Actor Jerry Stiller Speaks Fondly of ‘Remember Us’

Jerry Stiller, well known for his role on the Seinfeld TV show, among others, recently wrote to Vic Shayne in praise of Remember Us, the story of Holocaust survivor Martin Small.

Stiller’s family is from Frampol, a Polish shtetl, and he said that the account of Martin’s life in his own shtetl gave him pause to think about his roots.

Jerry Stiller wrote:

“Dear Vic,

Your writing was storytelling at its finest. I could hear Martin Small speaking. The Holocaust has never penetrated my senses in such a meaningful way. Who would believe human beings could turn upon fellow human beings with such mindless savagery…

As an eighteen-year-old G.I. stationed in Italy in 1946, part of the Army of Occupation, I was invited to attend Rosh Hashanah services in a Naples Synagogue by Jews who were awaiting resettlement by the Joint Distribution Committee. When the service ended a family invited me to their flat for dinner. I remember them to this day. The father, mother and their little daughter. I bought her a doll. We finished supper and talked. They didn’t say much about how they managed to survive. As a young Jewish kid from New York I was aware of how lucky I was to have experienced that moment. When dinner was over I left them some lire and said goodbye thinking I’d never see them again.

Two years later I was a civilian riding a bus in N.Y.C. looking for a job. A man got on the bus and in Yiddish asked the driver for directions. The driver didn’t understand Yiddish. I took it upon myself to translate. Suddenly the man’s face seemed vaguely familiar. In a few seconds I realized he was the man who invited me to dinner in Naples. My mind was blown. We talked and he told me he and the family were relocated to America and were living at 61 Columbia Street on the Lower East Side, the same tenement my mother lived in when she arrived in the United States. “We still have the doll”, the man said. I could not believe this was happening.

These are the stories your writing ignited in me. Of course it parallels the story about Mr. Curry, the policeman Martin Small met in New York who he had first met as a G.I. at that horrible camp.

Early in our marriage Anne and I lived in Washington Heights. Most of the tenants were survivors. Each night they would sit in beach chairs on Upper Riverside Drive conversing. Being inquisitive I would sit close enough to hear them tell stories about their lives. At the time they called Washington Heights the “Ferte Reich”.

“Remember Us from my Shtetl” also put me in touch with Frampol, a town in Poland my mother came from probably not unlike Maitchet. Your description of the town opened my mind to what my mother’s life was probably like as a young girl in the town of Frampol, which she never spoke much of.

Vic, your writing is so moving. Thanks for asking me to read this wonderful story, which will stay with me forever. Your book matches in eloquence Tom Brokaw’s ‘The Greatest Generation.”

Holocaust Survivor Gives Home to Surviving Torah

Martin Small, Holocaust survivor and subject of the new book about his life, Remember Us: from my shtetl through the Holocaust, in a miraculous fundraising effort, has given an old Torah a new home. Martin is donating the proceeds from his book sales to the Martin and Doris Small Torah Fund at his synagogue in Boulder, Bonai Shalom. Within just a few weeks of starting the fundraiser, the synagogue was able to purchase a Torah that, like Martin himself, survived the Holocaust.

Martin, pictured to the left of Rabbi Marc Soloway (photo credit Ken Miller Photography), gazes at the decades-old Torah as it is presented to his synagogue in early August. Martin said, “This Torah, like me, has traveled around the world, lost and displaced. Now it has a home. Now it can finally rest.”

The synagogue was packed to standing room only to witness Martin and his wife Doris as they placed the Torah into the ark during the ceremony. Upon closing the ark, Doris gazed at the new Torah and said, “Welcome home.”

It is believed that before the war the Torah was hidden from its original site in Poland or Germany and smuggled into Israel before eventually coming to the United States.

Bonai Shalom’s Torah, since the inception of the synagogue, has been on loan from another synagogue. Torahs are very expensive because they are handwritten by dedicated scribes who are trained in Hebrew calligraphy. They can range in price in the tens of thousands of dollars. “But,” said Martin Small, “the greatest thing about this Torah is not only that it is the law of the people, but more importantly, that it is a survivor. This is a most symbolic truth. Like the Jewish people, like myself, survival is a miracle, yet it is also a reality that we treasure. The value of our new Torah is in its character, not in its price tag.”

