Never Forget

Today, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the massive murder factory where more than a million Jews were put to death as part of Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution.

We must never forget those innocent victims of the Nazis’ insane crusade. Nor must we forget the five million other Jews and the five or six million other people who were killed by a nation that had gone mad. These numbers are estimates, educated guesses. No one really knows for sure just how many lives were snuffed out, how many life stories will never be told.

But some people lived to tell about it. I have been most privileged to help one of them, Mary Wygodski, to tell her story in book form. Evil Must Not Have the Last Word is the fruit of almost six years of research. It was released for publication on December 31, 2021.

The book is written in the first person. Mary is the principal narrator, but we hear the voices of several others: her husband Mort; her girlfriends Bella and Edith, who also survived the three concentration camps where Mary was imprisoned; her cousin, Genia Kovner; and her children and grandchildren, son Avi, daughter Charlene, and grandsons Matthew, Jeremy, and Elan.

The book took much longer to write than I had ever imagined. Once I had done several interviews with Mary, I realized that I needed to learn much more about the Holocaust and its aftermath, as least as it had directly affected her, in order to place her story in the proper context and to do it full justice. So I undertook the research that gave me an appreciation of, inter alia: the history and culture of her native city of Vilna, the wonderful “Jerusalem of Europe;” how the Nazis used people of the conquered lands to carry out much of their diabolical work; the particular history of the concentration camps at Kaiserwald, Stutthof, and Magdeburg; the Jews’ difficulties in escaping from post-war Europe to Palestine, America, and other places; and the emergence, through the crucible of war, of the new state of Israel.

So, to mark this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am pleased to inform you that the book is available on all of the major online sites – Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads etc. – and that it can be ordered through your local bookstore.

If you wish to contact me directly about the book or would like to purchase a signed copy, please email me at tjburke@veteranscribe.com.

I will close this blog post with the book’s epigraph. It ends another Holocaust memoir, I Was a Boy in Belsen, and it sums up perfectly my own beliefs and feelings.

“Go home from this place and tell your children and your grandchildren that you have looked into the eyes and have shaken hands with people who have survived the greatest cataclysm mankind has unleashed on mankind. Tell them to tell their children and their children’s children, because these people will be mourned and spoken about and wept over for 10,000 years. For if they aren’t, we are all done for.”

— Paddy Fitzgibbon, On the Occasion of the Dedication of Irish Shoah Memorial, Listowel, Ireland, 2010

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