These are the working titles and brief synopses of the planned books in my Shoah series, which I decided to spin off from my Atlantic City books. The first two, about my Dutch Jakob (not to be confused with my Hungarian Jakob), are already completed. About six of them exist as long collections of stories and wraparound narrative backstory, to be expanded and fleshed out into full novels. Parts of Elzbieta/Elizabeth’s story have been incorporated into some of the Max’s House books set at the same time.
I also have a few others planned—one focused on Samuel Roblensky (whom I also have a fairly large story/backstory collection to expand upon), several other books about Jakob and Rachel from the mid-Fifties to the early Eighties, one about Malchen back in Holland in the Fifties and Sixties, and one about an unexpected miracle Malchen experiences in the early Eighties. I’d also like to write one about Wolfram Engel, who went to the camps for violating Paragraph 175, Germany’s anti-gay legislation.
And Jakob Flew the Fiend Away:
Jakob DeJonghe can think of nothing but revenge when the Nazis coerce his father into suicide and his little sister mysteriously disappears the day before Yom Kippur. As conditions in Amsterdam worsen, he remains determined to fight back and be the master of his own destiny. Jakob finally takes action by jumping from a death train, and breaks his foot. Even though Jakob has been left with a permanent limp, he’s still determined to defend his country and track down the men who killed his father. But after a chance meeting with a spirited young woman, he starts to feel the slow reawakening of emotions he thought he’d buried, and he realizes his battle is only half-won. If he ever wants to survive a world that will never be ordinary again, love and not hate will have to carry him through.
And the Lark Arose from Sullen Earth:
Jakob thinks coming to America and reuniting with his beautiful Rachel is a dream come true, but he soon realizes that America’s streets aren’t lined with gold and that people who don’t quite fit in aren’t always treated very nicely. As he’s struggling to adjust to life in America, Rachel struggles with insecurities over how her husband is little more than a stranger. And just when it seems her heart is no longer in turmoil, a new struggle arises—finding a midwife in a country where hospital birth has become the norm. Her search for a midwife isn’t helped by the conformist young wives’ social club she’s been roped into joining, full of women who already look down on her for keeping her surname, wanting to go to college, and enjoying sex.
The Natural Splash of a Living Being:
Malchen credits her unlikely survival at such a young age to Jadwiga, but Jadwiga knows she can only take part of the credit. At home in Amsterdam, with the best of care, Malchen would’ve been dead long ago, but the tiny life force within her refused to go out and put up one final valiant stand, preserving her life till the liberators came with real medicine and food. At twelve and a half years old, she’s survived six camps when so many other age-mates perished. After her long recovery, she’s sent to a Hamburg orphanage. In spite of the depressing existence there and having recurring nightmares, Malchen finds comfort in some new friends, including the orphanage’s compassionate Jewish Army doctor Leo Howard, who slowly helps her to start the long process of healing herself more than just physically.
The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees:
Eszter, Marie, and Caterina feel very lucky they escaped into such a large, lavishly-stocked abandoned house in Germany, but there are holes in their hearts for Jadwiga and Malchen, who didn’t escape with them. But life must go on, and after their liberation and recovery, they find Eszter’s boyfriend Jakob and decide to go to Hungary with him and his best friend Artur. Eszter is delighted to find five of her old friends and one of her sisters alive, but in the years they’ve been apart, her friends have become passionate Zionists and won’t hear of going anywhere but Israel after what they’ve been through. During their journey through Hungary, Italy, and France, as they’re returning to the world of the living and relearning how to do basic things, Eszter’s most ardently Zionist friend Kálmán keeps trying to convince the rest of them to make aliyah too.
Lazarus Lost and Found:
Lazarus will be no one’s prisoner, and undertakes the mammoth journey from Poland back to Amsterdam in February 1944. Along the way, he’s sheltered by a woman in Pirna and a very radical priest in Kassel. During his journey home, and during his postwar years looking for survivors in Germany, living with an adoptive Jewish family in Scotland, and as one of the few people able to sneak into Israel past the British blockade, he never stops thinking about his sweetheart Kätchen in America. But when he’s talking to an old man at the Western Wall, and after watching the classic film Faust, he realizes he’s really been running away from the love that means the most to him.