Martin Small read from the Torah while his grandson stood next to him holding a pole from the chupah. Martin said later, “My grandfather taught me the ways of our people. His presence is always with me, guiding me through my life. He was murdered along with my entire family in our shtetl in Maitchet, yet my grandfather remained with me through my darkest hours, through torture and starvation, through Mauthausen concentration camp and while I fought for the last vestiges of my people where we made our stand on the soil of Israel in 1948. Now it shall be to my grandfather that I shall return. I wait for him and he waits for me.”

Remember Us, the story of Martin Small, can be found and ordered at your local bookstore or by clicking here.

Warsaw Ghetto: Woman Who Smuggled Out Babies in Sacks

Irena Sendler, born in 1910, saved 2500 Jewish infants from certain death in the Warsaw Ghetto. She smuggled the children out of the ghetto in sacks under the Nazis’ noses

Irena Sendler was raised by her Catholic parents to respect and love people regardless of their ethnicity or social status. Her father, a physician, died from typhus that he contracted during an epidemic in 1917. He was the only doctor in his town near Warsaw who would treat the poor, mostly Jewish victims of this tragic disease. As he was dying, he told 7-year-old Irena, “If you see someone drowning you must try to rescue them, even if you cannot swim.”

In 1939 the Nazis swept through Poland and imprisoned the Jews in ghettos where they were first starved to death and then systematically murdered in killing camps. Irena, by than a social worker in Warsaw, saw the Jewish people drowning and resolved to do what she could to rescue as many as possible, especially the children. Working with a network of other social workers and Poles, mostly women, she smuggled 2,500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto and hid them safely until the end of the war. Sendler took great risks – obtaining forged papers for the children, disguising herself as an infection control nurse, diverting German occupation funds for the support of children in hiding.

She entered the Warsaw ghetto, sometimes two and three times a day, and talked Jewish parents into giving up their children. Sendler drugged the babies with sedatives and smuggled them past Nazi guards in gunny sacks, boxes and coffins. She helped the older ones escape through the sewers, through secret openings in the wall, through the courthouse, through churches, any clever way she and her network could evade the Nazis. Once outside the ghetto walls, Sendler gave the children false names and documents and placed them in convents, orphanages and with Polish families. In 1942 the Polish underground organization ZEGOTA recruited her to lead their Children’s Division, providing her with money and support. Her hope was that after the war she could reunite the children with surviving relatives, or at least return their Jewish identities. To that end she kept thin tissue paper lists of each child’s Jewish name, their Polish name and address.

Irena hid her precious lists in glass jars buried under an apple tree in the back yard of one of her co-conspirators. In 1943 Irena Sendler was arrested, tortured and sentenced to death by firing squad. She never divulged the location of the lists or her Polish underground contacts. At the last moment she was saved by ZEGOTA which bribed a guard to secure her freedom. She still bears the scars and disability of her torture. After the war, the Communist government suppressed any recognition of the courageous anti-fascist partisans, most of whom were also anti-Communists. Irena’s story and those of other courageous Poles, were buried and forgotten. Her courage and resourcefulness were recognized by Israel in 1965 when she was awarded the Yad Vashem medal given to Righteous Gentiles who risked their own lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. In 1983 a tree was planted in her honor in Israel. But in general, the world was silent about Irena Sendler until 1999, when three Kansas teens uncovered Irena’s story. Liz Cambers, Megan Stewart, and Sabrina Coons (a fourth, Jessica Shelton, joined later), students at rural Uniontown High School were looking for a National History Day project. Their teacher, Norm Conard gave them a short paragraph about Irena Sendler from a 1994 U.S. News and World Report story entitled “The Other Schindlers” and they decided to research her life. According to the article, Irena Sendler smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto just prior to its liquidation in 1943.

