Zalman Ber: The True Story of the Man the Nazis Could Not Kill
1. What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book?
The story has always been inside of me. I was born one month after my parents arrived in Elis Island. I grew up with the stories. Rabbi Aaron had asked me for a long time to do a body of work in paintings of what my parents went through. For many years I said no, I didn't feel I could relive their experiences. But one day in 2013, it came to me that I needed to tell their story. I said okay and this began my process. The first book consisted of my art and some excerpts of my parents' experiences. Prose was written by Rabbi Aaron. The art show and book were a great success and people wanted to hear more about what my parents went through. The time was right and I knew I had to get their story out.
2. What is it about whom do you believe is your targeted reader.
From high school age to adult, Jews and non-Jews, Muslims, Christians and any denomination. It is a book that is relevant now.
3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down?
Ending the many atrocities mankind inflicts on each other and the indomitable spirit of man to start again. I would hope readers would look at our political structure now and how we would not want to repeat history. Such as how Churchill wanted to let Jews in his country but his advisers were afraid they would be Nazi spies. Franklin Roosevelt was afraid to let Jews into this country and sent them back, this strikes of all too much familiarity. Compare this to the refugee situation and think about what we are doing and creating.
4. What advise or words of wisdom do have for fellow writers.
Be passionate about whatever idea you have and I believe that will carry you through all the frustration and rejections you get. Surround yourself with supportive people and don't forget to workout and to meditate to get rid of your frustrations.
5. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
First let me clarify I don't have that much experience since this is only my second book and my first book was self-published. I see more self- publishing made easy and not costly for the writer. I feel more and more self -publishing will be popular especially e-books. E-books are easier for the public to read and less use of paper so more green.
6. What great challenge did you have in writing your book?
My greatest challenge was keeping my book in my father's voice.
The way he spoke was lazy English, since it was not his first language (it had become his sixth). I tried to use proper grammar without changing the integrity of what he said. The next challenge was that I couldn't verify experiences and deaths as the main characters had all been killed. As my parents had already passed away, I had to do research and rely on my father's journal and the oral stories heard while growing up. Of course, the awful realization that this really happened to my parents had great impact. They had gone through and had to endure awful indignities. I lost my older brother who was an infant at the time and many Aunts and Uncles.
7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
They should buy this book because it has great historical impact and is also an amazing love story. Also we don't want history to repeat itself. The book is an easy and fascinating read and a real page turner.
Lisa Kotz Mishler, the daughter of Holocaust survivors and heroes Sol and Luba Kotz, grew up hearing stories of her parents' life in Poland during WW II. As a professional painter working primarily in oils, acrylics and watercolor, those stories influenced her work. Her first book, L'Chayim-To Life, is a collection of paintings, and narration inspired by her parents harrowing and miraculous journey in Poland before emigrating to the United States. For more info, please see: www.lisamishler.com
Tune in this week to KXCI Broad Perspectives Radio, 91.3 on Sunday at 3 PM with hosts Kathleen Harrisand Aspen Green. Our guest this week is Lisa Mishler, Tucson artist and daughter of Holocaust survivors. We will be discussing her book Zalman Ber: The True Story of the Man the Nazi's Could Not Kill and also her first book of Holocaust artwork with prose by Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, L'Chayim - To Life: Memoirs of a Survivor of a Nazi Ghetto.
Host Cyrus Webb welcomes Lisa Mishler to #ConversationsLIVE to discuss what it was like to help share her father's story in the book ZALMAN BER: The True Story of the Man the Nazis Could Not Kill, and what she hopes readers of the book takes away from it.
By Elizabeth Martins
During Trump’s travel ban, many compared the situation to the 1939 St. Louis liner, a ship carrying 900 German Jewish refugees who were denied entrance into America and were then returned to their eventual deaths. And today’s challenges, with more than 65 million displaced people worldwide, raises strained historical echoes of World War II and the Holocaust.
I reached out to Tucson artist Lisa Mishler, daughter of two Holocaust survivors to get her perspective on escaping a war-torn nation. I was also curious how she felt about the ban that shook up the country, to say the least.
Mishler is the daughter of Zalman Ber (also known as Sol) and Luba, two Holocaust survivors who came to America at the end of WWII. Before they died, Mishler took on the task of transcribing recordings of her father’s stories. Her goal was to document and chronicle how her parents escaped a concentration camp where only five out of 20,000 people survived. Everyone else in their family including her older brother was killed.
