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What Papa Told Me Paperback – September 13, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Children and grandchildren of survivors also have their stories to tell. As is this one. All are poignant, just as they all are important to the understanding of the Event and its human implications and consequences." -Elie Wiesel, author of Night

"This is the Holocaust testimony of Murray Schwartzbaum, from Szczekociny, Poland, as told to his granddaughter, Felice Cohen. While many such stories are told in the first-person with the help of a family member, Cohen also includes pieces of her conversation with her grandfather, opening the dialogue with the third-generation, a topic not always incorporated into Holocaust testimonies. This touching and heart wrenching story begins when Murray is a child, born in 1921, to a traditional Jewish family. Owners of a family-run lumber company, he has fond memories of his sisters and brother and the "normal" life that they all shared. When the Nazis invaded Poland, Murray's brother escaped to the Soviet Union, while the rest of the family tried to move to Bedzin but quickly learned of the killings of Jews and chose to return to their home. Murray lived most of the war in a series of slave labor camps, eventually being transported to Bergen-Belsen where he found his sister Cecia and learned of the tragic fates of the rest of their family. With his sister's help, Murray survived and together they were liberated by the American army in 1945. They each married a Holocaust survivor and began rebuilding their lives. But the story does not end there. Cohen asks her grandfather about her grandparents' move to the United States and the hardships they faced as Holocaust survivors. Both Murray and his wife Fela were deeply traumatized by what had occurred during the six years of the Nazi occupation. Murray recalled those difficult years and yet the story concludes in an inspiring and uplifting manner, and he explains to Felice the legacy that he has left for her, his other grandchildren, and future generations. This book can be graphic, exposing the horrors of the Nazi atrocities. Teachers should use their discretion when using this with middle-school students, though there is much to be learned from the story. It is written in an easy-to-understand style and tells the story of people their age who lived in an unfortunately devastating time. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to use this with students is its emphasis on talking to grandparents, listening to their stories, and retelling them." - Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center


"Listening to your elders is important. The stories they tell you can help you choose your own path in life. And nobody tells history better than someone who's been there. This book is the life story of Felice Cohen's grandfather, Murray. He grew up in Poland with loving parents and five siblings. When Murray was nineteen, the lot of them were consigned to ghettos or shipped off to German camps. "What Papa Told Me" is primarily Murray's oral history of his experiences in the camps. It took ingenuity, resourcefulness, and plain luck to survive. Clearly, Murray had all of those and an indefatigable spirit. He worked for the Germans for five years of his life combating pestilence, plague, and unimaginable abuse. The secondary portion of this book is how Murray made a life for his family in America afterwards. That combination of skills got him from abject poverty to a successful grocery business and a lovely retirement in Boca. Murray doesn't lecture in his tales. He shines by example and that's the best kind of hero to have."  -Rebecca McFarland Kyle

