2nd Annual Holocaust Remembrance Day Event Guest Speaker: Me!

Joseph Kempler

 

April 7 is a special day for me and Joe. This year we were invited to speak at the Second Annual Holocaust Remembrance Day event at the University of Nevada, Reno. This is event is sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in partnership with the University’s Interfaith Students Club. We were invited to speak on the theme Genocide. We have been generously given twenty-five minutes in which I will speak for ten minutes about Joe’s history and the six concentration camps he was imprisoned in as well as a plug for Joe’s memoir THE ALTERED I. Then I thought it would be neat if Paul (Joe’s youngest son) would speak for five minutes on what it was like to have a Holocaust survivor as a father and how genocide has affected his life as a second generation Holocaust survivor. And the crowning jewel of our presentation: Joe will have ten minute for a Question and Answer session. I think this will be a stupendous opportunity to spread Holocaust awareness as well as share Joe’s story. I’m nervous but happy and greatly honored that we were asked to speak at this important event.

 

OLLI_Holocaust_Flier_March21_14

Joseph Kempler to Give Holocaust Presentation at the Washoe County Northwest Library

Front Cover-Altered I 3rd revision

Saturday, April 5 from 2-4 p.m. Joseph Kempler and myself will be on hand for a special presentation at the Washoe County Northwest Reno Library.  I will give a brief biography of Joseph’s life as well as a description and overview of the six concentration camps Joseph was imprisoned in. Also, Joseph will be available for a Question and Answer session. In the background, projected onto a screen, will be a photograph display of some of Joseph’s family pictures. Books will be available for purchase and signing. We are excited to share Joseph’s amazing story of survival, of faith lost and regained, and of family bonds strengthened.

About THE ALTERED I:

Joseph Kempler is eleven years old in 1939, when World War II begins. German soldiers have invaded his hometown of Krakow, Poland. Forced with his family to leave their home, business, and belongings, Joseph embarks upon an adventure that will change his life forever. Joseph survives six concentration camps, some of them death camps, from the ages of fourteen to seventeen. Along the way he abandons family and faith. He curses God for allowing the Holocaust to happen and becomes an atheist. When he arrives at the concentration camp Melk, he encounters, from a distance, an unusual brand of Christians. He is told they are called Bibelforscher, Bible Students. He is astounded to see these Aryan’s imprisoned in the same concentration camp as Jews. He is further shocked when he learns that they can leave the camp anytime, all they have to do is renounce their faith by signing a document. But they won’t do it. This leaves and indelible impression on young Joseph’s mind. Many years later, after emigrating to America, Joseph encounters representatives of this group when they knock on his door. Always curious about their faith he questions them and ultimately converts to Christianity. THE ALTERED I chronicles Joseph’s life and the circumstances leading to his life altering decision, while shining new light on an untold story of the Holocaust.

About the author:

Born in Southern California, April Kempler currently resides in her “adopted” city of Reno, Nevada. She lives with her husband, who doubles as her editor-in-chief. April Kempler’s first book entitled The Altered I, a Holocaust Memoir, is a first-person narrative about the Holocaust. April loves reading, a habit she picked up as a child. Instead of playing with the other kids, she could be found with her nose in a book.  She reads a variety of genres, but is especially drawn to historical fiction.

When Kempler is not writing or reading, she assists her husband in their window treatment design business answering the telephone, making appointments and helping to install gorgeous draperies on naked windows.
Where to purchased The Altered I online: Amazon.com and Google play.

Cutting Room Floor Excerpts: The Old Synagogue

This excerpt was originally in the beginning of my manuscript. It was my opener for the book. I had this vision that as Joe was telling his story to his family, the reader would also be transported back in time to the days of young Josef. I scrapped all that and got right into the story. I’m not sure this part really fits with the rest of the book anyway. I do like it though, and wanted to share with you. There is something intriguing about a curator who lovingly restores a a synagogue for no one but himself, even going so far as to create a Disneyfication of an old Jewish town, or as Joe puts it, “a dead town.”

