on June 3, 2015
"From A Name to A Number" is an autobiography of Alter Wiener’s life before, during and after WWII. He survived 5 concentration camps and weighed 80 pounds when the Russians liberated his camp. It is a compelling, highly thought provoking account of Mr. Wiener’s life. It is appropriate for a wide range of audiences, from the returning military veteran, to a young adult who lives in the shadows of a parent’s or neighborhood’s chaos and violence. This book should be read by everyone. Alter Wiener’s story is a living message of resilience and tolerance.
There is no trace of bitterness in his accounts. Mr. Wiener has the extraordinary ability to see and appreciate the kindnesses that were extended to him. One account inspired an award winning, beautifully illustrated children’s book entitled, “Gifts from the Enemy.” Mr. Wiener has given over 950 live presentations in the last eight years. The author has included in his book a section of letters that have been written to him. After reading these letters, one can begin to realize and appreciate the scope of his impact and why it is so important and precious for Alter Wiener to tell his story and why every one of all ages should read it. Also included in his book, is a section with some of the more commonly asked questions during his presentations. This section is equally fascinating and offers many insights. I highly recommend this book.
I have read his book several times. It is filled with what I would describe as eloquent sage wisdom. When Mr. Wiener was presented with an honorary bachelor degree from Warner Pacific College, he thanked the audience and added what he has learned through the years, “That ignorance is the enemy of mankind. The real property of man is not what he owns but what he knows. Whatever you put into your head, no one can take it away from you. It is the foundation of knowledge that will enrich your life, and not the excesses of consumerism. Hate hatred and remove the term from your vocabulary. Love, for your fellow man, not just the romantic love will contribute to a happy life. Sanction the sanctity of life and enjoy it.”
Presently only six states mandate the teaching of the Holocaust, which is a shame. Schools essentially are the tools that help shape future generations and their leaders. Genocides are continuing to happen. If our society is going to have a chance to survive and flourish, our children must be taught the lessons that Alter Wiener emanates; resilience and tolerance.
Mr. Alter Wiener is a living treasure. He did not speak of his past publicly for many, many decades. He has now made it his mission in life to educate the public so that history does not repeat itself. In his words, “Education is the information that can generate prevention.” Thank you, Mr. Alter Wiener!!!
on March 20, 2011
I think this man is a wonderful human for taking the time out of his life to travel around and speak to different schools and etc. What he say's is right about the Holocaust soon becoming a lost past. Not his exact words but the same meaning. Our surviver's are dieing off and soon we won't have a living piece of history. When I was in school (back in the 70's and 80's) we were never taught about this important part of history. I would love to hear Mr. Wiener speak. This book is written well. He tells of the horrors of the concentration camps, the sadness of loosing family and how he managed to walk out live without loosing his mind! I'm not going to sit here and tell you everything in the book since it's aggravating to me to read a review where the person is telling you EVERYTHING!! I think people need to realize we need reviews not a re-write of a book. Anyway...this book is well worth the money and you will not be disappointed with it. It's very educational. God Bless Mr. Wiener and I hope he will continue to tell everyone about the holocaust. It's amazing how big a heart this man has after going through so much. He's a living testimony to what having faith in God can do. :) (Please excuse any typos)
on March 19, 2012
From A Name to A Number, and its wonderful author, took me by surprise. I found this book thanks to the many (well deserved) positive reviews while searching for a Holocaust memoir that described not only the author's experiences during the Holocaust but how that person persevered after liberation. When I began the book I was simply curious, but I was quickly drawn into this heart-wrenching journey with Alter and reading his book, from his happy childhood through his unbearably lonely and painful adolescence in Nazi labor and concentration camps to his mirthless liberation and struggle to rebuild his life, became a very emotional and life-changing experience.
The book is divided into two parts: The first half is his autobiography, from a small child through his retirement and move to Oregon. The second half of the book consists of letters and comments he's received while sharing his story with schools and other organizations, his answers to the many questions he's been asked over the years, and finally a neatly summarized, bulleted list of the horrors he experienced during the Holocaust. While the first half of the book is the most interesting, I urge you to read the second half. It contains many additional facts about his life and his well-informed thoughts on many aspects of World War II and beyond.
What makes Mr. Wiener's story so amazing is that he tells is with utter truth and vulnerability. He shares every emotion with us, and it's clear that he is feeling them with us as he writes it. His pain is still as raw today as it was in 1939 when he saw his murdered father's decomposed body in a mass grave, a self-described turning point in his life, to when he returned to his hometown in Poland after his liberation only to discover his home occupied by non-Jewish neighbors, most of his family and friends gone, and an air of hostility toward surviving Jews.
