NOTES FROM A DYSLEXIC PUBLISHER # 6
Sometimes there are reasons for publishing books
that are more important than turning a profit.
The Holocaust, for example.
A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to publish a book on a subject that was new to my company’s list. With no experience in bringing out such a title, I needed to learn as much as I could about its marketplace. After making numerous phone calls to various book retailers, I learned that while this subject was popular in fiction, there was only one nonfiction title on the topic that seemed to sell well year after year. Since the book I was looking at was nonfiction, my business sense should have dictated that I not go ahead with the project. However, the subject—for me, at least—was too important to be dismissed. It had, in fact, been a part of my life since I was a child.
As fate would have it, I was born in an American “DP” (Displaced Persons) camp just outside of Munich, Germany. My parents were lucky enough to have escaped the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. They had managed to make their way into the Soviet Union just as the German Army swept into western Poland. When the Nazis invaded Russia, my folks found themselves in the middle of the bloody Battle of Stalingrad. Again they escaped, making it all the way to Uzbekistan in the east. As the war came to a close, they knew that the Soviet Union was not where they wanted to spend the rest of their lives.
My parents had heard about American camps set up for Jewish refugees, and that was where they decided to go. So with my mom eight months pregnant, they made the trek back across the USSR to that DP camp in Germany—the place where I was soon born. One year later, my parents and I boarded a ship to New York. My parents’ sponsoring organization—the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)—placed us in a five-story walk-up located in an ethnically diverse south Bronx neighborhood that included Puerto Ricans, Blacks, and many other Jewish refugee families.
My father had taken with him several postcards from the DP camp that the US Army had produced, each of which showed graphic photographs of the many atrocities carried out in the Nazi-run concentration camps. The Army had given out the cards to the civilian German population to show what the Nazis had done.
I don’t believe my father ever wanted me to see those cards, but being a nosy ten-year-old kid, I eventually came across them in our small apartment—and to this day, I still remember many of the images. When I spoke to my father about the postcards, he tried to explain what had happened—that his grandmother, mother, two brothers, and six sisters, along with their entire families, had died in those terrible places. I certainly heard what he was telling me, but at the time, it seemed very distant.
As I grew up, I learned as much as I could about World War Two and what the Nazis had done—not only to the Jews, but also to Catholics, gypsies, gays, and anyone else that the Third Reich regarded as “impure.” It may have taken years for me to understand and appreciate what my folks had experienced, but it all came to a head with the book project that I found before me. It was a book about the Holocaust, and how one Jewish man had escaped into the Polish forest, where he would spend much of WWII fighting the Nazis alongside other brave partisans. What made this story that much more meaningful to me was the fact that I had met the man who lived it and survived to write about it.
That man was Shalom Yoran, and his book is The Defiant ($15.95 USD, ISBN: 978-0-7570-0078-2). As it turned out, Mr. Yoran had recorded his story a year or two after the war and then put it away, hoping one day to have the manuscript published. However, life got in the way, and he stumbled upon his writings about forty-five years later. With his manuscript in hand, I had the opportunity to publish it as a paperback. And while the book received rave reviews, its sales were slow.
A few years later, I was given an opportunity to publish the translated memoir of a young Polish Catholic priest who had been caught up in the Holocaust. Historically, the Catholic Church has had a powerful influence on the Polish people. For the Nazis to gain absolute control in that country, the solution was simple—the clergy had to be destroyed. Father Kazimierz Majdanski, who would later become an archbishop, was not prepared for the events that were to follow his arrest. You Shall Be My Witnesses ($17.95 USD, ISBN: 978-0-7570-0223-6) is his extraordinary memoir, which chronicles his experiences and the test of faith he underwent during that time. It is an amazingly insightful book, appreciated by only a small number of readers thus far.
And then came Marty Brounstein, a writer and gifted lecturer, who traveled around the country giving talks to groups of people on the Holocaust—until his untimely death last year. He focused his lectures on individual true stories of rescuers and survivors—remarkable tales of those who had endured the hells of ghettos and concentration camps, and of the women who fought beside the men to rescue prisoners and remind the Nazis that they were still vulnerable.
Brounstein’s first book, The Righteous Few ($16.95 USD, ISBN: 978-0-7570-0497-1), is the story of a young married Christian couple, Frans and Mien Wijnakker, living in the Netherlands. Through their extraordinary bravery, and at their own peril, they provided a safe haven for dozens of Jewish men and women who faced certain death if found by the Nazis. Brounstein’s second book, Woman of Valor ($16.95 USD, ISBN: 978-0-7570-0503-9), tells the story of Eta Chait, a young Jewish woman who was forced to live in a Polish ghetto along with her parents and siblings. Eta joined a resistance group in order to escape, and later, she returned to help free the rest of her family—with unexpected consequences. From that moment, Eta’s mission was clear. She would do everything she could to defeat the Nazis and to save as many Jews as possible. These are two amazing tales—tales of which a great many readers remain unaware.
And why do so few people know the stories of these great men and women? While novels about the Holocaust provide intriguing storylines, true stories about this period in history are written not to entertain, but to remind us how cruel people can be—and how individuals can take a stand against insane behavior. These books are in Square One’s list to remind readers that the Holocaust did happen—and that until we understand the nature of lies and their ability to gradually distort facts, history will continue to repeat itself. The fact that bookstores, libraries, and museum shops do not carry many nonfiction Holocaust-based titles is telling. And while Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl remains popular, Square One will continue to make available other stories that are just as compelling as Anne Frank’s story.
Rudy Shur, Publisher
Square One Publishers, Inc.
Ph: 516-535-2010 x 111