The Old Synagogue

Two blocks from my family’s apartment on B street, stands the old synagogue where I used to worship with Tatuś. The Nazis destroyed every temple and synagogue in Krakow during the war, but this synagogue has been renovated and converted into a museum showing what the Jewish culture used to be like in the Old Town. I’m traveling with my sons, daughter and grandson and I want to show them this place, however it is a tricky business, my daughter and grandson are Jewish while I and my two sons are Christian. We have two seemingly contrasting points of view, but the synagogue is important to my history and I can’t pass by without peeking inside.

As we enter the synagogue there is a table with Yarmulkes–black skull caps used to cover the head while inside the synagogue. It is forbidden for Jews to enter the synagogue with their heads bared. Since I no longer practice Judaism I didn’t want to wear a Yarmulke. My oldest son David, picked one up, then put it back down on the table. The curator, Mr. J looked at us in puzzlement. I didn’t want to offend him so I explained that my faith didn’t allow me to take this action. Normally he wouldn’t let any male enter with a bare head, but taking into consideration my history and why we were here he made an exception. He allowed us to enter and tour while he described to us in Polish the various details about the synagogue. To my knowledge there are few religious Jews in Krakow. I feel disappointed that so few people will see the beauty of this building, not too many take the time to visit. It’s a shame because Mr J has put so much time, money and energy into restoring the synagogue.

Mr. J explains to us how he is in charge of Jewish activities in Krakow. I look at him as a do-gooder who keeps projects alive that protect the Jewish reputation and promote the Jewish culture. He describes how his mother couldn’t worship at her synagogue during the Nazi occupation, it had been destroyed, but instead she worshiped at the church and said in her heart, “Well, God is somewhere here anyway.”

I look at him in awe. He works around Krakow restoring synagogues and cemeteries to their former glory. But I have to wonder to what purpose? The buildings and architecture are beautiful, but my impression of this particular visit is powerful, and different for reasons other than  one might expect. Although it’s my history, my memories, my family traditions, I can’t help thinking this is a dead town for Jews. Whatever is being done here is for tourists. Soon there will be more synagogues than Jews in Krakow. Is he really restoring a dead town? There are fronts of buildings with signs and names on them, but there is nothing inside except candles burning. It is for show, it isn’t real. I remember this as a lively part of town with over 60,000 Jews. There was culture, music, theater, Jews enjoying their lives, now there is nothing. Nothing for me anyway.

THE ALTERED I available on Amazon.com and LeRue Press.

Related Post Excerpt on Wash Day.

Genocide Blog post.

How Genocide Affects My Family

Joe in uniform

Joe in uniform

Recently I was invited to speak at a Holocaust Remembrance Day event at the University of Nevada, Reno. The actual days of remembrance for 2014 begin on April 27. But there are a lot of reminders going on throughout the month. The theme for the event I will be speaking at, however, is Genocide.

In preparing my speech I pondered having my husband share his personal side of the story. I’m not one to hog the limelight! Ask anybody, I’m not a public speaker, but since the release of THE ALTERED I, I have had to step out of every comfort zone I may possess and become what I need to in order to promote awareness for the book. But I digress. The reason I thought of Paul is because it is his family that is directly affected by genocide. Who else could talk more freely on the subject?

What he said touched me. He talked about how if his father hadn’t survived he would never have been born. He said he lost his connection to his father’s side of the family, no grandparents to share summer vacations with or school report cards. He only had  one bitter old aunt who survived the Holocaust, his father’s eldest sister, but refused to share her ordeal and who looked out at the world with anger in her eyes. Because of genocide his father disconnected emotionally from his wife and children.

Conversely had his father not gone through the Holocaust at all Paul might not have been born anyway. So it is interesting to think that because of genocide Paul is alive. Not to say we welcome genocide, but life really does hang by a fragile thread, it’s a miracle when you think about it.

