by Susie Davidson
ISBN: 0-972-46014-4 Recipient, 2004 grant, Massachusetts Cultural
Council/Brookline Arts Commission
Ibbetson Street Press, Somerville, Mass. 400 pp., 2005 (new edition, 2010)
With liner notes by
Congressman Michael E. Capuano and
Thomas G. Kelley, Secretary, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department
of Veterans' Services
Available at local bookstores, through the author or on Amazon.com:
2) "Jewish Life in Postwar Germany: Our Ten-Day Seminar"
by Susie Davidson
Ibbetson Street Press, Somerville, Mass. 100 pp., 2007
Jewish Advocate column of Sept. 22, 2006:
This new book by Susie Davidson chronicles an Aug. 20-31 seminar she attended along with five other Bostonians as a guest of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Consulate of Boston. The group visited many memorial sites, met with German dignitaries and government officials, attended synagogue and traveled to sites of interest relevant to German Jewish history.
3) "Selected Poetry of Susie D"
by Susie Davidson
Ibbetson Street Press, Somerville, Mass. 40 pp., 2007
150 poetry publications to date.
NEW DOCUMENTARY FILM:My new one-hour documentary on local Holocaust survivors is narrated by WBZ's Jordan Rich and features a new song by "2G" blues musician Ronnie Earl. It was reviewed in the Boston Globe and received a 2009 Mass. Cultural Council arts grant.
PAST BOOK READINGS AND EVENTS:
Tues., February 19, 2008 9 a.m., breakfast meeting - Medfield Council on Aging, One Ice House Road, Medfield. Information: 508-359-3665, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sat., Feb. 23, 4-6 p.m. (books sold post-Shabbas), - Tatnuck Bookseller, Westborough Shopping Center, 18 Lyman St. at Route 9, Westborough. Taping, interview and book signing in conjunction with Westborough Veterans. Information: Dave Bagdon, Tatnuck: 508-366-4959, 508-366-5500 x 11, email@example.com, or Westborough Veterans representative Ken Ferrera, 508-871-7086, or Westborough Public Access TV: Bob Cantara,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 508-898-3203, or email@example.com.
Fri., Feb. 29, 7 p.m. - Temple Israel, 9 Main Street, North Easton. Information: 781-341-2473, 508-238-4987, firstname.lastname@example.org or Susie_d@yahoo.com. (Please note: books will be sold before sundown or left at the shul for later purchase.)
Sat., March 8, 7:30 p.m. - Beth El Temple Center, 2 Concord Ave., Belmont. Information: 617-484-6668.
Wed., March 12, 10 a.m. - Stow Council on Aging, 380 Great Rd., Stow. Information: Suzanne Howley, 978-897-1880, email@example.com.
Wed., March 12, 3:45-5:45 p.m., European Jewish History and the Holocaust 7th grade class, Shir Tikvah, 34 Vine St., Winchester. Information: Joan Forman, Education Director, 781-729-1263, firstname.lastname@example.org, for class of 30 students studying the political, economic and historical factors in Europe which led the Holocaust.
Wed., March 19, 7 p.m. - Acton Council on Aging, 472 Main St., Acton. Information: Christine Chirokas, 978-264-9643, email@example.com@acton-ma.gov.
Wed., April 7, 10-11 a.m. (continuing on April 9, 16, 30 and May 7, 14, 21, 28) - Susie Davidson teaches an 8-session course, "What Can the Stories of Holocaust Survivors and Liberating Soldiers Teach Us in the Face of Continuing Global Genocide?" for Newton Center for Lifetime Learning, at Congegation Mishkan Tefilah, 300 Hammond Pond Parkway
(running between Rt. 9 and Beacon St.), Chestnut Hill, Mass. Information: Laurie Swett, Lifetime Learning Program Coordinator, 617-796-1000, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sun., April 13, 2-4 p.m. - joint Armenian Genocide - Holocaust and Rwandan Genocide commemoration event in Watertown, organized by Susie Davidson. Free and open to the public. WBZ's Jordan Rich hosts. Clergy members, music, poetry and ethnic foods. Information TBA.
Wed. April 16, 10-11 a.m. Newton class (see April 9).
Wed., April 16, 7-8:30 p.m. M.I.T. Hillel (Cranston Rogers is an MIT alumnus, 1951 master's in engineering). Muriel and Norman B. Leventhal Center for Jewish Life at MIT, 40 Mass. Ave. (MIT Building W11), Cambridge. Information: 617-253-2982, hillel@MIT.EDU, http://www.mit.edu/~hillel/hillel-at-mit.html.
Wed. April 30, 10-11 a.m. Newton class (see April 9).
Wed., April 30, 7 p.m. - Congregation Shirat Hayam, Marshfield United Methodist Church, 185 Plain St. (Rte. 139), Marshfield. Information: Harry Katz, 781-837-2281, email@example.com.
Thurs., May 1, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Hillel B'nai Torah, 120 Corey St., West Roxbury. Information: Stephanie Sher, 617-680-6947.
Thurs., May 1, 2008 (sundown): Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)
Fri., May 2, Noon - JCC Kosher Lunch Program for Seniors, Yom HaShoah Program, Hebrew Senior Life, 1550 Beacon St., Brookline. Information: 617-965-7410.
Sun., May 4, Noon - Kahal B'raira Humanistic Jewish Congregation. Fayerweather School, 765 Concord Ave., Fresh Pond area, Cambridge. Information: www.kahalbraira.org.
Wed. May 7, 10-11 a.m. Newton class (see April 9).
Wed. May 14, 10-11 a.m. Newton class (see April 9).