It's because he was willing to share himself so completely with the reader that Alter's story is so impactful. Rarely have I experienced a memoir where the author was brave enough to talk about the disappointments, as well as the triumphs, in his marriage and family. I was surprised and troubled to read that Alter's children and grandchildren aren't interested in his past. It's painful to hear about people who denounce, try to minimize, or simply don't care and don't learn about the horrors of the Holocaust; it's disrespectful to victims and survivors. The fact that Alter's children and grandchildren are disinterested must be very difficult for him. I've had the honor to get to know Alter since first reading his book. He is such a remarkable person. He could have been bitter or hateful, but instead he's kind, gentle, open to others, and doesn't judge anyone. I'm very impressed that after his education ended when he was 13 and his family was murdered, and after being beaten, humiliated and starved for three years in slave labor camps as a teenager, he was able to function at all, much less build a good life for himself and his family. I am amazed that, without the support of his family, he finds the strength to tell his story to live audiences over and over again. I am about the age of his grandchildren; I would be proud and honored to call Alter my grandfather!
I'll be urging everyone I know to read this book. It's so important that we ensure that the injustice done to an innocent group of people is not forgotten. Entire towns, cultures, ways of life were wiped out, due to ignorance and hatred. It's imperative that we as humans don't forget the pain and suffering this caused, and feel the sorrow, so we make sure it doesn't happen again.
on December 18, 2015
Mr. Wiener shares HIS deeply personal story with both a candidness and tender respect for those who cannot speak anymore. In my life ( as an white educated middleclass westerner) I have experienced no brutality, no imprisonment, no ideological barriers. I have never been hungry, homeless, beaten into silence, nor a witness to the countless murders of those I both love and those who were made a mere number. Frankly, I must choose to make myself focus on the facts of the greatest shame in all of our human history- It is simply too horrific to grasp. Thank you, Mr. Wiener, for sifting through your personal nightmare- sharing both the profound beauty and incomprehensible cruelty that has defined your life. Thank you for choosing the beauty. Thank you for proclaiming the truth. Thank you for using your voice to proclaim what millions could not. This story is a treasure- as are you!
on January 9, 2008
I met Alter in an assisted care facility where my mother was staying in Hillsboro, Oregon. I took my high school history class from Heritage Christian School to visit with World War II survivors as part of their research. Little did these students guess that in that experience, they would meet a man who had survived the horrific conditions of the Holocaust in Poland. What is significant about this book is that students who haven't met Alter can still feel like they are talking with him as he accounts in a realistic, honest and personable style his life story.
I was especially impressed by Alter's early years and his presentation of his family. He stresses this ordinary family life that relates to most of us. He pictures his grandparents, his father, his brother, and most of all his stepmother Rachel. "Rachel deemed God her father in heaven and trusted him as a secure child trusts a dependable parent. Rachel never flaunted her own virtues and never derided others. She was inordinately kind, and would rather listen than talk." He goes on to quote one of her mottoes. "We were given two ears, but only one tongue..." Mr. Wiener reveals that Rachel never cursed the German oppressors, and that her values were instilled in him as a child. When Alter's father was killed, as a stepmother she could have walked away, but she stayed with her family of children and made no distinction between her stepchildren and her own child. That this marvelous, loving, forgiving woman should have died along with all her paternal and maternal families in the Holocaust dramatically underlines the tragedy. Students know that six million people died in the Holocaust, but with Rachel they see one fine human being who was killed, an innocent and good person who did not deserve to die. This is a moment of realization and the full impact of the Holocaust becomes personal.
Students have a special connection with Alter. He has a way of inspiring them to appreciate their blessings in contrast to the sadistic work camp he was forced to endure that denied him his family, his health, his dignity as well as his education. Young people can see how he has overcome terrible obstacles. He shows them the privilege of education.
He shows them the blessings of having food on the table. He shows them the significance of family. Many a parent has written Alter about the changes that have happened to their child when they read about his story.
He includes in his book some of the letters he collected to show those connections with people and how their lives have been changed.
Alter Weiner has profoundly influenced my students. His experiences relate to theirs, and he gives them hope and an assurance that they can overcome difficult circumstances. I would hope that other students would have an opportunity to read this book as well. Teachers like to have literature that inspires as well as teaches. Whether a teacher of history or English, this book gives a personal touch that comes from
a man telling about his life. His loss of family could have made him forever prejudice against German people, but his example of the German woman that gave him a sandwich shows that you can't judge anyone by their nationality. The student learns much more than just history in this book, but about the greatness of the human spirit that can find forgiveness in the worst of circumstances, and can find goodness that emerges beyond prejudice.
