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.