Wed. May 21, 10-11 a.m. Newton class (see April 9).
Wed. May 28, 10-11 a.m. Newton class (see April 9).
Wed., June 11, noon - Seekonk Annual Men's Luncheon, ballroom, Johnson & Wales Inn, 213 Taunton Avenue, www.jwinn.com, 508-336-8700, 1-800-232-1772 (Routes 114A & 44), Seekonk. Information: Karen Stutz, 508-336-8772 x114, or 508-336-7300.
Current Brookline Public Library exhibit and Brookline Access Television show:
Susie Davidson is featured in a Feb., 2008 exhibit at the Brookline Public Library Main Library (361 Washington St., Brookline) on four Brookline authors. It will be up during the annual Library Gala. She is also one of three Brookline authors appearing in the first installment of the new Brookline Cable Access Television series, "Brookline Writes!" which began airing the first week of February. She is a member of the newly-formed Brookline Library Authors' Collaborative.
Jan. 20 Holocaust - Armenian Genocide exhibit at the Armenian Library and Museum of America, Watertown, Mass.:
On Sunday, Jan. 20, 2008, Susie Davidson organized this event at the Armenian Library and Museum of America, with Holocaust survivor Meyer Hack and Armenian Genocide survivor Kevork Norian as keynote speakers. Eight state representatives and four state senators attended, WBZ's Jordan Rich hosted. The event featured prayers with Rabbi Moshe Waldoks, music with Cantor Robbie Solomon and Klezmer Conservatory members and traditional Armenian musicians, and poetry by an Armenian and a Jewish teenager.
Over 400 people attended and the event received multiple major front page press as follows:
Jan. 4 Allston-Brighton, Watertown and Waltham Tabs - cover story by Richard Cherecwich:
Holocaust survivor holds exhibit at ALMA:
Jan. 13 Boston Sunday Globe cover page City section story by Erica Noonan:
Jan. 17 Jewish Advocate story by Molly Ritvo: Remembering Two Genocides
Jan. 17 Boston Phoenix article by Ian Sands:
"Diamonds in the Rough"
Jan. 25 The Forward - cover page article by Hinda Mandell:
"Auschwitz Jewelry Exhibit Shows Secret Treasures With a Grisly Past"
With the recent PBS airing of the new Ken Burns documentary "The War," World War II remains very much in the interest of the public. Davidson believes it is especially important to discuss the memories and lessons of the war while its participants are still with us. She sells I Refused to Die at her cost of $10 and Jewish Life in Postwar Germany at $5, and does not charge a speaker fee. However, a $50 honorarium is requested for Chan Rogers, and if possible, an additional $25 for travel expenses for Susie Davidson. We do provide cakes and refreshments (Kosher if at a shul).
Wesborough News, Feb. 9, 2008:http://wwwcommunityadvocate.com/Current/westborough/
Nov. 6, 2007, Newburyport Daily News:
Sunpiper Press Interview with Susie Davidson:
Other upcoming readings, TBA:
Adams Street Synagogue, 168 Adams St., Newton. Breakfast and talk. Information: 617-630-0226. Fee for members/nonmembers TBA. Not handicapped accessible. Susie and Chan will be joined by Holocaust survivor Edgar Krasa.
(A SUNDAY) 1 p.m. - Sharon Council on Aging/Sharon Adult Center, 219 Massapoag Avenue, Sharon. Opening of newly-renovated Senior Center. Information:
Guest on "The Literati Scene" with Smoki Bacon and Dick Concannon, BNNTV23. Mon. evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 10:30 on Channel 23 in Boston as well as 13 other local stations (archived on www.chanztv.com).http://www.literatiscene.com/about.htm.
Sept. 18, 2006 Boston Globe feature article on Chan Rogers:
New! Upcoming class - April and May, 2008:
"What Can the Stories of Holocaust Survivors and Liberating Soldiers Teach Us in the Face of Continuing Global Genocide?"
WEDNESDAYS 10-11 a.m., APRIL 2, 9, 16, 30 AND MAY 14, 21, 28, 2008: Newton Center for Lifetime Learning: March 2008. Information: Laurie Swett, Lifetime Learning Program Coordinator, 617-796-1000,firstname.lastname@example.org. Held at Congegation Mishkan Tefilah, 300 Hammond Pond Parkway (running between Rt. 9 and Beacon St.), Chestnut Hill, Mass.
The class will study important events of WWII, examine Holocaust-themed poetry and prose, and discuss how we can apply the experiences of the past to current events. Students will have the opportunity to contact Holocaust survivors and WWII veterans from the book and either write about their experience. We will also compose and sign a letter to go to each of our representatives about genocide in our time.
Susie will also discuss her Aug. 2006 ten-day trip to Berlin to study Jewish life in Germany today as a guest of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Consulate in Boston.
The stories of local Holocaust survivors and soldiers will be paired with poetry by local poets. We will learn how survivors of the war went on to rebuild their lives and contribute to the world, despite the tragedies they suffered. What can we learn from them? Why did these people, silent for decades, finally begin to speak? And why is it still important to tell their stories?
The format will entail lectures and discussion on the life stories of survivors, the events leading to the war and the timeline of the war. The lectures will draw upon the first-hand recollections at hand, as well as the instructor's experiences gathered from visiting war
memorials and relevant sites and from studying Jewish life in Germany today.
We will discuss the total Nazi victim count of 21,000,000 million, why the Holocaust stands alone among genocides, and how Germany has faced its postwar responsibility. We
will examine personal action in the face of continuing global genocide and will discuss the viewpoints of ex-Secretary of State and Co-Chair of the new Genocide Prevention Task Force Madeleine Albright.
