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.

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.”

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

Elie Wiesel Reviews ‘Remember Us’

eliewiesel.gifNobel Peace Prize recipient (1986), author of Night, Elie Wiesel recently gave his review for Remember Us, the true story of Holocaust Survivor Martin Small.

He wrote:

“Like all Holocaust survivors’ memoirs, Martin Small’s poignant recollections of his experiences in German concentration camps, as told to Vic Shayne, constitute an important contribution to the literature of the most tragic chapter of contemporary history.”

Elie Wiesel’s comments reflect his ongoing commitment to validate the experiences of fellow Holocaust survivors and his work to educate people on the realities of violence and oppression borne of racism and intolerance.

A couple of notes about Elie Wiesel:

For his literary and human rights activities, he has received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and the Medal of Liberty Award, and the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of Honor. In 1986, Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Prize for Peace, and soon after, Marion and Elie Wiesel established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

Teaching has always been central to Elie Wiesel’s work. Since 1976, he has been the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, where he also holds the title of University Professor. He is a member of the Faculty in the Department of Religion as well as the Department of Philosophy. Previously, he served as Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at the City University of New York (1972-76) and the first Henry Luce Visiting Scholar in Humanities and Social Thought at Yale University (1982-83).

For more information on Elie Wiesel and his work, visit his website by clicking here.

Remember Us – Martin Small

Martin-Book CoverLatest Work: The story of Martin Small – Holocaust survivor.

From the back cover:

Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Motek Shmulevicz lives an idyllic life among family and friends in the close-knit Polish shtetl of Maitchet. As the dark shadow of the Holocaust stretches across eastern Europe, the most unspeakable events occur, igniting a struggle for survival against all odds. It is a crucible fraught with twists and turns so unpredictable and surprising that they defy any attempt to find reason and understanding for them.

Remember Us is a look back at the lost world of the shtetl — a wise Zayde offering prophetic and profound words to his grandson, the rich experience of Shabbos and the treasure of a loving family. Through the eyes of 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Martin Small, we learn that these priceless memories too painful to remember are also too painful to forget.