Author Interview with Joseph Krygier
Victor Breitburg is a survivor of the Lódz Ghetto, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Rhemsdorf and Theresienstadt concentration camps. He was liberated with a group known as “The Boys”. Their experiences have been documented in Sir Martin Gilbert’s Book, The Boys:Triumph Over Adversity. Victor and many of “The Boys” are still in contact with one another, although as it is with WWII veterans, their numbers are slowly diminishing.
Victor’s journey from Lódz, to the camps in Europe, to England, Scotland and the United States and his new life in America is the story told in this volume.
Victor completed studies in America, became a successful businessman and an accomplished lecturer on the Holocaust, having received numerous awards and citations for his role as an educator.
He is a widower, having been married to his beloved wife Lucille for sixty years.
He currently lives in Coconut Creek Florida, and at 84 years old, occasionally speaks on Yom HaShoa. He has written some poems, short stories and is considering a novel based on the early days of the Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service. Victor has two daughters, Denise and Myra. Denise is married to Mark and they have two children, Maya and Eli.
Stephanie: Hello, Joseph. It is an honor to be speaking to you today about your story. But first, please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?
Joseph: I believe it was listed in a regular email newsletter from Book Baby. Book Baby did the formatting and does the distribution for the ePub versions of the book.
Stephanie: Your book begins with an introduction to the historical nature of the Holocaust and Genocide. Was it difficult to write and what would you like your readers going into this story to know about some of the historic aspects that they might not be aware of?
Joseph: It was not particularly difficult to write, because the subject matter was not new to me. I have been studying the Holocaust to one degree or another since I was in Junior High School. Being accurate with quotes, events and context was absolutely essential. For example, I mentioned to someone about a Ukrainian SS officer in relation to a part of Victor’s story. This individual was adamant that SS were only Germans. Of course, I documented in a footnote that proved there were contingents of SS that were not German. The horror of it all never diminishes, but when you are going to write about any historical event that touches so many lives in so many ways, you have to have an objectivity as you enter that arena, no matter how dark the subject matter may be.
I deliberately added some things in the introduction to the book that even some of my Jewish friends were not aware of, especially the conflict between Orthodox Rabbis and Zionists during the days of the ghettos and the selections concerning those who would be removed from the ghettos and those who would remain. The vitriol between these two groups is difficult to imagine under the circumstances.
Many people have no idea about the nature of genocide or how long it has been practiced, so I gave a small listing of some prior to the Holocaust and more recent ones as well. I believe some readers may be very surprised that our own government did not have a formal policy or statement concerning genocide until a Presidential Directive on Mass Atrocities was released on August 4, 2011.
Stephanie: Please give me a little background information on Victor’s family? What did his parents do before the war and how many siblings did Victor have?
Joseph: Victor’s father, David, was a successful tailor and his mother reared the children. Occasionally, when needed, she helped out in the shop, even though there were from two to five employees as the business grew. Victor had a younger brother, Felek, and a younger sister, Sarah.
Stephanie: What is an example of what life was like city of Lodz?
Joseph: Lódz was a very busy industrial city. It attracted people from neighboring countries, particularly Germany and its population was largely constituted of Germans and Jews along with the Polish population. In Lódz, people of different nationalities and religions shared the same dream of success. Despite the differences they were able to build the city together. It was known as “a promised land” and “a city of many cultures”. Before WWI it was the one of the most densely populated industrial cities in the world. After the war, numbers of Germans left once Poland regained its independence. The strong textile industry struggled economically as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution and the war it fought with Russia after WWI and the civil war in Russia after WWI. Of course the worldwide depression also took its toll.
Some very notable inhabitants of Lódz include Arturo Rubenstein, the great pianist; Jan Karksi, the anti-Nazi resistance leader and Max Factor, the famous make-up artist and cosmetics man, among many others.
Stephanie: For those who don’t know, what was political Poland’s role in the war and what are some examples of the treatment of its citizens?
Joseph: Hitler targeted Poland for total domination. Poland was conquered via the Blitzkrieg that began on September 1, 1939. Hitler’s excuse for attacking Poland is well documented as a staged attack on a German radio station in Gleiwitz by using a concentration camp prisoner, who was found dead in a Polish uniform.
Lódz was the first Germanized city of the New Reich outside of Germany. The name was changed to Litzmannstadt, after Karl Litzmann a famous WWI general. All of the businesses were Germanized and all the street names were Germanized. The original intent was to expel all of the Jews and to use all of the remaining Poles as slave labor. This was Hitler’s intent for the whole country, but this was a good place to start. Hitler and his leaders had declared their intentions for the Polish people even before he was targeting the Jews of Poland. Of course, this is why intelligentsia, educators, priests and others who may have represented leadership of any kind in the country were rounded up and executed as an early part of the invasion. Poles were being sent to Auschwitz, along with other kinds of prisoners from outside Poland, before it was used as a death camp for Jews. Believe it or not, when Auschwitz I was first being built, the Nazis planned to build a model modern residential area for incoming Germans, including schools, playing fields, and other types of facilities.
Once the ghettos were established–Lódz was the first one and was the last to be dismantled–Poles would be summarily executed if they discovered helping Jews in any way.
Stephanie: Is there a particular message in your story you would like your readers to grasp?