The book "I Refused To Die" ($10) will be the textbook. Other media will include a PowerPoint presentation by Chan Rogers, a member of the 7th Army's 45th Infantry Division that liberated the Dachau concentration camp.
Susie Davidson, M.Ed., is a local journalist, author and poet with over 150 publications to date. Since 2001, she has written regularly for the Jewish Advocate, the Brookline Tab, the Cambridge Chronicle and other weeklies, and has contributed to the Boston Sunday Globe and The Forward. In addition to "I Refused to Die," she has authored "Jewish Life in Postwar Germany" and "Selected Poems of Susie D." She is a co-coordinator of the Boston chapter of COEJL, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, and is a board member at the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow in Boston, an umbrella association of community organizations. She organized a Jan. 20, 2008 Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide co-exhibit event at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, hosted by WBZ's Jordan Rich, which brought together Armenian and Jewish religious leaders, musicians and poets, ten Mass. state representatives and four state senators.
Other class sites TBA include
Andover Senior Center: Thursdays, 1:30-3 p.m. Information: 978-623-8322,email@example.com.
Synopsis of a typical book reading:
I speak for 20-25 minutes about the making of my book and about some of the 30 people in it. I talk about how the Holocaust survivors I encountered in my reporting impressed me with their spirit and their love of life, when I had expected that they would be morose, feeling
sorry for themselves. I saw them as an example for all about how some people can take the worst experience imaginable and go on to rebuild and make something of their lives, rather than drown in misery or turn to crime or violence out of desperation.
I explain why it is important to do readings about the Holocaust, even though even some Jewish groups don't want to hear about it anymore, and why these survivors and soldiers, many of whom were silent for decades, finally began to speak (because genocide is still occurring in our world, as is Holocaust denial, and because these people are getting older and won't be around much longer to tell their stories - and a first-hand account is the best way to counter denial).
I speak about all of the 21,000,000 victims of the Nazis and discuss genocide awareness, and possiblities that can arise from an increase in both knowledge and action. I mention a recent Dream for Darfur rally I attended where victims of five 20th century genocides spoke. I discuss a project I then instituted to produce a joint Holocaust and Armenian Genocide event, which took place on Jan. 20 at the Armenian Library and Museum of America, was hosted by WBZ's Jordan Rich, and included prayers by Armenian and Jewish spiritual leaders, and Armenian and Jewish musicians and young poets, remarks by eight Mass. State Representatives and four Mass. State Senators.
I explain the origin of the word "Holocaust" and why modern scholars often use "Shoah" instead. I also explain how the Holocaust stands alone among all genocides. Without taking away any of the horrors and atrocities of all other genocides, the Holocaust stands alone. According to Boston University professor Stephen Katz's book The Holocaust in Historical Context, "Never before did a state set out, as a matter of intentional principle and actualied policy, to annihilate physically every man, woman and child belonging to a specific people." In other words, where genocides often occur within a certain area, the
Nazis would have crossed borders and followed Jews no matter where they went to exterminate them.Â Also, genocides often occur for political or social reasons. But Professor Ben S. Austin of Middle Tennessee State University has written that the Holocaust stands alone not only because the motivations for it were entirely racial, with little if any economic net gain, but also because the victims presented no threat to the
German nation, and yet, the calculated and rational nature of its methodology and its ferocious campaign of systematic slaughter are unparalleled in human history.
Alex Grobman, Ph.D., President of the New Jersey-based Brenn Institute, has said that the Holocaust has become the event by which we measure all other atrocities, "because for the first time in history we have an entire group - the Jews - where every man, woman, and child was intentionally singled out by a state for total destruction. This has never happened before either to Jews or to any other group."
I explain the origin of the word "Holocaust" and why modern scholars often use "Shoah" instead.
I talk about the changes that came into being in Germany following the airing of the 1978 NBC miniseries "Holocaust" that starred Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. During the broadcasting of the Kristallnacht scene, so many people called the local police station to confess their involvement, the statute of limitations was restored, the Holocaust became part of school curricula and it became a crime to deny the Holocaust in Germany.
I then speak about how Germany today is not a Nazi country, and how I know this firsthand, following a trip I took in summer, 2006 along with five other Bostonians at the invitation of the German government. During this ten-day seminar, we observed various monuments, museums and exhibits, met with dignitaries, attended synagogue, and toured concentration camps and memorial sites. I speak about the great effort that Germany has made to acknowledge that the Holocaust in fact occurred, and the responsibility they have taken, despite very limited funding, to preserve artifacts, maintain memorials and institute
programs that pay tribute to the victims of the Nazi government. I show the book I wrote about this experience, "Jewish Life in Postwar Germany: Our Ten-Day Seminar."
I mention various aspects of WWII that are less known, such as the story of the Ritchie Boys, the Terezin concentration camp, and of the 761st Battalion, the first all-Black tank regiment to serve overseas in WWII and about their incredibly brave record of service (Jackie Robinson was an officer in the 761st).Â I then read a few excerpts from stories in
the book, and a couple of poems as well.
I discuss how the stories of Holocaust survivors and soldiers can give perspective in the face of continuing global genocide.
Chan Rogers then talks for about 15-20 minutes about the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, which was a very unusual and also chaotic liberation, mainly due to two Allied units entering at the same time and on the way in, discovering a boxcar full of bodies, one of 23 in a train that the Nazis had sent from Buchenwald in the north during the final days of the war. He calls this "the most egregious act of the Holocaust." He also tells his own very interesting history - he is an Orlando, Florida native who trained in Texas and had never seen snow until he was shipped overseas, where it snowed 30 inches the first
night! Following the war, he graduated MIT and oversaw major engineering projects such as the Central Artery. He continues to advise on the Big Dig and other projects, and was in New Orleans last winter supervising some of the post-Hurricane Katrina cleanup. Chan's engineering efforts have been featured prominently in the Boston Globe over the past year.