In this country we are relatively free from the impact of genocide, but we have other things. Perhaps PTSD  from some traumatic experience. Who hasn’t been touched by the war in Afghanistan? Every day I see commercials on TV asking for donations for wounded warriors returning home to their families. There is a lot of trauma that goes on behind closed doors. We aren’t aware of what people in our neighborhoods are really dealing with in their lives.

So even if genocide hasn’t directly affected you, I’m sure you’ve been affected by some trauma. How are you coping? Will this year’s annual Holocaust observance inspire you? What will you learn? What will you change?

I love hearing from you! Please leave comments in the area below.

Related article on inheriting stress genes.

Cutting Room Floor Excerpts: Wash Day, or Did You Know an Iron had a Soul?

Introduction

Every manuscript must undergo the dreaded editing process, THE ALTERED I is no exception. In the process some of my favorite parts had to be cut from what would be the finished product. Either the narrative seemed completely random, or meandering, or just didn’t fit anymore within the story. This is called Killing Your Darlings.

However, as I was killing some of the darling parts, in the back of my mind I was planning a resurrection of sorts. I surmised that a lot of it could be re-purposed in a blog format. So I didn’t mind that a lot of superfluous stuff had to go, I always knew somehow I would bring it to light again.

I leave it to you Dear Reader to decide for yourself whether any of if should be on display. But, if you are a fan of the book and a big fan of Joe and just want to know more about him or his life, then here is an opportunity to see all the bits I left out. Please bear in mind these are unedited excerpts.

I’ll be blogging some of the excerpts from time to time and I hope you enjoy them, if not, well then killing them out of the book was the way to go.

Today I’ll be starting with one of my favorite parts (they are all my favorite parts!) cut from the manuscript. The scene is from an early time in Joseph’s life. He is not even school age yet. Wash day may seem trivial in the context of the subject of the Holocaust, but to me it is basic and yet endearing. It sheds light on a way of life no longer known, and it pictures a mother and child in the course of their work-a-day life. Also, it makes me thankful for my beautiful front loading side-by-side washer and dryer.

Joseph Kempler and his older sister Dziunka (Judy)  Laub

Joseph Kempler and his older sister Dziunka (Judy) Laub

Excerpt

Too young to be a part of the adult world my sister lived in, I was left to the world of weekly house chores with Mamusia. As a constant companion to Mamusia there was always the tasks of cooking, cleaning, mending, shopping, and of course the especially tedious task of laundering. Laundering was a multiple step process that required the partnership of  Mamusia and her maid Marysia and several days to finish the job. 

All the cleaning supplies, including the immense  wooden bucket,  had to be hauled down from the attic to the kitchen. As a small child I would sit on a stool and observe the whole, long process. An active child, I became bored and restless. I searched the house for something, a magazine or newspaper, anything I could get my little hands on to escape the tedium of laundry day.

Because the wooden bucket was large, and all the paraphernalia involved in the cleaning process scattered about, there was no room in the kitchen. It was so time consuming and space invading I don’t know when there was time for cooking anything. Perched precariously on the stool I had a good view of all the laundry action, but it wasn’t the safest place for a child. One time I was too near the rushed activity and some boiling hot water splashed on the back of my knees and I howled in pain. 

Once the boiling process was finished Mamusia and Marysia left the wash to sit in the bucket of soapy water overnight. The next day the duo took the wash out and poured warm water into the bucket, then they placed the laundry back in the bucket and scrubbed the linens up and down on a washboard. Then it was left again overnight with the starch in it. On the third day after the starching, a bluing agent would be added to the laundry to whiten it. Afterwards the clothing and linens had to be rinsed and wrung dry, placed in a basket and hauled up three stories to the clothesline in the attic. I didn’t like the attic, especially during the colder months. It was drafty and I shivered constantly.

The laundry was kept on the clothesline until dry. This could take up to two days. Once it was dry it was all taken down and brought to a place of business where they had a machine called a mangler. This machine had large wooden rollers. The laundry was wrapped around the rollers and then it was rolled back and forth to soften the fabric. Once the mangler had done its job then the laundry was taken back home to be ironed.