Her efforts resulted in the publication of Zalman Ber: The True Story of the Man the Nazis Could Not Kill. The book captures how Sol and Luba survived the Nazi liquidation of a million and a half Jews in Poland in the western part of Russia, in mass killings in the ghettos, in places where they were born and in the concentration camps.
EM: Your parents defeated incredible odds by surviving a concentration camp during WWII. Five out of 20,000 people escaped the Glembokoye ghetto. What did you learn from your parents about resilience when your father told you his stories?
LM: The Glembokoye ghetto was first turned into a camp about 1941, when walls with wire and wood were put all around the ghetto. The homes that were in the camp were shared homes with as many as twenty or more living in one home. The old people were separated from the young. My father speaks of many Jewish people who met their deaths in local ghettos, in towns and villages in the same barbaric destruction as the well-known concentration camps.
To answer you question about resiliency, I learned in the face of horrible obstacles that you must never give up. I remember hearing how my father urged my mother on, to live on and to fight even after the life of their son was taken. He urged her they had to live to tell their story. I believe his legacy has been passed down to me to be my family’s story-teller.
By now, most people of the WWII generation have heard of the crematoriums of Dachau, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Yet, it should be known that more Jewish people met their deaths at the hands of the Nazi Gestapo and their “stooges” in the local ghettos, in towns and villages, in the same barbaric destruction as the well known concentration camps. Most of the three million Jewish population of Poland, and a million and a half in the western part of Russia, had been liquidated in mass killings in the ghettos, in places where they were born.
EM: Can you describe the process by which your father passed along his stories to you?
LM: I was born one month after they arrived in this country, so the war was felt deeply within me.
I felt their sense of loss for many years. My parents did not talk openly about what took place. One of my most vivid memories as a very small child was my mother crying her heart out. I asked why she was crying. She told me she missed her family so much.
When we were older, my two brothers and I would request to hear their war stories. My father then decided to write everything down so that we would never forget. Because of his lazy English, I took his words and wrote them so that all could understand his thoughts. I then added my mother’s voice as she didn’t like to talk about their experiences.
EM: How did your parents meet?
LM: Germany declared war on Poland in 1939, and the Russians occupied Glembokoye. My father fell in love with my mother’s heart-shaped face and gray eyes while they were both taking a class on learning to speak Russian. They married young, keeping it a secret. They spent their honeymoon in a cave, with no passports, no money, nothing. They managed to make do and survived until June 22, 1941, when it was announced over the radio that Germany declared war with Russia.
When the Germans started to occupy, they were forced with tens of thousands of others to run for their lives. In Zalman Ber: The True Story of the Man the Nazis Could Not Kill Sol, my father, shares how they lived, how they worked with the Russians, how they fought with the partisans, and how they survived the war.
EM: Your parents were refugees who came to America after fleeing unspeakable atrocity. What do you think when you see our leaders refusing refugees from other countries? What do you think your parents would think?
LM: I think it is a disgrace for this country not to let refugees in. It goes against all American principles. I think my parents would be deeply saddened.
Profiling innocent people who are suffering and want a better life, shame on us.
EM: What is the most shocking discovery you’ve learned from your father’s stories?
LM: I grew up with the stories and never could understand how men could be so evil and hateful. What was most amazing for me was to realize how my parents acted so normal and were able to raise a family in a healthy fashion after such horrific events and loss.
EM: How do you think your parents experience shaped their lives in America?
LM: I remember when they both became American citizens. They were proud and happy to be in America. Their trials made them appreciate everything this country has to offer. They became successful and always gave back to the community. Their biggest wish was that the family they lost to the war could be here to enjoy in their success.
EM: How do you think it’s shaped yours?
LM: It shaped who I am in every part of my being. Their experiences have inspired my art, my political views and my desire to educate myself and my children.
EM: As an artist, do you find that your work is inspired by your family’s experience?
LM: I see it in my artwork all the time. Symbols occur in my artwork that I think come to me unconsciously from my family’s history. It’s always with me.
EM: What do you hope readers take away from reading Zalman Ber: The True Story of the Man the Nazis Could Not Kill?
LM: Anti-Semitism and other forms of racism are on the rise. This country is coming from a fear-based premise. When you come from fear you only create more fear and hatred. Blame is put on the innocent because it is easier to blame others. History doesn’t have to repeat itself. We have the ability create our own history using compassion and respect for others.
Find more information at www.lisamishler.com and read more about Sol and Luba at Zalman Ber: The True Story of the Man the Nazis Could Not Kill.
The original story from the Huffington Post may be found here