If he is able to attend, Holocaust survivor Edgar Krasa talks about his experiences as the chef at the Terezin concentration camp in Prague, Czechoslovakia for about 15 minutes.
We end with a Q&A, although audience members are welcome to ask questions or make comments at any point during the presentation. I sign books afterward. I sell them at my cost of $10 (they are $18 in bookstores).
The entire program usually runs about one hour and 15 minutes.
Upcoming Cable Access Television Documentary/DVD:
Other book information:
firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-566-7557, or visit www.IRefusedToDie.com.
"I Refused to Die: Stories of Boston-Area Holocaust Survivors and Soldiers who Liberated the Concentration Camps of World War II," released on Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass., is Davidson's first nonfiction work.
The book has been featured on "Greater Boston with Emily Rooney," WBUR's "Here and Now," Channel 7, WBZ, and in the Boston Globe, the Jewish Advocate, the Worcester Telegram, Somerville News, Spare Change News, and other media.
For more information, please contact Susie Davidson at Su
"The words of Holocaust survivors and their liberators mark the end of an unspeakable world war and the beginning of new life for those who endured.
Susie Davidson has done a remarkable job in capturing the depths of despair and the joys of salvation. The act of liberation will always be seared in the minds and hearts of those inside and outside the gates of the camps."
Thomas G. Kelley, Secretary, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department
of Veterans' Services
"Sixty years ago, in the spring of 1945, Allied soldiers entered Nazi concentration camps and found evidence of an almost incomprehensible evil. But they also found survivors. In this volume, Susie Davidson gives us the testimony of both survivors and liberators: encounters between those who had defied death and those who had risked death in the same cause, to preserve human freedom and human dignity. We must honor them by carrying on their struggle to defend life, liberty, and justice for all persons."
Michael E. Capuano, Member of Congress
"In writing this book, Susie Davidson is advancing the eternal message of the most significant event in Jewish history. In doing so, she is fulfilling a most important service to the entire community. The Holocaust was an essential element in the establishment of the State of Israel, which reserves an official national day for honoring its memory. Its lessons are the most profound and the most crucial in the creation of our modern Jewish identity.
Susie's effort to document the story of these remarkable survivors and the brave soldiers who liberated the camps is to be supported and is greatly appreciated."
Hillel Newman, Consul of Israel to New England
"I Refused to Die" provides Boston's Jewish community with a fitting testimony to mankind's darkest hour. It is overwhelming to read how each individual life was so brutally stripped bare. The author allows readers, who have neither the experience nor the language to truly understand such levels of horror, a chance to empathize with the unique plight of the victims."
Richard Ferrer, Editor, The Jewish Advocate, 2005
THE ASSOCIATION OF JEWISH LIBRARIES (based at the Thomas Library, Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio):
Davidson, Susie, ed. I Refused to Die: Stories of Boston Area Holocaust Survivors and Soldiers who Liberated the Concentration Camps of World War II. Somerville, MA: Ibbetson Street Press, 2005. 417 p. $10 (ISBN 0-972-46014-4)
In I Refused to Die, Susie Davidson brings together memories of Boston area residents who lived through the concentration camps, either as inmates or as liberators. Besides memories, Davidson also provides essays by Boston area Holocaust community leaders, poetry, articles, photos, and area resources. Including a timeline and extensive glossary
of the Holocaust, historical essays and primary documents from the time of the Holocaust, this book is a testimony to the resilience of those who faced the atrocities of the Nazi regime - both those who lived it and those who discovered it unknowingly and helped rescue and rehabilitate the survivors. The liberators and the victims unite to share with the world the horrors heretofore unknown or unacknowledged. Included are prayers related to the Holocaust, statistics, and a comprehensive listing of all camps. This inexpensive anthology is a valuable contribution to any adult collection with even a small Holocaust section.
Sara Marcus, Touro University International, Bayside, NY
I Refused To Die: Stories of Boston-Area Holocaust Survivors and Soldiers Who Liberated
the Concentration Camps of World War II
Ibbetson Street Press, 2005 417 pages
Susie Davidson is a Brookline-based poet and journalist who grew up in Randolph. For this book, which took three years to publish, Davidson interviewed as many local Holocaust survivors and liberators as she could find. Most were referred to her by word of mouth.
The work, which Davidson hopes will eventually become a middle school textbook, contains the personal stories, poems, photographs and drawings from well-known survivors, such as Sonia Weitz and Samuel Bak, to others who publicly share their stories for the first time.
Davidson says she wrote the book "to document and honor the bravery of the survivors and liberators, and to confront Holocaust denial."
She is doing a series of readings in the area to raise awareness of the issue. The well-intentioned book is a bit rambling and disjointed, but it contains extensive resources and is an important contribution to not only Holocaust history, but also to local history.
Jewish Journal of the North Shore
From: Paul Etkind, Temple Shalom, Milton, Mass. Brotherhood
Date: Sun, 4 Dec 2005
I want to send you a formal thank you for the magnificent (yes, I sincerely mean that word, and in my seven-plus years of chairing this series, I have never before used it to describe a talk) lecture and reading you gave us this morning. May I have an address that I can send
the letter to?
