Friday, January 27, 2012

Holocaust Events Set the Stage for 1970s Family Drama

by Leon H. Gildin

There are few events in history that have been so thoroughly written about and dissected as the Holocaust. So when one comes across a little piece of this historic tragedy, attention must be paid and credit must be given.

The Polski Affair, winner of the 2010 International Book Awards for historic fiction, is a story about just such a little-known piece of the Holocaust and is based upon The Case of the Hotel Polski, a research work written some thirty years ago by Abraham Shulman. Published by the Holocaust Press and distributed by Schocken Books, Shulman's work tells a story about a small group of people who survived an incomprehensible (and to this day, not understood) scheme conceived by the Nazis after the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto in 1943.

Surviving Jews living on the Aryan side of Warsaw, in hiding or with false papers, could come to the Hotel Polski and buy passage out of Poland. Hundreds of people came with whatever funds they had. Some hid in caskets, packing crates and pickle barrels—anything that wouldn’t result in their being arrested if discovered on the street.
Once at the Hotel Polski, they were matched with other survivors and given new names to correspond to the visas, exit permits and other identification documents that were found on the bodies of Jews who perished in the Warsaw ghetto. While Jews made it out of the Hotel Polski with their new identities and exit papers in hand, few made it out of Poland alive. Shulman’s work included interviews with those who survived.

The historic portion of The Polski Affair tells the story of not only what the Nazis planned in order to accomplish their goal, it speaks of existing sites such as the Hotel Polski; Pawiak, a prison built by the czar of Russia in the 19th Century which was located in the center of the Warsaw ghetto; the Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of the ghetto; and the city of Vittel in France where foreigners were confined. The characters, their relationship to each other and their experiences in the Hotel Polski and elsewhere are fiction.

The book gave me ample opportunity to speak before book clubs and at book signings. At these events, many people asked me the same question, "What became of these characters, of their families, of their problems, of their guilt at having survived?"
The Family Affair was born. In writing it, my intent was to carry you away from the Holocaust and into a world of family drama set primarily in Israel in the 1970s. The story picks up years later with the heroine’s secretive past, a forbidden love, catching up with her in ways she never could have expected, affecting her family for years to come. It’s a story of survival and secrets—and the things in families that are sometimes better left unsaid.


  1. Both of these books intrigue me, but unfortunately my library doesn't carry them. Guess I'll have to see if I can buy copies.

  2. I have the hardest of time reading this kind of literature. I do... but it leaves my heart feeling heavy.


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