Posts tagged ‘Jewish’

THE STORY OF TWO FLAGS – and a message for Mr. Corbyn

I was astounded by two recent flag events. The first one was in June when the Chicago Dyke March banned the Jewish Pride Flag and expelled the Jewish lesbians who held them. The second happened just the other day when neo-Nazis (all male I guess) marched in the peaceful streets of Charlottesville carrying rifles, torches and of course – a swastika flag. Two flag stories, very different in their details but pointing in one direction only- towards hate.

Why astounding? I guess because lesbians have been oppressed for so long, I felt really sad and shocked to see their liberation accompanied by such hatred towards Jewish lesbians. Was I naïve for expecting love and inclusiveness? As for the neo-Nazis, it was not so much astounding as terrifying to see this naked hatred unleashed so openly. They have been encouraged by Trump, who has put a dangerous man in the White House and given him influence. – Stephen Bannon. But it is also Trump himself who encouraged these racists by his election campaigning.

What’s odd about this is that Trump is surrounded by Jews, His lawyer, his senior business employees, his daughter and his son-in-law are all Jewish. He attends their bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings, and makes trips to Israel. In fact, in his personal life he is the most pro-Jewish president ever. So how does he reconcile the rhetoric which has led to this ugly confrontation and the fact that Jews are his friends and relatives?  I think this is really strange and I don’t have an answer for it.

So Chicago’s dykes and neo-Nazi heteros all join together in hating Jews. This is part of a very old story, that dates back 2000 years. But to put it into a British context, there is something here for Jeremy Corbyn to contemplate. History shows that If you don’t stamp down hard on the first stirrings of anti-Semitism, it will pop up soon in ways that get increasingly ugly.  If Labour is truly an anti-racist party, then the leader has to let people know that all  racism will not be tolerated – and anti-semitism is racist. So whenever people spew out hatred due to colour or religion they need to be called up on it, and if they are Labour members then they need to be expelled. Racism, Islamaphobia and Anti-Semitism are equally abhorrent and have no place in a party that calls itself progressive.

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August 14, 2017 at 12:14 am Leave a comment

Standing On Others’ Shoulders – Part 1- (don’t hold your breath for Part 2)

I think it’s time that I started standing on my own creative feet and stop standing on the shoulders of others. In my case that means old philosophers – both east and west.  My first 5 books were all about philosophies or philosophers: Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Taoism, Yoga and Socrates. I explained the ideas behind the philosophy, followed by key texts I had referred to.

My latest book – I Survived A Secret Nazi Extermination Camp – is entirely different. The first part of the new book is a short introduction to  the little known but infamous Nazi death camp called Belzec. In this isolated, forested camp in SE Poland,  the Nazis killed an estimated 650,00 Jews and Gypsies.  The time between arrival by freight train to death in a gas chamber was only two hours. Rudolf Reder, a Polish Jew, managed to stay alive for four months as a worker in the camp, before making a miraculous escape. By the end of the war, Reder was the only survivor of the camp, and he gave a Witness Statement recounting his experiences.

It is this Witness Statement of Reder’s that forms part two of the book. He recounts the horrific, pathetic and harrowing events that took place in Belzec, and the cruel and criminal acts of the Nazi and Ukrainian guards.  It is a difficult account to read – one man recounting the hell that the Nazis’ madness had created, and which he saw first-hand.

Part three is an account by me ( a kind of memoir ) about how and why I came across this Statement of Reder’s. It’s partly about my family and partly about my relationship to the holocaust, and its victims.  A few years ago, I decided to search for my Grandparents’ roots online via JewishGen which led me to discover hundreds of ancestors. This search ultimately led me to Lublin, and it was on a visit to the Majdanek Concentration Camp that I found Reder’s Statement. At the same time I learned the fate of my grandfather’s family – those who he left behind had been sent from their homes in Lublin to be killed in Belzec .

How is this book different to the other 5? Of course it’s much more personal. I am not writing about dead philosophers but about the terrible fate of my own (newly discovered) family. It’s about history, but told in a personal way. I’ve set out my reflections on what I was learning, and my own memories were part of this discovery.   Obviously I am not a survivor of the camps and no known relative of mine had been one either. We were Americans, not Europeans. All my grandparents emigrated to the USA in the early 1900s, and my parents and all of our family had been born in America. Growing up, I never realised that my grandparents had left family behind – parents, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. It is the fate of those family members that my search revealed, and my memoir reflects how I came to terms with this dark knowledge.