With the help and inspiration of their teacher, they began to reconstruct the remarkable achievements of this forgotten hero of the Holocaust. The three Kansas girls assumed Irena Sendler must be dead and searched for her burial site. To their surprise and delight, they discovered that she was still alive, 90-years-old, living with relatives in a small apartment in Warsaw. They created a play about her rescue efforts called Life in a Jar, which has since been performed more than 200 times in the U.S., Canada and Poland. In May 2001 they visited Irena in Warsaw and began a friendship that has inspired other Polish Righteous Gentiles to break their silence. The visit also made Irena’s story known to the world, through the international press. They have visited Irena and Warsaw on four different occasions. Irena is now a Polish national hero and Poland is coming to terms with the painful legacy of the war and the Holocaust. Irena last visited with the Life in a Jar students on May 3, 2008. She passed away on May 12, 2008, at the age of 98.

Surviving Mauthausen: Martin Small Manages Nearly Impossible Feat

Martin Small, 91, remembers all too well the terrible hell of Mauthausen concentration camp. When the camp was liberated in the spring of 1945 by American forces, Martin had been left for dead in the barracks of the subcamp of Gusen. He was still in his twenties, barely 75 pounds and unconscious when an American GI picked him up and carried him to an Army ambulance headed for a hospital in Linz.

Before liberation, he worked in the crematoria, burying inmates who had lost their lives due to hunger, disease, murder, torture, the cold and death in the gas chambers, as pictured in this historical photograph to the right.

“I still don’t know how I survived,” says Martin Small, who currently lives with his wife, Doris, in Colorado.

Martin’s life story is in a new book called Remember Us: From my shtetl through the Holocaust, sparing the reader with the most gruesome details of Mauthausen, is a work of history and personal struggle for survival. Remember Us focuses mostly on Martin’s shtetl life in pre-war Poland and his plight as a refugee. Yet, if the reader cares to investigate on his own, there are many sources on Mauthausen concentration camp on the internet.

In this photo, above, a guard with a machine gun watches over prisoners in the main courtyard.

For more information on Mauthausen concentration camp, Austria, including photographs, click here and here.

Read what people are saying about ‘Remember Us’

Remember Us, the book about Holocaust survivor Martin Small, has only been on the market for a couple of weeks, yet copies are being sold out faster than distributors can keep up with demand. We are thrilled that this book is so well received, and here are a couple of the first impressions by readers

In his poignant memoir, Remember Us, Martin Small relives his warm family life in the shtetl and the horrors that followed with the German occupation. Survival, however, is the inspiring message of this brave, spirited man. His story is action-packed (to say the least) and I read it in 2 sittings. It is deeply moving and, yes, I will “remember.” It would make a great TV film!!
— Doris Wechter, Santa Barbara, Calif.

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This is the only survivor book I ever read that has avoided the gruesome realities of concentration camps and focuses on other aspects of the Holocaust that I was completely unaware of. After reading about Martin Small’s grandfather, I was truly impressed by the richness of his early life and the gravity of what happened in human terms. This book reads like a novel, but grips you even more because it’s true.

— Ed Jensen, Philadelphia

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One cannot read this story , come away untouched by Mr. Small’s detailed description of his home so many years ago. This book is a monument to all who lost their lives because they were Jews. I have long thought how hard it is to be Jewish and survive in a climate of hate and ignorance.

Martin, may God continue to bless you, have his light shine upon you and bring you peace.

— Ron Shayne, Miami, Florida

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This is a magnificent account of the horrors of the Holocaust as lived by Martin Small. Author Vic Shayne has been able to give the reader the feeling of presence during these horrific events. Mr. Small’s recollection is vivid and tragic at the same time. Having lost 86 members of his family to the murderous Nazi’s and their collaborators he has dedicated his life to memorialize these unspeakable events in his art and poetry. Now his book ‘Remember Us: From My Shtetl Through the Holocaust’ brings his message to new heights with the chant of ‘Never Again’ and ‘We Shall Never Forget’. This Herculean effort should be obligatory reading for everyone so that the horrors of the Holocaust as told by survivor Martin Small to Vic Shayne are understood and remembered forever.

— Pedro A. Rubio (The Woodlands, TX USA)

Holocaust Survivor Martin Small’s Story is Published

rememberusbookcover.jpg Remember Us: My Shtetl Through the Holocaust is available at long last, following more than three intensive years of writing and research.

