was the kind of adventure few can appreciate. And yet when we read about his exploits in Remember Us, we are reminded of the tremendous luck, perseverance, imagination and strength that it took for those few survivors to live to tell about the Holocaust years.

So traumatic were the years between 1940 and 1945 that Martin Small, for the rest of his life, introduced himself to everyone he met as a Holocaust survivor. He yearned to tell his story after six decades following the events that took place. Before this period, Martin kept it all to himself, save for family members and a few close friends. Trauma does unimaginable things to the mind. Until his dying day, he was tormented by dreams of a murdered family, a shattered culture, loss of a beloved little village and the grip of death in the concentration camp.

Now Martin is gone from our lives. It was difficult to watch him suffer from pancreatic cancer at the end of his life, considering all of the suffering he had already known, both physically and emotionally. His last words to me over the telephone less than a day before he died, were, “Why aren’t they coming for me? They need to come for me.” He longed to be taken to the world of his lost relatives and his beloved shtetl.

As a result of writing and publishing Martin Small’s life story, overwhelmingly, I have received comments about Remember Us that pertain less to the Holocaust than to Martin’s recollections of his shtetl. This is a point of connection for countless people. Actor Jerry Stiller told me, “This is a wonderful book. I can now look into the past and see what shtetl life was like. I can get a good picture of Frampol where my family came from.”

Certainly, Martin Small’s remembrances in Remember Us are mixed with tears and laughter. Martin’s story, especially by his own admission, is unimaginable.