Cascade High School
on March 2, 2016
"From a Name to a Number" is a life-changing book. It is a story everyone should know, and should be a mandatory read worldwide! As a survivor of the Holocaust and the Nazi concentration camps, Alter Wiener tells a story of unthinkable horror with grace, dignity, courage and humor. He is a shining example of the best of humanity. And he teaches us lessons we all need for a better world view and a better understanding of ourselves. If I could give it 100 stars I would. Do yourself a favor, get this book, read it and take it into your heart. This book also inspired a children's book called "Gifts from the Enemy" by Trudy Ludwig. It teaches children humanity, love and acceptance. Another "must have."
on December 30, 2011
In considering the magnitude and severity of the suffering that he endured at the hand of the Nazis, I was very impressed with the level of insight and objectivity that Alter Wiener was able to maintain. On page twelve he reflects upon the influence with which his own father had upon him. "Father worked long hours," I quote from the chapter entitled My Father, Mordechai Wiener; "to provide us with a decent living. We never heard a single complaint about his heavy workload. I remember him quoting Psalm 128, Verse 2; 'When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy.' He valued hard work, honesty, patience, thrift, charity, and tenacity. His sacred values were faith, justice, and love for fellow man." This quote speaks volumes of the character of Alter Wiener's father, as well as Alter Wiener's capability to recognize the significance of the foundation that his father set forth for him. Within this book, Alter Wiener not only addresses the issue of the actions imposed upon him which were beneath contempt, but the lessons and the insights which he was able to derive from the indignities and sufferings imposed upon him.
on April 5, 2016
I attended the PPS Focus on Film and Diversity event on March 4th. I was inspired by Alter's presentation. I took his book with me on our trip to Dubai, U.A.E. and found myself constantly looking for five minutes to stop and open the book and read a few more pages. At the Dubai museum I told the group to go on ahead w/out me and I sat outside and devoured 50 pages. A few days later we were in Abu Dhabi walking the boardwalk (parallel to Corniche St.). While three of them went to find a bathroom, again I raced to sit down and read another fifteen pages. It was the section where a letter exchange had occurred and the man's advice to Alter was to slow down and embrace precious moments. As I sat and listened to the birds chirping, the waves crashing, the smell of fresh air, and the radiance of sunshine, I realized how unusual it was for me to rest and appreciate nature and our senses. When they returned, I quickly read this passage to them. Fast forward a few weeks. One month to the day, I had the privilege of hearing Alter tell his story again...at our school in front of 500 people. I introduced him to the audience of students, staff, and community members, stating that his story ranks at the top for me. I've heard hundreds if not a thousand people...who made me laugh, cry, think, or a combination of all three. But in my biased opinion, Alter is distinguished from the others for three reasons: First, his theme of eliminating hate, vengeance, and intolerance. Second, he helps people who were unaware of this important piece of our history. Third, his message aligns with our district's goal which is to eliminate barriers (disparities) with the intentions of helping every child maximize his/her potential. His email to me, five hours after we left him home (4am), was the icing on the cake. He wrote: "Thank you for enabling me to share my life story with you and your students. I was pleased to notice their respectful behavior and the degree of their attentiveness." We sold 101 of his books that night. The irony is, when I told him to bring the five boxes (110), he responded, "Are you always this ambitious?" I answered, "I know a good thing when I read it". Thank you Alter...Mr. Wiener...My friend and inspiration! :-)
on September 16, 2015
Reading From A Name to A Number changed how I live my own life and how I teach my students. I have had the opportunity to read Mr. Wiener’s book and to hear him speak several times. The horrors he experienced in his life are incomprehensible to me. I am continually amazed at his willingness to share his life story when it is so painful. Yet, I know he wrote his book and continues to speak in public because he believes in the value of sharing his experiences with the larger community in hopes that it will inspire others to act in a more kind, forgiving way. Personally, his life story has helped me to gain perspective, especially when I am experiencing difficulties in my own life. He has made me value the country I was born in, the education I have received, and the friends and family with whom I have been blessed. I see the same appreciation in my students. He has inspired them to consider their own actions – they are more careful with their words, and they confront unjust acts when they see them. Thanks to Mr. Wiener, I find my students are more compassionate and empathetic. They not only care about what is happening in their own lives, but they are interested in events taking place all over the globe. They want to ensure that the rights and dignity of others are respected. I know that Mr. Wiener’s life story has helped to mold a future generation of benevolent, fair-minded leaders.
on February 21, 2012
I was moved by Alter Weiner's story of courage and a willingness to persevere. His heartbreaking self account of the horrors of the Holocaust leave his readers inspired to never let his story die. His fluid writing style and his attention to detail are an enjoyable surprise to anyone who reads historical narratives. Weiner is a wonderful speaker and continues to tell his story to audiences today. As a high school history teacher, I'm thankful to survivors like Alter who painfully share their story out of compassion and a genuine concern to educate. Dave Fluke, Dayton High School Teacher