If you’re unfamiliar with internet searches, simply go to amazon.com and type in the name “Martin Small,” in quotation marks when searching under “books,” then this book will appear. Even easier, Martin’s name also appears on the iuniverse.com website page here.

In a week or so, as articles have been going out publicizing Mr Small’s story, google.com will have picked up his name in connection with the book, which will also add to the ease of locating it on amazon.com and through other sellers.

In the meantime, Remember Us is now available for ordering online or from your bookseller.

This book is widely heralded and is selling out at every book signing. Amazon.com cannot keep up with the demand, so it is easiest right now to order directly from iuniverse.com

First Book Signing is Sold-Out Event

Martin Small, the subject of the new book, Remember Us: From my shtetl through the Holocaust, appeared at his synagogue in Boulder Thursday night, June 19, 2008 for a book signing along with writer Vic Shayne. This event was scheduled to be a little gathering for a book signing, but with the great organization of Rabbi Marc Soloway and his staff at synagogue Bonai Shalom, there was not one book left unsold within a couple of hours.

Vic Shayne spoke about the process of writing this book as it was told to him by Holocaust survivor, 91-year-old Martin Small, resident of Broomfield, CO. Shayne said that although Martin Small’s life is filled with painful memories, it would be even more painful not to remember, and he referred to Mr. Small as a hero whose book is no less than the story of a hero’s journey.

Shayne also elaborated on Mr. Small’s unusual ability to remember details, names, places and events that live in his memory from more than seven decades in the past. Some of these memories, said the writer, came to Mr. Small in the middle of the night, embedded in dreams and nightmares, adding to the pain and tears that went into this book.

Speaking from the audience, Shael Siegel, who, with his wife Myrna, traveled twice to Mr. Small’s hometown of Maitchet, Poland, agreed with Vic Shayne’s assessment of Mr. Small’s uncanny memory. Mr. Siegel relayed how Mr. Small remembered every street and landmark in his hometown of Maitchet well enough to draw a detailed map for the Siegels that turned out to be not only accurate and useful, but also more detailed than the city officials were able to provide.

Myrna and Shael Siegel’s trip to Maitchet was a bittersweet journey. Mrs. Siegel was able to visit the site of her (Boretsky) family’s flour mills and neighborhood as well as the burial site of more than 3,600 Jews (including members of her and Martin Small’s family) who were murdered by their Polish neighbors in July 1942 when the Nazis invaded the Belarus shtetl. Pictured (right) is a photograph of a monument transcribed in Russian and Hebrew mourning the massacre. It remains at the edge of the forest in Maitchet, the site of the mass murder. This photograph, provided by Myrna Siegel, appears in Martin Small’s memoirs along with other depictions of Maitchet.

Martin Small has a remarkable story

Martin Small, almost 92 years old, is a survivor. He has survived the massacre of his hometown in Poland, a labor camp in Koldichevo, being shot by Ukranian guards in an epic escape into the forests, run-ins with opposing partisan units, the death camp of Mauthausen and the war for independence in Palestine in 1948.

In the photo depicted to the right, which accompanied an article from the Denver Post, Martin shows where he was shot in his right arm while fleeing into the woods after crawling through an escape tunnel away from Koldichevo forced labor camp in 1942.

The details of Martin Small’s life, in his words, “Unbelievable. They are real and they happened, but they remain unbelievable. Why? Because you just cannot imagine the things that I have seen and experienced. They are outside the realm of normal life or expectation. Who, for example, could expect that one’s entire family would be murdered by our neighbors? Or that there could be concentration camps that were set up to put to death little children, mothers, fathers and grandparents? This is beyond mere evil. It is unthinkable. And yet it happened. The human mind cannot grasp all of this.”

Martin’s life story is now available in the book Remember Us: from my shtetl through the Holocaust. CLICK HERE.