From the Author

The countless hours my grandfather and I spent together working on this book were worth every minute. I wrote this book - my first - because my grandfather asked me to. The plan was to give copies to just our family, but after it was published it turned into so much more. Two honorable mention book awards, endorsements by Elie Wiesel and Yad Vashem, speaking engagements in numerous states at schools, synagogues and bookstores, schools purchasing the book for their Holocaust curriculum and much more. I'm fortunate to be able to share my grandfather's story with so many people and look forward to doing this for years to come.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Dividends; 1St Edition edition (September 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615372880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615372884
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #788,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mom on September 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thanks for the tears and the memories. This was an incredible book told from a true survivor and his family. I fell in love with Papa, and his courage and the continual sadness of working so hard and getting cheated by so many people. I can't believe you talked with a group of survivors...that alone would be a memory of a lifetime. I am so proud of you and your family. This book will remain in your family for years. I am glad Papa had a chance to tell us all. Tell Papa thanks for sharing a history that we should all be aware of. Also, what a great person he truly is. Sounds like he REALLY cared about his family and still does.
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A compelling story, exceptionally well-told. "What Papa Told Me" is moving and haunting -- and also, maybe strangely, heartwarming because it shows how humanity and humaneness just simply won't be snuffed out even in the face of unspeakable horrors. Murray Schwartzbaum's strength of character, will, and spirit is astounding. This is a story that needs to be read by young people (and older ones, too).
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A powerful piece of work! It is a story about one man, one family and determination to keep on living in the face of adversity. If you are interested in the Holocaust this is a first hand look at how human atrocities affected a real life family. Read this book and walk a mile in "Papa's" shoes.
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Felice Cohen sat with her grandfather Murry Schwartzbaum and listened to the story of his life. This book contains that story in brief, the outline of an extraordinarily complex and difficult reality.
The story is told in a straightforward way. And the events themselves are often so shocking, so incredible so horrifying as to make one once again wonder what it is to be a human being, how human beings can sink on one side to such depths of cruelty and evil, and on the other endure and overcome so much. It also makes one wonder how anyone who survived the horrors of the Nazi era managed to do so and remain sane.
The hero of this book encounters throughout his life tremendous challenges and difficulties. The worst of this is of course the time in which he survives eight different camps. His strong will to survive, his ability to work, his youth, his 'mazal', and his unswerving Jewish religious faith are what carry him through. He is subject to and witnesses incredible cruelties acts of sadistic brutality of the German Nazis and in some of the cases their Romanian assistants.
Schwartzbaum survives the camps weighing seventy- eight pounds when liberated. After a brief period of two years in Germany he eventually comes to America. In America he does not have it easy but it is paradise in comparison to the kinds of evils he has known. Great tragedy however comes to him in America. His wife and the mother of his three - children who is also a survivor cannot bear the memories and the guilt of surviving. Her suicide leaves him alone to care for and raise his three children. Fortunately he meets a widow who is too a survivor and with her goodness as his help he raises his family, and makes a good livelihood in America.
My summary of this book is totally inadequate to it.
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Felice's telling of her grandfather Murray's story is moving & vivid, heartwarming & disturbing, and should be required reading for all high school students. Bless you and your family, Murray.
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Listening to your elders is important. The stories they tell you can help you choose your own path in life. And nobody tells history better than someone who's been there.

This book is the life story of Felice Cohen's grandfather, Murray. He grew up in Poland with loving parents and five siblings. When Murray was nineteen, the lot of them were consigned to ghettos or shipped off to German camps.

"What Papa Told Me" is primarily Murray's oral history of his experiences in the camps. It took ingenuity, resourcefulness, and plain luck to survive. Clearly, Murray had all of those and an indefatigable spirit. He worked for the Germans for five years of his life combating pestilence, plague, and unimaginable abuse.

The secondary portion of this book is how Murray made a life for his family in America afterwards. That combination of skills got him from abject poverty to a successful grocery business and a lovely retirement in Boca.

Murray doesn't lecture in his tales. He shines by example and that's the best kind of hero to have.

Rebecca Kyle, October 2010
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Poignant story told by a third generation survivor of the holocaust. Brought tears to my eyes, allowing me the reader to feel (and second generation survivor) my dad's experiences, and his humanity, as if for the very first and real time. While the subject matter is more horrific, it reads like "Tuesdays with Morrie", except in this case, it's Murray. The author Felice Cohen, validates and punctuates her grandfather's experience's as well as every other suvivor of such atrocities. Written with grace, and wisdom - this book is a must read for all, and I am not just saying that because Murray is my wonderful Dad. Mark Schwartzbaum
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By Rubin on November 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
I could not put this book down until I finished it. It was an amazing story that mirrors the experience of Jews in Europe at that time. Time and time again I look back and remember stories that my grandparents told me about life prior to the war and I realize that these people were made from different stock than we are. Because they were able to go on with life and thrive despite the horrors they lived through.
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