I Survived A Secret Nazi Extermination Camp

October 6, 2012 at 11:10 pm 5 comments

That’s the title of my new book. It didn’t happen to me, I wasn’t even born when Rudolf Reder lived through those terrible times. He was the only post-war survivor of a death camp in Poland called Belzec. Most people have never heard of it, but in just 18 months 700,000 people (almost all Jews) died there. We only know what happened in this death factory because Reder managed an incredible escape, and after the war told his story to a Jewish Historical Commission in Cracow who were trying to gather evidence against the Nazi criminals.

The victims who arrived by freight train to Belzec were killed in the gas chambers within two hours. The Nazi system processed these people like cargo. The only people who survived longer were Jews who were selected to work at the camp, and they only lasted a few months at most. Reder lasted for 4 months because he was an engineer and could fix the tank engine which produced the carbon monoxide which was the killer gas.

I found out about Belzec and Reder’s story when I made a trip to Lublin in Eastern Poland to research my Granfdfather’s roots. While I was there I visited Majdanek Concentration Camp and there I found a slim book called Belzec which contained Reder’s witness statement. My young Polish guides explained to me that Belzec was where the Jews from Lublin were sent to die, so it is very likely that some of my relatives were killed there. I never knew that I had relatives killed in the Holocaust until I made this trip. 

Now I am waiting for the book to come out, and I need to find ways to make it known to potential readers. We are starting first in the UK (I live in London) and hope that if we can make a bit of a splash that we can find a publisher in the US. An ebook will follow in a few months.

I decided that Reder’s statement was so strong and powerful that I needed to make it more widely known. So I decided to make an audio out of it (soon to be on Audible) and wrote an account about how I found the text.  

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. grahamlg  |  October 7, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    I look forward to reading it Mark.

    • 2. markforstater  |  October 8, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Hi Graham, Thanks for the comment. You may well be my third reader! I hope you are well.


  • 3. Tony Craze  |  October 12, 2012 at 5:28 pm


    You’ve made your third sale already . . .

    If there’s a lesson to be learned from this story (re marketing)
    http://www.themillions.com/2012/06/outside-the-ring-a-profile-of-sergio-de-la-pava.html (A profile of the author of A Naked Singularity)
    it’s that you need to identify one or two arts editors or reviewers (both press & on line journals) who are likely to have some affinity to your subject (rather than spend the rest of your life reading a thousand marketing plans on ‘How To Sell a million. . . ‘ etc). Then write that press release that sticks like super glue and offers a review copy or pdf download . . . check reviewers & editors, for a start, through the LRB, Bookforum, etc. Julia Pascal reviews for The Independent . . .

    Good luck.

    • 4. markforstater  |  October 13, 2012 at 7:00 am

      Hi Tony, Good to hear from you, and thanks for the advice. Luckily my old friend Nigel Passingham, who is an excellent publicist, is willing to work with us in publicising the book, and he is very good at targeting reviewers and papers. We understand the Jewish Chronicle wants to interview me as soon as they read the book, and that will be a great start. Keep in touch.

  • 5. John Reder  |  June 16, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I would be interested in talking to you some time about the Reder family in Poland.

    I am John Reder, the son of Johnny Reder (Boston Red Sox 1932) who emigrated to the US in 1910 when he was an infant.

    The story of the Reder family being on the outs politically goes back a lot further than with the Nazis.

    Prior to WWI, during the Czarist days, the family business was serving as Cossacks in the Russian army and they were in what was then the Polish part of Prussia keeping order for the Czar and keeping an eye out for German attempts at expansion.

    Needless to say they were not the most popular people in the neighborhood.

    But, they had influence, as was demonstrated by the journey my father and his parents took coming out of Poland. Rather than just taking the simplest and cheapest route by hoping a ship in Gadansk they traveled to St. Petersburg and left from there, apparently with some financial and political assistance.

    Needless to say, when the Czar fell they were among the first to be put up against the wall and as most of the Cossack part of the family were sort of obliged to be part of the Czar’s church the only ones left were the Jewish ones, who again found themselves on the wrong side in WWII when the Germans took over.


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