Reality of the Holocaust on Film & in Personal Collections

Not enough can be said in protest of those few who deny the reality of the Holocaust. Some of this denial is a thinly veiled means to deny the right of the state of Israel to exist. If the Holocaust can be minimalized then the state of Israel would have no reason to have been formed. But, worse, Holocaust denial is a refutation of the evil that took the lives of more than 50 million people during WWII. It is an invalidation of unspeakable loss, suffering, tragedy, murder and inhumanity. To refuse admission to the evils of the Holocaust is to be counted among the kinds of minds that enabled such events to take place.

Yet, the fact remains that the Holocaust is the single most well-documented event in human history. Moreover, the records of the Holocaust are not the records of the Jews, but rather of the Germans, Nazis, Soviets, French, resistance fighters, U.S. Military, doctors, Poles, prisoners, aid workers, Italians, Dutch, British and others.

Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers brought home with them memorabilia in the form of personally taken photographs and documents to remind them of what they had witnessed first hand upon liberating Nazi concentration camps.

When Martin Small was rescued from Mauthausen concentration camp in Linz, Austria, he was, like thousands of others, a mere skeleton, weighing no more than 75 pounds. He was unconscious and left among the dead in his barracks. The photograph above was taken by U.S. Captain Fabrick who was among the liberating forces first reaching the camp. Capt Fabrick’s photos and evidence appears in the newly released Remember Us, a book detailing the heroic adventures of Holocaust survivor Martin Small.

Although long and gruesome, here is archival footage offering a small sample of what the Allied forces encountered upon reaching the camps:

Liberating Forces Encounter Horrors of Nazi Camps

Holocaust Survivor Realizes his Dying Wish to See His Life Story in Print

martinsmall-vic-shayne-remember-us-book.jpgIMMEDIATE RELEASE — BROOMFIELD, CO, JUNE 10, 2008
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Photo to the left: Writer Vic Shayne with Holocaust Survivor Martin Small (right)

Holocaust survivor realizes dying wish to see his life story in print

Martin Small, a 91-year-old resident of Broomfield, CO, is a man who has lost everything in the most literal sense, yet now, the one thing he has looked forward to the most was to see his life story in print before passing away.

Born Mordechai Schmulevicz in 1916, Small’s family, numbering eighty-four people, were murdered in his home town of in Molchad, Poland, in 1942. Only he and two cousins escaped the mass murder of more than three thousand five hundred Jewish residents by their Polish neighbors within a month of when the Nazis took over Belarus.

“My mother, father, two little sisters and all my aunts and uncles were buried alive in a grave that is now marked with a memorial plaque at the edge of the forest. Unless you know where to look,” Small says, “you wouldn’t find it. Yet, this is the only reminder that there was a thriving Jewish population in Molchad since the Middle Ages.”

Small, who speaks ten languages, escaped the massacre when he was taken away on a forced-labor caravan that tore him from his hometown forever. A year later he ended up in one of the worst of the Nazi concentration camps, a place called Mauthausen, in Austria.

“I survived the pogrom that took the lives of everyone I knew, and I survived the death camps where I saw American military officers tortured to death in the cruelest ways, and I witnessed the gassing, torture, slavery and destruction of my fellow human beings. When I was rescued by the American Army in 1944, I weighed no more than 75 pounds and was left for dead. Yet my book, written with the help of Vic Shayne, does not dwell on the horrors, but rather the memories. I want people to understand that I come from a loving family and a rich culture. My book is not about the gruesome details of the Holocaust, but about who I am and who I come from. It is a lasting tribute to my family and friends.”

Martin Small’s book is called Remember Us: From my shtetl through the Holocaust, and has been lauded by Nobel Peace Prize recipient and best selling author of Night, Elie Wiesel.

“I think Elie Wiesel said it brilliantly when he wrote that the purpose of telling you my experience is not so that you will understand, but so that you know you can never understand,” Small said. “What happened was unbelievable even to me, and I survived to bear witness. My book is for the millions whose voices were silenced as the result of a mad hatred. The world should know how much they are all missed.”

In the past three months, Martin Small was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “At that point,” says writer Vic Shayne, “we were racing against the clock in the hopes of delivering a finished book for Martin to hold in his hands. Somehow we managed to do this. For all that Martin has gone through, this achievement is priceless.”

Remember Us, Martin Small’s story as told to writer Vic Shayne, is available through bookstores and amazon.com.