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.

2 thoughts on “Martin Small’s Passing Marks End of an Era”

  1. I am so sorry to hear about Martin’s passing. I am working on a short documentary film about the Jews of Europe before the Holocaust and am wondering if you know of any video existing of Martin describing his life growing up in the shtetl. I have read his beautiful memoir, but would love to find film footage for my current project. Please let me know if you can be of any assistance. Thank you!

  2. Dear Mr. Shayne,

    Thank you for reading experience with the the book “Remeber 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 theese 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.

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