June 28, 2013 at 9:26 pm 1 comment

I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp – The Campaign Begins

When you publish a book either by yourself or with a small publisher (mine is David Cohen of Psychology News Press) you are faced with the uphill struggle of getting your book in front of people. Without a marketing and PR budget it really is a daunting task to get your book noticed. How will anyone know it exists?

So we (myself, David and PR wizard Nigel Passingham) devised a plan to make the book visible. Whether we succeed or not you will be able to judge in the next few months. Ours is a slow-burn campaign, starting small and hopefully not shrinking from that point. We decided to start in the UK, where we are based, and where we hope to be able to shift the 750 paperback copies that Biddles printed for us (just before they went bust).

We are starting with an email campaign which I initiated today. I used Mailchimp and sent it to the 1500 people in my address book. So far about 1/3rd opened it, and we have had 43 clicks ( I assume that means possible buyers). However a number of people complained that the image in the email was altered and some of the text garbled. Why ? I have no idea so have asked Mailchimp to explain. So I plan to send a text only email tomorrow so that at least everyone will be aware of the title of the book.

I have started to email bookshops

I have started to email bookshops

 

We are trying to get one of the daily papers to do a serialisation, and will be approaching the Jewish Chronicle to see if they want to interview me. After that we hope to get a review or three and coverage of the book online, on radio and in papers. We are feeling our way, expecting some feedback, which will give us a hint as to how to promote and market the book. If we can get a bit of buzz going, and sell the first print run, then we would hope to be able to sell some International rights, and hopefully find a US publisher.  I suppose the book’s ideal selling time will be at next year’s Holocaust Memorial days

There is also a very good audio of the book which I produced. It is read by David Suchet  ( and moi) and is available on Audible.co.uk. This could also be a radio programme.

Since I went into this project as a memorial to my grandfather, I am not expecting to make money from it. But my publisher has spent some, and I’d like to make sure he doesn’t lose out. Besides, I am very proud of the book , and know that it is a good and worthwhile read, so I have no problem in promoting it.

June 12, 2013 at 9:37 pm Leave a comment

The Tipping Point

I only recently got around to reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point. Although the book was written before Social Media kicked in, his analysis of how ideas (he calles them epidemics) take off fits perfectly into the new digital world. I’m trying to see if I can use some of his insights to work out an online campaign to try to sell my new book. The book – I Survived A Secret Nazi Extermination Camp – has an appeal to several groups of readers:

1. My family and friends

2. The children and grandchildren of Survivors

3. Jewish boomers who were not the children of survivors (I am in this category)

4. Hopefully, their children, for whom the book might serve as an introduction to the Holocaust

5. People interested in the Holocaust and/or the history of the 2nd WW  (this includes educational users)

6. Poles

7. Everyone else

Gladwell writes about Connectors as being highly networked people who can spread the world about an idea or product. In the digital world this seems to refer to Twitter and Facebook users who have huge followings. Whether I can get my book taken up by connectors like this is uncertain, but it’s obviously the ideal way to get it in front of large numbers of people.

What I have decided to do is to use email to try to spread the word. We are publishing the book in the UK in November and my plan is to email everyone in my address book with a request that they disseminate an attachment about the book to all of their contacts. Whether they are willing to do that depends on the quality of my email, which is another of Gladwell’s points. He calls this the stickiness factor: is the idea sticky enough for people to remember it or does it just fade away on first reading. If I can write a sticky enough email, then perhaps enough people will be willing to do the boring and tedious task of re-sending the email out.

Why am I writing this post? I suppose I’d like to get feedback from people who are more au fait with social media than I am as to whether this is the right way to go about it, or whether there are other things that I can do. I’d like to see the book widely read, because I think it has something new to say. But if it does not get beyond my immediate family and friends I won’t be unhappy, although my publisher will. I wrote the book originally for my Zayde (grandfather), but he died a long time ago and won’t be able to read it.  Only the living can read, and it would be satisfying if a good number of living breathing readers would discover the book.

October 7, 2012 at 7:57 pm 1 comment

I Survived A Secret Nazi Extermination Camp

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.  

October 6, 2012 at 11:10 pm 5 comments


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Reflections on an age of anxiety.

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