Hi there, Robert! Let’s dive right into this interview with a question pertaining to inspiration. When writing this book, what served as your main influence?
My inspiration for writing the book was to honor each of my heroes, my grandparents, who each lost members of their families and had to learn how to live on after surviving the atrocities of the Holocaust. As I am now a father, it had become even more clear that I had to do something with the poetry that I had written during my childhood, as well as compile all the photographs, interviews and other documentation I had identified during my compilation of materials to include within the book. In this time when we are seeing a rise in anti-Semitism throughout Europe and elsewhere in the World, it is important to share my grandparents’ stories, which I tell through the poetry, that I wrote as a child, while listening to them, often telling me what they went through in broken English. I am so fortunate that they were able to talk to me about this very difficult subject and I am honored now as an adult, to be able to share their stories with the world. Future generations can learn from the past – and I hope that the newly released Second Edition can teach people what the victims of the Holocaust went through and how hard life was for them as they tried to rebuild their lives.
That is very touching and heartfelt. It’s amazing that you gave these real-life stories a voice, even if a lot of these events were truly traumantic beyond belief. Awareness is certainly important and necessary. How did the art of writing come into your life, and how did that avid interest evolve?
I first began writing poetry as a child, while in elementary school. I was selected amongst my peers to appear in a poetry book, Listening to the Bells, by Florence Grossman. I always had a knack for writing. As I would listen to my grandparents speak of their experiences during the Holocaust, I would begin writing poetry based on what they shared with me. My parents had shared some of my poetry with the Rabbi of my synagogue and each year during the Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day Services), I would recite a poem that I had written. In a way, my poetry gave a voice to my grandparents and all of the other victims who had suffered and unfortunately perished during the Holocaust. I continued to write poetry throughout my teenage years. Sometimes I will compose a poem, and I do so using my iPhone Notes app – it allows me to type as my thoughts and the words flow from within. No more pen to paper but fingers to screen!
Telling their story through poetry couldn’t have been easy. And it’s so great that you started writing so early on in your life. It’s easy to tell how much of a passion it is for you. So, what are some of the main messages you’re aiming to convey to your readers?
I hope that my book educates people on what my grandparents, relatives and millions of others had suffered through all because of who they were. The impact on my grandparents lives never changed. My maternal grandmother, Safta, for example, who is still living, has a tattoo on her left arm with her Auschwitz ID: A-6492. The lessons I learned as a child from each of my grandparents, has molded me into the person I am today. They are each my hero. Through my poetry, I hope that people get a glimpse of what they encountered and what kept them alive. In writing this poetr and in compiling the materials for my book, I ensure that their stories are heard, not forgotten and passed along to future generations, including my son whose Hebrew name is after my Saba, my paternal grandfather.
That is so powerful and inspirational! What’s your approach to writing poetry like?
I have what I believe is my own style of writing. As I mentioned, I wrote the poems that appear in my book as a child. I liked rhyming at the time, and so many of the poems contain alternating lines which rhyme. As I have matured more in my writing, rhyming is not so much important as focusing on the messaging. A special poem I wrote as part of my engagement proposal to my wife was acrostic, spelling out “Will You Marry Me.” She didn’t catch on until I pointed it out – but she said yes and we are enjoying our love story!
How beautiful! 🙂 What is one last thing you’d like the community and prospective readers to know?
Writing a book takes a lot of time and commitment. I initially wanted to publish my collection of poems as a pamphlet. As I located a great illustrator to help bring my poems to life visually, the thought of making the collection into more of a book, became a reality when I was able to pull together more material such as photographs and documents. I have self-published the book in 2013 and recently released the second edition in late 2017. It has been a dream come true for me as my book has gone from a thought in my mind to now finding its way onto the shelves of libraries and Holocaust Museum gift shops. My only hope now, is that my book’s content finds their way into the hearts of its readers.
As the grandson of four Holocaust survivors, it is my obligation to do my part to remember and never forget. My book, I believe, not only allows me to fulfill that obligation, but it also allows me to keep the flame alive, as my son, learns about his great-grandparents, and carries on their legacy.
Thank you very much, Robert! This interview was indeed informative, and really gave us an inside look into this collection of poetry.