Temple Shalom, Milton
Feb. 18., 2007:
Your book I REFUSED TO DIE is amazing. I am a freelance writer and a contributing writer for Newton and Brookline Magazines. I have a story coming out in Newton and Brookline Magazines in March about the music that came out of the Terezin concentration camp. The Brookline Chorus is doing a concert of the music on Sunday, March 18. Edgar Krasa is
featured in my story and he mentioned your book.
Yesterday I interviewed Michael Gruenbaum for an unrelated story that will appear in Brookline Magazine's April edition and he also mentioned your book. I bought a copy right after our interview and was not able to open it until midnight. I had planned to read just the chapters about Edgar and Michael last night but I just couldn't put it down and I read
until 4 a.m. You did a wonderful job of pulling it all together. I think it should be required reading in all the schools.
I am not sure if I can include it in my current story (since I haven't written it yet ) but if I can would you like me to mention your book? I think everyone should read it.
Shera Sage Smith
Bookstores and availability:
Borders Books, Music and Cafe (10 School St., Downtown Boston, 617-557-7188)
Trident Booksellers (338 Newbury St., Boston, 617-267-8688)
Israel Bookstore (410 Harvard, Brookline, 617-566-7113)
Kolbo (437 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-731-8743)
Brookline Booksmith (279 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-566-6660)
The New England Mobile Book Fair (82-84 Needham St., Newton Highlands,617-964-7440)
The Book Rack (13 Medford St., Arlington, 781-646-2665)
Porter Square Books (Porter Square Shopping Center, 25 White St., Cambridge, 617-491-2220)
McIntyre & Moore Booksellers (255 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville,
Harvard Bookstore (1256 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 800-542-READ)
The Harvard Coop (1400 Mass. Ave., Harvard Sq., Cambridge, 617-499-2000)
Judaic Traditions 775 Hope St. Providence, RI 02906 (401-454-4775)
Borders Books, Music and Cafe in Boca Raton (9887 Glades Rd.,
Borders Books, Music and Cafe in Boynton Beach (525 N. Congress Ave.,
The book can also be purchased through the author at 617-566-7557 or
Sixty years have passed since the Allied troops' defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of the concentration camps, but memories of the atrocities of the war do not fade with time. Many have, however, gone unspoken.
In her new book, ''I Refused To Die: Stories of Boston-Area Holocaust Survivors and Soldiers who Liberated the Concentration Camps of World War II," Susie Davidson gives voice to the memories of 29 survivors and liberators. The book was scheduled to be released at an event at Hebrew SeniorLife Center Communities of Brookline on Thursday, Yom HaShoah, or
Holocaust Remembrance Day, in honor of the day and of the 10th anniversary of the New England Holocaust Memorial.
Davidson, a Brookline-based journalist and poet, recorded interviews, which she then edited into the collection and published with Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville. The cost of the book, which took three years to complete, is being kept at $9 because its purpose is to document a legacy and honor individual epics of heroism, not to generate a profit,
''I have nothing but highest admiration for survivors and the soldiers, who I view as equals in this tragedy," she said. ''They all went on to contribute to the same world that stripped them of all their comforts, their souls. They witnessed the worst things we could imagine
and went on to become educators, scientists. Some work with urban youth. They're writers, engineers. They still never lost their will to contribute."
She says that as a poet, she's used to writing about issues that are difficult to comprehend, but nothing could prepare her for this subject.
''Not only is [the Holocaust] something that we can't understand, but we don't want to understand. Where would it get you except to see the depth of barbarity man is capable of achieving?" she said.
''So my approach is to honor people that went through it and use their experience to try to prevent their experience from happening again and to learn whatever lessons might be in it. The purpose is not to understand why."
The book also includes essays penned by leaders of Holocaust awareness efforts in the Boston community, with poems by local writers interwoven between the stories. One of Davidson's aims is to see the book used in schools, and she included informational passages on various aspects of the war. While some of the contributors have long been speaking about their wartime experiences, others are only just beginning to come to terms with a past long buried in silence.
''For me, this is the first time my story was published in a book," said Rosian Zerner, who lives in a Boston suburb and is vice president of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust.
''I take it as another learning experience in my search for awareness and personal growth. I'm still searching for what it all means. I also wish to contribute to others so they can benefit as much as possible through remembrance and connectedness to themselves as well as to the experience of the Holocaust and also to have my experience be there as
a fact for deniers, a fact that they cannot erase."
From the WGBH Web site www.wgbh.org
The Liberation of Dachau - April 29, 1945
Originally broadcast April 26, 2005
It was nine miles northwest of Munich and it was Nazi Germany's
first concentration camp. Between 1933 and 1945, 206,000 people were
imprisoned at Dachau and 31,000 died there.
With the 60th anniversary of the World War II victory over Nazi Germany next month, writer Susie Davidson is rushing to finish her book on Boston area concentration camp survivors and liberators. "The title is I Refused to Die," she says. "They were starved, beaten,
slaughtered in cases, just suffered horrible dehumanization."
One survivor Davidson includes in her book is Stephan Ross, founder of the New England Holocaust Memorial. "Every day that we woke up, when you went outside, people were murdered," Ross says. "There was not one day that you could pass by without people being murdered."
When Ross was a child, he was a prisoner in several concentration camps, including Dachau. He says he owes his survival to the US soldiers who liberated him and to another Dachau inmate, George Goldrich, a 79-year-old Brookline resident. "I was a little boy," Ross says. "I was about 9, 10 years-old at the time. George was about four years older at the time, he knew me from the camp. He took a liking to me because I was always starving." Goldrich says he helped Ross by stealing food when the two were imprisoned at Budzin, another German concentration camp.