The iron itself appeared to be a living being, it even had a chamber called the soul. The soul was removable and placed on red hot coals. Once heated the soul was placed in the outer housing of the iron. Mamusia had two souls going at once. While one soul was inside the iron, the other was heated on the coals. I noticed that there was a certain tricky technique involved with the iron. There had to be just the right amount of heat otherwise if it was too hot it would burn the clothing. Most of the time time she used a wet cloth on top of the garment. Mamusia licked her finger and touched the iron to test the temperature. To me it seemed in order not to burn the clothing or linens, ironing was almost a science in itself. 

End

Want to read more from THE ALTERED I? Click on LeRue Press. Also available on Amazon and Google Play.

Why This Day is Important to Remember: International Holocaust Remembrance Day

P1000702

Usually I post on Wednesday, no rhyme or reason, but today I’m posting on this very important day. Why is it so important you may ask? On this day sixty-nine years ago the concentration camp known as Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops. The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Through education it may be possible to eradicate such genocides from happening again. However, the Holocaust isn’t really ancient history. We see genocides taking place the world over: Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur and Syria. It seems the world isn’t paying attention.

Paul tells me he is planning on remembering this day as a celebration that he is alive. If his father hadn’t survived the Holocaust there would be no children, no future offspring, no chance of life. For that I’m personally grateful. So I will remember this day as a day of life too.

While Joseph Kempler wasn’t in Auschwitz, his train did briefly stop there. As Joseph puts it, “The Nazis were too busy burning Hungarian Jews so they didn’t have room for us.” Haunting.

Joseph was still in the camp of Melk in Austria. He still had a death march of some ten days ahead him and a month or so barely surviving in yet another concentration camp before he would experience liberation. When it came in May, by Patton’s Third  Army, it was nearly too late. Joseph had withered away to a mere sixty pounds and was lying in his bunk awaiting death. The call of food roused him from his state of  inertia. But when he arrived at the place the bread was stored it had already been consumed by other starving prisoners.

By some miracle Joseph survived.

How will you remember this day?

What Does Joe Think About His Book?

I get asked this question a lot.

Honestly, I didn’t know. Until yesterday. Most of you are aware that Joe suffers from the abominable disease Alzheimer’s. This disease makes communication with the person who has it almost impossible. So I didn’t really know what Joe thought of his book. When we worked on it together it was mainly to get the facts and chronological order correct. Beyond that he didn’t say “yea” or “nay.” As is my way, I would cross that bridge when I got to it.

When asked, “What does Joe think about the book?” I usually said what was customary: he likes it. He says it’s the best book he’s ever read. . . of course it’s about HIM! Then I would chuckle.

Yesterday was different. Joe was sharp. He started conversations, he answered questions. He was polite! He said, “Yes please,” and “Thank you.”

Ever since the book came out he has been asking to read it. He is a little obsessed. He has his very own copy, but I have no idea where it is. I only know whenever he comes over to my house he asks if  there is one he can read.

Yesterday he played a new trick on me. He said he had a dream about which point of view the book was written. Was it first or third person? Did I have a book lying around that he could look at so he could settle his mind on that issue? Coincidentally, I had a few, but they were all spoken for. Getting books has been problematic for this author. Orders on Amazon must be fulfilled first, then after any other orders I can have what I want, but only in limited quantities. So I was hesitant to let him look at any books I had. They weren’t there for him to rifle through!

There was one book though, designated to a dear close friend of the family, an older woman, and I knew she wouldn’t mind in the least if Joe thumbed through her book. I sat him down at the table, made sure his hands were clean and gave him very specific instructions: don’t lick your fingers to turn the page, don’t blow your nose over the book, and don’t crease the spine! I showed him the only allowable position for reading the book, the pages at a 90 degree angle. I know, I’m so demanding, not to mention uptight. Anyway. That man proceeded to start at the beginning and read all the way through to page 123! And often he told me what every author dreams of hearing about their writing. Did I mind? Not one bit! It was the best news all day. And better yet, reading the book the way he did revived his memories. He couldn’t believe all the things he had forgotten. Over and over he said in utter amazement how he was reliving it. I asked him if this was a good thing or a bad thing, and he responded, “It’s good. I have my memories back.” Now if that doesn’t break your heart, I don’t know what will. Right there I was so happy he had his book. It’s the only thing that helps him remember his past. Now I can say with all confidence that the book has Joe’s wholehearted stamp of approval.