The Roblenskies’ aunt Etke and her young friend Tekla (Tecia) go home to Poland full of hope after the liberation, but quickly realize they’re no longer welcome. After Etke adopts Tecia, her old friend Bronislaw poses as their respective husband and father to help them leave the country safely, and they settle into life in a German DP camp. Etke is excited to learn one of their neighbors, Zvonimir (Zvonko), was with her oldest nephews Samuel and Jozef. Zvonko tells her Samuel went to Sweden to join some of his siblings after his liberation, but she can find no further information when she follows his lead. Determined to get on with their lives, she and Tecia decide to start over in Israel, but first they’ll have to contend with the British blockade and an internment camp on Cyprus.
Elzbieta is befriended by a young, sympathetic Nazi at Majdanek, Rudolf Schaller, because she’s a dead ringer for his daughter Ernestine, who recently died of scarlet fever. After he smuggles her to Denmark to avoid a planned Aktion, their relationship becomes very complicated and unorthodox. Elzbieta feels very depressed and hopeless for a long time after she’s gone to Sweden on the dead Ernestine’s passport, but when her younger siblings introduce her to a young couple who are also escapees from Poland, she comes up with a way to turn around the situation for a very noble purpose.
Eszter and her friends are taken in by her first-cousin twice-removed Serena in Newark, and go through the alternatingly painful and exhilarating process of adapting to life in America and realizing that they’re a species apart from the Americans who were safe at home during the War instead of struggling day by day just to survive.
Rebuilding of the Remnants:
Kálmán, Klaudia, Aranka, Móric, and Csilla are thrilled to finally be in Israel after the British blockade is finally lifted and to defend their new homeland in the War of Independence. But Móric, now called Mordechai, feels useless because his heart murmur makes him ineligible for military service, and his depression becomes even worse when his wife Aranka, now called Ra’anana, goes missing in action and only the necklace from her great-grandmother can be found. Not only that, but they quickly learn that the reality of life in their newly-reborn homeland doesn’t exactly match up to the fantasies they had in their Hungarian Zionist youth group.
Blessings from Tragedy:
Csilla, now called Ilana, experiences an unthinkable tragedy during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In the wake of this tragedy, an unexpected double blessing arises.
Aliyah After All These Years:
In 2008, Eszter, her friends, her two surviving sisters, and their husbands decide to make aliyah and join their old friends who immigrated in 1948.
No Faith, All Hope:
Isaiah has survived the War in hiding in Holland and in the underground tunnels of Belgium. He’s thrilled to be liberated in September 1944 and return to the world of the living. When he goes back to Amsterdam in the spring of 1945, he finds nothing but dead ends and hears a heartbreaking story about what happened to Juli, whom he believes is probably dead. All during the War, he’s felt his faith in God fading, but hearing the news about Juli clinches it. He returns to Belgium to resume his life and bury the past, a committed atheist. But in spite of his promising new life, he begins feeling guilty about how he’s never gotten in touch with his old friends the Brandts in America.
Newark Love Story:
Only a few days after Jozef moves to Newark at the start of 1952, he meets a beautiful, intellectual Serbian woman named Svetlana. In spite of some initial reservations on both sides, the two are quickly dating and becoming very serious. But Jozef knows Svetlana has some kind of dark secret in her past, and he’s positive it has something to do with what happened to her in the horrific Croatian Jasenovac camp. Is Jozef’s love for Svetlana strong enough to withstand learning about her dark, heartbreaking past?
Malchen and Pali:
No one ever thought skirt-chasing playboy Pali would ever settle down for just one woman, let alone that sweet little Malchen would be the one to steal his heart and make him never want another woman again. But Malchen fears this is all too good to be true and that Pali will leave her once he finds out about what was done to her at Janowska. Pali is desperate to have a bunch of little Weisses, and Malchen knows she can’t have children. Will Malchen ever find the courage to tell him her secret, and will Pali stay or go if he learns his love was sterilized?