Joseph: “Never Again” and “What You Do Matters” have become mottos for places like the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. and Yad Vashem in Israel. Part of the message is that if you can grasp or in some way be moved, motivated or challenged by Victor’s story, which is representative of millions of stories throughout history including what is occurring right now in Africa and the Middle East, you won’t turn a blind eye or just shrug your shoulders and say, “What can I do?” There is always something that can be done. We may not think it will change the world, but it may influence one person, and that is a success. I have a line in my play, Chagrined, based on the book, which will be finished soon. It says, “Let me ask you something … if even for one moment you could do something to change the world … would you do it for yourself or for others?”
Stephanie: Were there any challenges in writing your story?
Joseph: The difficulty was taking some autobiographical sketches that Victor had published on the JewisGen website, the hours of interviews and researching newspaper articles concerning Victor and writing it all in a format that would tell his story in an interesting manner and keep a narrative flow that wanted you to keep reading. From comments we have received, I believe that goal was accomplished. Some have said that even though they know the book is a memoir, it read like a novel. I wanted to keep Victor’s story in the context of the big picture of that time period as well and the same with his post-war life in England and America. I did not want it to be, “Hello, my name is Victor Breitburg and this is what happened to me … so cry or laugh if you want to.”
Stephanie: What genre does this fall under?
Joseph: It is a cross over between an autobiography/biography and a memoir. Stylistically it contains elements of all three. It also is a history and art book, the way we have used the introduction and the images sculpted by D.K. Lubarsky and photographed by David Lubarsky.
Stephanie: How has writing this story affected your life and maybe the lives of others?
Joseph: Getting to know Victor, including his daughters and many other people has been such a tremendous privilege. The friendship between Victor and myself is the heart of it all. That is why I had to write an appendix for the book called, Victor and Me. It has led to opportunities to share his life with others and to teach about the Holocaust in various settings and to be a participant in the Belfer National Conference for Holocaust Educators the past two years. I am now working with the WWII Museum in Eldred, Pa. to help develop their Holocaust Exhibit and to do some lecturing there and I am willing to do the same for any group or organization. Others have shared with me, and it is evident from the reviews we have received on Amazon, that Victor’s story has been meaningful to them.
Stephanie: Is there another book you are currently working on?
Joseph: First of all, I am in the final stages of writing the play. Actually there are three books. One is a Holocaust related book that takes a closer look at the religious persecution of Jews by “Christians” throughout history, especially during Medieval times and challenges some of the terminology used to describe that persecution to give it a clearer historical context in light of state church sanctioned persecution by Rome as opposed to persecution by “Christians”. I am also working on a theological work that looks at the various views of who Jesus is/was from other religious points of view and to what both the OT and NT writings say. The last is a novel about the relationship between two soldiers fighting together in Poland during WWI: a Jew and a Christian.
Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?
Joseph: It is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for print editions. Both sites as well as 11 others carry the book in ePub format. I sell the books directly, if anyone would like a signed copy. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and our website is www.tolifeink.com. We have interviews with Victor, D.K. Lubarsky, other survivors and many links that are Holocaust related and my Memorial Day talk at the Museum is also online there.
Victor and Joseph
Pastor of New Covennat Baptist Fellowship http://www.ncbf.us. Teaching weekly and performing other pastoral duties and responsible for organizing and teaching at All Things New Conference and Think Tanks from 2007 to present. Also frequent guest speaker on local televison program. Taught seminars in Australia in 2007. From 2009 to the present serve as the Director of our overseas ministry in the Philipines. Theodoulos provides ongoing theological and practical training ( for people from various backgrounds) for pastors, leaders and others and we are preparing to offer free public school education as partners in a government program called the Moral Transformation Program. We are also in the final stages of opening our Theology School, which will be taught on site and online by me and other staff members. I travel to the Philippines twice a year at present. We are also engaged in disaster relief on Mindanao Island, our home base, and Leyte, since Yolanda, working with the WWII Museum in Eldred, Pa. to continue to develop their permanent Holocaust Exhibit. I was the guest speaker at the inaugural for the exhibit on Memorial Day, 2014. Helping to develop curriculum and teaching at the Museum for special Holocaust programs, workshops and teaching students who make field trips to the Museum Our book, A Rage To Live:Surviving The Holocaust So Hitler Would Not Win, on Holocaust survivor and educator, Victor Breitburg, is on display at the museum in the Holocaust Exhibit and in their library. Our book is in the Yad Vashem Library, The Imperial War Museum Library, The USHMM Library, the St.Petersburg Holocaust Museum Library, Buffalo, N.Y. Holocaust Rsearch Center, and the library at the Holocaust Media Studies Center Atlantic University, Boca Raton Florida. I am also writing a play, Chagrined, based on the book http://www.tolifeink.com.
Twenty years as a pastor/chaplain, curriculum writer, program co-ordinator at Buffalo City Mission doing drug and alcohol counseling which included life management classes (time management, job search, financial planning, among other things)Taught pastoral/leadership, adult, young adult and teen seminars in Canada, Poland, Ukraine, and Romania. Much of that work was through a large internatinal organization, Word of Life. I have worked with translators in 8 different languages. Taught studies and workshops at national and regional conferences on multi-ethnic and urban issues in urban America and how churches need to respond to changes within our culture. Written articles in two monthly newspapers on these topics and served as managing editor.
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Joseph Krygier, who is the author of, A Rage To Live, of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, A Rage To Live, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.