Joe Absorbed in his book The Altered I

Joe Absorbed in his book The Altered I

Last night the three of us talked about Joe’s active role in upcoming book signing events. I warned Joe that those books wouldn’t be there for him to read through. Paul laughed and said, “We can market them as pre-read by Joe.”

Later I said to Paul that this was a good day with Joe. That we need to hold onto this memory of him so that when the disease makes Joe behave in a way that is challenging we will think of something positive. Joe is brilliant, sweet, adorable, funny, and charming. I hope the readers will see that in his book and think of him in those terms.

THE ALTERED I: Book Release Update

A typical model rocket during launch

Let’s launch this baby!

This has been a long time coming I know, but I would like to send a big, huge thanks to everyone who pre-ordered THE ALTERED I, said they loved the excerpt, purchased extra copies for friends and family, and wanted to know when this book is going to be released. I have good news!

I have been told that the publisher is thinking of a November 2013 release. Well, actually what happened is I was asked, “What do you think of a November release?” My reply? “Any month is good! November is great! Let’s go!” So, although I don’t have an official date…this really is that hard, I have a rather loose idea.

My mind has been absolutely stuffed with book launch event planning ideas. From the venue to the  food and beverages to be served, and a whole lot of other things to keep everyone entertained (videos, posters, other books on the subject of the Holocaust, etc.) Least of all — what am I going to wear?! Will there be a presentation? A question and answer session? An excerpt reading? The sound of the cork of a very expensive bottle of champagne popping? Yes, yes, yes, and yes! I’m working out the details and I hope I don’t forget a thing.

This is going to be great, so stay tuned for an actual date! I’m excited and hope you are too.

If you haven’t done so already and are so inclined here is the pre-order link for THE ALTERED I

. Get it while it’s discounted!

Speaking of Reading, Anyone Know Who Karl May Is?

Joseph Kempler’s favorite author as a young boy was Karl May pronounced (MY). Who? Most Americans probably never heard of him since he was a famous German author during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Often referred to as the Louis L’Amour of  of Germany, Karl May is famous for creating two endearing characters: Old Shatterhand, a strong young German engineer who can knock someone out with one punch, and Winnetou, a wise Apache chief.

A portrait of the German writer Karl May by Er...

A portrait of the German writer Karl May by Erwin Raupp. Français : Portrait de l’écrivain Allemand Karl May par Erwin Raupp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Interestingly, although Karl May wrote a popular western series, he never actually got further west than Buffalo, New York. Most of his knowledge of the old west came from guide books! Adolf Hitler was also a huge fan of Karl May’s books and handed out copies to German soldiers.

When Joseph and his family were forced to move from their Krakow apartment and relocate to a tiny, unheard of village, there was little room for non-essentials like books. However,  Malka, always an indulgent mother, allowed Joseph to bring his basket of beloved books, including his Karl May collection.

Read more about Joseph in this sample of The Altered I, a Holocaust Memoir.

Preorder The Altered I here.

Related Article: Why Karl May Captivates Germany

New Book Cover Design: The Altered I, a Holocaust Memoir

I am really excited to share with you the new book cover design. This is still a work in progress, but I know so many have asked, “When is the book coming out?” and, “Is it out yet? Where can I get it?”

Well, all these questions will be answered in good time. For now, here is a peek at some of the new changes to the book. I hope you like it! And yes, that is Joseph Kempler’s eye, taken by the lovely and talented Eden Thome of Eden Rose Photography.

Altered I front cover-New with Joe's Eye