"As much I could from the kitchen take and give to the people, I did," says Goldrich. "I didn't care if they catch me. They catch me, they catch me, you know. It ends my life." They didn't catch him in Budzin. In Dachau though, Goldrich thought he would die. "They put
us in freight cars. 200 people in the freight car, like cows." But as US soldiers advanced toward Munich, Germany, Goldrich says his captors released him and he fled into the woods.
A few days later, on April 29, 1945, US troops liberated Dachau and Stephan Ross. 91-year-old Solomon Feingold is also in Davidson's book. He says he won't ever forget what he saw when his army unit came upon Dachau. "They were suffering from malnutrition, disease, cholera," Feingold says. "And all around the camp was the evidence of mass
I'd never seen anything like it. There were probably 1,500 bodies there." The death train with its cars full of bodies enraged some of the US soldiers who then opened fire on the surrendering German camp guards. Twenty to thirty of them were killed. Feingold wasn't at
Dachau when the shootings occurred but he says he understands why it happened.
"They saw the condition of these inmates. They were angry. See, look what they did to these people. Look what they look like. Look at the bodies there." Feingold, who is Jewish, says he will never forget
Dachau, or the pride he felt when his unit marched into Munich, the birthplace of the Nazi party. "We did what we had to do," Feingold says. "We had to win a war."
Wild: How many light bulbs?
By Patricia Wild
Thursday, May 19, 2005
"How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?" "That's not funny." OK, call me a feminist, call me a Francophile, call me completely lacking in humor, but this week's New Yorker contains a cartoon I find offensive, in horrible taste, not funny. Drawn by Lee Lorenz, the full-page cartoon, entitled "The Secret Shame of Paris," depicts a Parisian residential street, the Eiffel tower and a construction crane in the background and uniformed police, one with a clipboard and one with either a rifle or prod, escorting a crowd of pudgy, miserable women into a police van. "Predawn Roundup of Fat Frenchwomen," the caption reads.
Yes, I know there's a bestseller which explains why French women are so slim. Indeed, I've taken the author's "You think you're hungry but you're not. Drink a glass of water!" to heart. Literally. At my age, being fat is not a feminist issue; my heart, my knees, my general
health demand that I eat sensibly, exercise, blah blah blah. So, yes, I understand the reference, yes, I get why only women are being rounded up.
Here's what's not funny: To print a cartoon of women being herded into vans under the cover of darkness exactly 10 days and 60 years after the liberation of the World War II concentration camps strikes me as incredibly bad taste.
Admittedly, because I am presently reading "I Refused to Die: Stories of Boston-Area Holocaust Survivors and Soldiers Who Liberated the Concentration Camps of World War II," my ability to snicker at the type of humor found in the New Yorker cartoon will never be the same.
Compiled by Susie Davidson, this powerful book has just been published by Somerville's own Ibbetson Street Press. Take Sevek and Loinia Fishman's story, for example. After the Germans had rounded up the Jews of their Polish village, they dug a shallow grave under the floorboards of a farmer's home with their fingernails where they hid in for 18 months: "... [T]he Germans had assembled many Jews into one house and then thrown hand grenades into it. My wife and I overheard this while we were hiding in a space about 30 inches deep,
five feet long, and three feet wide, under the floor in [the farmer's] hut."
It's easy to be self-righteous, morally superior, to get angry at a New Yorker cartoon. What's much harder is to confront my own assumptions, my own prejudice, my own silence when uniformed men and five young men from my own community clashed a few weeks ago. When I read about Medford Police having been attacked by Somerville High School students in this paper, I believed every printed word. A week or so later, when my son-in-law, who lives in Brooklyn, forwarded an e-mail concerning "The Somerville 5," I realized, with chagrin, that I'd automatically accepted the Medford Police version of that incident.
Yes, it is possible that what the police claim happened that night is absolutely true. But is it possible, as the forwarded e-mail claims, that the Medford Police rounded up five Somerville High School students, all of them students of color, because of racial profiling? Is it possible that those students were attacked by the police? Is it possible, I must ask myself, that like a German or Polish citizen watching my Jewish neighbors being rounded up, I, too, have silently acquiesced to evil and injustice?
The old joke asks how many therapists it takes to change a light bulb. The answer, of course, is: Only one. But only if it really wants to change. How many powerful books, how many truth-telling conversations, how many thought-provoking e-mails before I begin to see the light?
Patricia Wild of Somerville is the author of "Swimming In It," a novel set in the city.
I Refused to Die.... by Susie Davidson
REVIEWED BY HUGH FOX
I Refused to Die: Stories of Boston Area Holocaust Survivors and
Soldiers who Liberated the Concentration Camps of World War II
Recorded, annotated and edited by Susie Davidson. 2005. 420 pp.,
Published by Ibbetson Street Press, 25 School St., Somerville, MA.
02143 $10.80 (6 x $18, or Chai)
A very touching book, going over much of the same ground that other
books on the Holocaust have gone over, but in a fresh, imperative way.
I mean how did she ever find these men and women in the Boston area who
survived the Holocaust, and then get them to tell their stories? Like
Rela Fund, born in Vienna in 1915, a photo of her accompanying her
story of how she escaped to Switzerland, then went to Scotland where she got
a degree in pharmacology, eventually ended up in Boston (where her
Scottish degree was invalid) and helped her husband in the toy business
he had gotten into.
