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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.