How would you feel if, at age seventeen, the government removed you from school, evicted you from your home, looted your bank account and took all of your family’s possessions, prevented your parents from working and then deported you and your loved ones to a horrid prison camp run by brutal taskmasters? How would you feel if you suddenly lost contact with everyone that you know and love? How would you feel if you were sent to the most frightening place in history and then forced to perform unspeakable acts of horror in order to remain alive? Yet, through it all, the passion for your true love never diminishes. When the Nazis take away all of these things, then love, faith and courage is all that remains.
“Jacob’s Courage” is a beautiful love story set against the backdrop of the Holocaust. This epic novel chronicles the dazzling beauty of passionate love and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered. In 1939, seventeen-year-old Austrians Jacob Silverman and Rachael Goldberg are bright, talented, and deeply in love. Because they are Jews, their families lose everything; their jobs, possessions and money, contact with loved ones, and finally their liberty at the hands of the Nazis. Jacob and Rachael “grow up” during the Holocaust. As teenagers, they survive the beatings, rapes, and murderous acts of the Nazis, enjoy the physical and spiritual pleasure of being in love and are able to become husband and wife in the Theresienstadt Ghetto, before being imprisoned in Auschwitz. Eventually Jacob and Rachael become Partisans to fight the Nazi enemy.
While “Jacob’s Courage” is a novel, I based portions of the story on my mother’s memoirs. My mother, Clara Volk Weinblatt, was a childhood victim of pogroms in her Russian Jewish village. Much of my maternal extended family perished in the Holocaust. Great grandparents, great-aunts and uncles and many cousins disappeared into the void of Nazi annihilation. This book is dedicated to the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. They have been lost; but they will never be forgotten. And I dedicated the book to my father; he was the most intelligent, wise, sweet and gentle soul that I have encountered. His wisdom inspires me still, long after his death.
In 1939, seventeen year-old Austrian Jacob Silverman had a terrifying nightmare in which he was forced to burn the bodies of dead Jews. He wondered if it could be a premonition. Jacob and his classmate, Rachael Goldberg, fell deeply in love. When the Nazis arrived, they playfully teased them. Soon, they discovered that the Third Reich was not amused, as the Jews were relocated. Follow them from their comfortable lives as they were forced into a decrepit ghetto, from there to Theresienstadt, where they became man and wife; and finally to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Jacob‘s mother was sent to the gas chamber. Feel the exhilaration of escape as they joined the partisans and the horror of recapture.
In Auschwitz, Jacob was haunted by vivid dreams suggesting that his destiny lies in leading the innocent into a battle for their survival. His life was spared by joining the orchestra, but he was forced to watch the long lines of innocent families awaiting the gas chamber. Jacob was physically ravaged by the terrible pain of starvation and brutal torture by the Gestapo; worse yet he was tormented by the guilt of remaining alive when so many loved-ones were killed. Finally, in order to survive, Jacob was forced to feed the bodies of dead prisoners into the fires of an Auschwitz crematorium. His dreadful nightmare was a premonition. Throughout the tragedy, Jacob and Rachael have nothing to count on except their deep, powerful love, courage in each other and faith that God had a plan for them.
A loved and respected physician, Jacob’s father (Moshe) strived to treat every prisoner, although his Nazi tormentors deprived him essential medication. Still, he fought for the Jewish community with every fiber of his compassionate being. He was tortured by the reality of their brutal starvation, forced labor and wholesale murder. Silver-haired Moshe, whose bright blue eyes shine with wisdom and tenderness, became the gentle heart and soul of the prisoners. They admired him for his commitment, devotion and his lovely temperament. Moshe’s character was based upon my father, also a very dedicated physician. Much loved by all who met him, my father also worked tirelessly to help those in need.
I am motivated by the writer and philosopher, George Santayana, who said, “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” He also said, “A man’s feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.” There are many people who know little about the Holocaust, beyond its sanitized historical matrix. Jacob’s Courage has the capacity to help people understand the beauty of passionate young love and the terrifying reality of bigotry and ethnic cleansing. The more they learn about the horror of genocide, the greater the chance that it can be avoided in the future. Teaching our children and grandchildren about the Holocaust is a noble endeavor.
I wanted to help the reader comprehend the overwhelming daily stress borne by victims of the Holocaust. For more than a decade, the Jews of Europe were threatened by relocation, deportation, starvation, forced labor and senseless brutality. Ultimately, almost all of them met a premature death at the hands of their Nazi exterminators. The ordeal of Jacob and Rachael is meant to convey the fact that compelling beauty can exist within a backdrop of terrifying dark evil. I want the reader to appreciate the splendor of true love and the wisdom of belief in a better future. Tormented beyond all reason, the Jews of Europe strived to appreciate beauty, art, science, music; and to love each other, even while being exterminated by Nazi Germany.
One should take away from this tale the power of deep, unwavering passionate love even when suppressed by unrelenting terror. While their families and friends were being murdered, Jacob and Rachael discovered the ecstasy of a legendary romance. Theirs was a legendary love. One should also take from this novel the desperate need to stop genocide and religious hatred. This is made all the more poignant by today’s tragedy in Darfur and the brutality and danger of fundamentalists.
One editor described “Jacob’s Courage” as, “Gone with the Wind for the Holocaust.” Jewish Book World had this to say, “Mixed among the detailed descriptions of the surreal atrocities inflicted upon the Jews of Europe is a tender coming of age tale.” Yet another editor said, “The author maintains a driving, relentless pace as Jacob and his beloved Rachael try to escape the madness of Nazi Germany while maintaining their humanity.”
Jacob’s Courage is available through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Buy.com and many other fine booksellers. It can also be ordered directly from the publisher at http://mazopublishers.com/welcome/.
Charles S. Weinblatt