Story after story after story: Israel Arbeiter (Born in 1925) from
Plock, Poland, Rena Finder (born in 1929) also from Poland (Krakow),
Sevek Fishman, another Pole (born in 1918).....there are a hundred
films here just waiting to be made. Then, after we're finished reading the
survival stories of these Jews, we move into the stories of American
soldiers who were involved with saving them. Again more photos, like
that of James B. Aitken a young G.I., Mr. Military, next to a photo of
Aitken today, sitting meditatively in a chair in his Victorianish
dining room. The narratives plus the photos give the book a tremendously
There are then lists of organizations involved with the Holocaust,
like the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, the American
Jewish Congress, etc. And just as the book begins to get more
bibliographical than dramatic, the author throws in a poem by Joan
Weliger Sidney that really gets you where it hurts:
"Late March/ and it is snowing, though I know nothing will remain/
that these fat flakes are no more than memories/ disappearing into
trees..." ("Forging Links," p. 415) Snow-flakes and dead Holocaust
victims. Lots of other classic, unforgettable poems too, dispersed
throughout the volume.
Like Doug Holder's "The New World": "....the sad naked bodies of
chickens,/ slaughtered like Holocaust victims on bloodied
butcher/blocks... ("The New World, p. 150)
The book ends with prayers, including the Jewish prayer for the dead,
the Mourners' Kaddish, in Hebrew and English, thereby taking this
terrible time into a holy precinct of remembrance that turns it from
horror film into unforgettable tragedy. A book that nobody should miss.
Hugh Fox, founding editor of The Pushcart Prize; founding member and
current Board member of COSMEP, The International Organization of
LOCAL AUTHOR ON LOCAL SURVIVORS:
THE HORRORS OF THE HOLOCAUST BROUGHT HOME
By Logan C. Ritchie
This article appeared in the May 27, 2005 Jewish Advocate
When the idea for her book first struck her, Susie Davidson boarded a
Greyhound bus for Fargo, N.D. She wasn't running from her idea, she
was trying to capture it. "I had so many thoughts and notes that I
took a bus around the country to get away and start putting the book
together. Working on my laptop, I got the outline organized," said
Davidson, author of "I Refused to Die: Stories of Boston-Area
Holocaust Survivors and Soldiers Who Liberated the Concentration Camps
of World War II."
Her book, which includes stories of liberating soldiers and World War
II educational supplements, as well as photos, poetry, essays by
community leaders and a local, national and international Holocaust
resource section, was released on May 5 in accordance with Yom HaShoah.
Davidson, who grew up in Randolph and now lives in Brookline, has been
promoting the book to groups around Greater Boston, hoping it will
eventually become a textbook for middle schools.
A longtime beat reporter for The Advocate, Davidson is also the author
of three volumes of poetry. She recalled: "I was always a writer. I
was a C student with A's in English. A painful memory is being
accelerated in English in junior high and then having no one to sit
at lunch." Davidson didn't stop at poetry and news reporting. "An
author always has at least one book in ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“em," she said of
career, both past and present. "I already know of several people I
want to interview for a second edition of this book." A few years ago,
Davidson attended the ceremony for the liberators' monument and was
inspired by the speeches she heard there. "Al Rosen talked about
genocide around the world, and how we have to prevent this from ever
happening again. I thought educating people about it could be a
tool," she said. "I got to know people and went to the American
Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors' brunch. There I met more
and more people. I was so overwhelmed, I just had to write the book."
Davidson said she met most of her subjects through word of mouth, not
surprising for a tight-knit Jewish community like Boston. "They tell
you about one another. Some poet friends of mine told me about their
local relatives, someone in my building pointed out another person.
People were very helpful."
She went to each survivor's home to conduct the interview, although
some, as well as most of the soldiers, e-mailed their stories to
Davidson. "Everyone in the book is a Boston resident. It was my intent
to make something just for the Boston community, because it is known
around the world." Recording some of the 29 stories for the first
time, several soldiers and survivors broke their silence with Davidson.
"Some people I spoke with, for example Rena Finder and Sonia Weitz,
told me that they never talked about it until two decades ago. In their
homes, the Holocaust was not discussed. They didn't want to face it.
Steve Ross never mentioned it to his children until they were
She said it was easier to deal with the material if she "remained
stoic" during the recordings. "I'm a poet, so I'm used to
writing heavy stuff. Writers do best with depression. I love songs by
the Cure, the early stuff," she said. "We're used to depressing
subjects. But I needed to be strong because most of them would cry. And
every time I proofread, I cried."
Interview with Susie Davidson: "I Refused to Die"
By Doug Holder
SCAT, Somerville Cable Access TV broadcast, August 2005
In her introduction to her book: "I Refused to Die: Stories of
Boston Area Holocaust Survivors and Soldiers Who Liberated the
Concentration Camps of World War II, Susie Davidson writes: "The
chapter in Modern Jewish began long before and extends far beyond late
April, 1945 in the minds of those who lived through the horrors of the
Nazi Holocaust. For these survivors, the pain has never changed,
diminished, never ended. Endured long ago, yet forever feeling like
yesterday, it defines their existence like a gray shroud of gloom that
indelibly drapes every waking moment." (17) In this book the words of
the Holocaust survivors and their liberators capture the horror,
despair, and the salvation of those who survived this nefarious time in
history. In a project three years in the making and partially funded by
the Mass. Cultural Council, Davidson has compiled a collection of
testimony, poetry, and essays of Boston-area Holocaust survivors and
liberators that should be in the classroom, as well as in the home.
Hillel Newman, Consul of Israel to New England wrote: "In writing this
book Susie Davidson advances the eternal message of the most
event in Jewish history. In doing so, she is fulfilling a most
service to the entire community." Davidson will be participating in the
"The Somerville News Writers Festival," Nov 13, 2005 at the Somerville
Theatre in Davis Square.
Doug Holder: What was the germ of the idea for this project?
Susie Davidson: Well, I have written for the Jewish Advocate for many
years now, so I have met some of the survivors. I was always very
impressed by them. Here were people who experienced things that are
hard to imagine. Yet they were out there contributing. They were living
their lives. They were not self-centered and wallowing in misery. They
were doing the best they could and making contributions to our society.
They are teachers, educators, scientists, and engineers, etc. They
rebuilt their lives. I found that so amazing. In June 2002 I went to
groundbreaking ceremony of the Liberators' monument in downtown Boston
at the N.E. Holocaust Memorial. It was a very nice ceremony, with the
mayor and other leaders. Al Rosen, a World War ll vet, got up and made
speech that inspired me to do this book."
There are Holocausts which have occurred since and are still going on
in our current times: Somalia, the Sudan, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia....
It seems that it just doesn't end. It is a horrible state of human
affairs. We all have to do what we can to stem this tide.
DH: Do you view this book as a formal educational text as well?
SD: I've included many supplements inside the book with WW ll
material. My aim is to market this as a secondary school text. I think
you don't want the kids too young when they read about this. It is
important however to place that seed of "awareness" in them.
DH: Was it difficult to get the survivors to relive these horrific
SD: Some people were ready to go. Others I had to convince gently. You
don't want to exploit their experience, but their story must be told.
There is nothing like a first-hand witness to counteract Holocaust
denial. The general awareness must be encouraged. This is not a group
of people who are applying to do this. I didn't pry but I would strongly
suggest. I knew these stories would mean a lot to many people.
DH: You must have had a number of emotional outbursts during the
course of your interviews.
SD: Sure....in both myself and with them. Almost all of them cried -
both men and women. Some cry every day still. I tried to be stoic, but
when I proofread I would cry. These are things that you could not
believe one man could do to another man. This is true of the liberating
soldiers as well as the survivors. A few of the soldiers in my book
based their future lives around their experience.
DH: Can you tell me about the Black regiment that helped liberate the
SD: That was the 761st Battalion, an all-Black regiment that helped
liberate Buchenwald. The baseball player Jackie Robinson was an officer
in it. They had a 50 percent casualty rate, the highest among similar
units in World War ll. They were on the front lines for three full
at a time. In the book there is a poem by Sonia Weitz. She was
by a member of the 761st. She had never seen a Black man before.
DH: Was there a lot of guilt around the folks who did survive? Did
they ask "Why me?"
SD: Sure. Why was I spared, while my family members perished in front
of me? A lot of it was dumb luck. Crazy things would happen at the last
minute that would save them. This is something that you can't get over
quickly. They had to use their heads constantly to fight against the
odds. Every minute was a struggle to stay alive. One survivor, Meyer
Hack, took a string inside his prison uniform and pulled it every
morning to bring blood to his jaundiced, yellow face. This way he would
not have to face the gas chamber.
DH: Did you find yourself taking on the role of a therapist to these
SD: Who am I to take that role with people that I respect so much. I
think they were grateful someone was doing this. I suppose this was a
catharsis of sorts for them.
DH: You included the work of a lot of local poets in this book. What
does poetry add to this compendium?
SD: A poem often takes a third person perspective. You are taking on a
persona when you are writing. So you become a sort-of first hand
witness. With the images and metaphors that are used by these wonderful
writers, it brings it all home in a very sharp way.
DH: What are your ambitions for this book?
SD: Right now I am doing a lot of readings at synagogues and
libraries. I will also be doing a large reading at the Boston Public
Library on Nov. 6, Borders downtown on Nov. 16 at noon, the Brookline
300 main event at Larz Anderson Park on Nov. 13 which runs from 1-6, as
well as reading at "The Somerville News Writers Festival" later that
night at 7:30 p.m. I have been on Channel 2's "Greater Boston," show
with Emily Rooney, on WBZ and will be on Channel 7 in Oct. I've been in
the Globe, the Jewish Advocate, Somerville News and Spare Change News,
and The Tabs will run a piece in September. My main objective is to get
the information out there.
DH: If there is one message you would want to convey with this book
what would it be?
SD: Wherever you see racism or bigotry stand up and say something. We
really need to be more active and make the world a better place.
For more information on Susie and her book go to
19 Winchester St. Brookline, MA 02446
As a longtime local journalist (Jewish Advocate, Cambridge Chronicle,
weekly TABs), I felt a calling to produce something more meaningful and
longlasting. I was overwhelmingly impressed by the Holocaust survivors
and WWII soldiers I encountered in my reporting. They had not only
rebuilt their lives, but went on to become educators, scientists,
engineers, social workers, nurses, etc., thus contributing to the same
world that had stripped them of every dignity they had known. Their
stories are inspirational, dramatic and provocative.
The soldiers, too (many of whom in the book are not Jewish), patterned
their lives on helping to make the world a better place following the
atrocities they witnessed (i.e. Warren Priest, a Buchenwald liberator,
who after seeing a child die there, went on to run camps for inner-city
boys with Mel King and other local urban activists, which he still does
today in the White Mountains).
The book contains 30 stories, as well as poetry, essays by community
leaders, resources and photos, and is the only such compilation of
Boston-area people. I hope that in a small way, it will help to stem
the tides of racism, intolerance and bigotry that are, along with Holocaust
denial, unfortunately still with us.
Past book readings:
WED., SEPT. 21, 7:30 pm - NEWTON FREE LIBRARY - 330 Homer St.,
617-796-1360 TTY: 617-552-7154,