The Risk of the Single Holocaust Story

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Misunderstandings and preconceived ideas have been smacking me in the face lately. One such misunderstanding I feel I have to address is that of the notion that because we have such a plethora of Holocaust memoirs and stories to choose from, that we understand the Holocaust survivor, or who we think a Holocaust survivor is. These preconceived ideas might block our thinking and shut out any other stories about the Holocaust because perhaps it is controversial in nature.

Take for example The Altered I . This is the memoir of my father-in-law, Joseph Kempler. He survived, miraculously, six different concentration camps from the ages of fourteen to seventeen. There is a lot in his memoir about growing up Jewish, and many details about the brutal camp life, including after Liberation when people were put into Displaced Persons camps. But his memoir is also controversial from the front cover that has a bold swastika above a focused blue eye, to the last several chapters of the book. His isn’t the typical Holocaust story that we might be familiar with. And for this reason a reader might be shocked, taken aback, offended, and perhaps disenchanted with the story on the whole. (I’ve written another blog on the subject of one-star ratings and how an author copes with the inevitability of receiving one,  published on Pypeline Editing Blog Page. That’s not what this post is about, but I think it is related).

Many people were targets of the Nazi regime and were imprisoned for being considered enemies of the state, or in the case of some six million Jews who lost their lives, considered sub-human. Who were targets of the Nazi regime?There were the Roma, the Intelligencia, homosexuals, people with disabilities, Poles, Slavs, and other groups the Nazis hated. But Joe’s story touches on another group who were victims of the Nazis, these were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Joseph Kempler was raised Jewish, then as a result of his experiences in the camps he became a self-proclaimed God-hater, but later, in the 1950s, he became dedicated as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This was shocking to fellow Jews because this was was viewed as a traitorous act. Others who read Joseph’s memoir are surprised and made unhappy because of their preconceived ideas about who Jehovah’s Witnesses are. This isn’t about liking Jehovah’s Witnesses or becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, or any kind of recruitment for that particular religion. This is simply one man’s story of survival and why he made the decisions he did in order to survive. Joseph Kempler’s story is one of faith lost and faith regained, an account that might not fit into the stereotypical Holocaust story.

There is not just one type of Holocaust story, just as there is not one type of story about another person’s culture, background, or lifestyle. Tweet this!

I was inspired to write this post by the wise words of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose early writing reflected the British and American children’s books and stories she had read and loved, which predominantly centered around Western culture and that world view. The settings and characters were alien to her, a Nigerian girl raised in Africa. She ultimately found her writing voice and realized she needed to put to rest preconceived ideas and misconceptions about Africa and its people. And after listening to her Ted Talk I felt that she expressed it so beautifully, and more elegantly than I could do that I’m sharing it in this post. I hope that some readers will take eighteen minutes and listen to it and be inspired as I was.

“If we hear only a single story about another person, or country we risk a critical misunderstanding.” -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html

Originally I saw Ms. Adichies Ted Talk on Books Outside the Box Blog Post

The Altered I: Memoir of Joseph Kempler, Holocaust Survivor is available from Amazon  in paperback and Kindle format and digital download on Google Play books.

Book Club Night with the Girls!

Valerie's Book Club

Valerie’s Book Club

If you are following my Facebook page or Twitter posts…er tweets, then you already know that Joe and I were invited to a local book club. They had graciously selected THE ALTERED I as one of their reads for this year and invited us to discuss it with them. First of all WOW! That was a huge gift in itself, what many an author dreams of, really. Of course I know the real star of the show is Joe. People love him. But, I got some nice praise as well.

Valerie was the perfect book club hostess. She introduced us to the group and expressed why she wanted The Altered I to be on the schedule for the year. She had met us last year when she called the publisher, LeRue Press directly to order more copies of the book as gifts for friends and family members. She had initially been given the book on loan, but wanted her own copy after reading it. The publisher (LeRue Press) mentioned that Joe and I could come in and meet with her and sign the books. We had a great time with her and she even brought a friend along.

Joe with April and Valerie at private book signing

Imagine my surprise when I got an email from LeRue Press saying that The Altered I was selected by Valerie’s book club and could we (me and Joe) be available to join the club to discuss parts of it? Of course!! My honor!

The ladies of this club are wonderful, intuitive, insightful, kind, and generous. We discussed the line-up for the year. Next month everyone is reading The Martian. This one is on my own TBR pile. Some of the ladies won’t see the movie until after they’ve read the book–I did see the movie, but didn’t give away any spoilers–I’m good that way. Everyone brings a dish, no one knows who is bringing what, but it is usually varied. I tasted a variety of healthy salads, my favorite little meatballs, which I don’t prepare anymore since my husband is now gluten-free, and some other main dish fare that was equally delicious. They joked that one time they all had brought salads, twelve of them, but all twelve were different, so it was fun. I learned a lot from this group–especially when planning my own book club–sharing, laughing and eating are all important factors.

The group of twelve members, was formed over eleven years ago, and has met continuously to discuss the next great read. Each submits a book they want to read for the year. My husband, Paul, asked them which was the first book they had read as a club and I was surprised (and delighted) to hear it was Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. Since that first book they learned a lot, like not choosing a book over 800 pages long! I confided that as one of my favorite authors she had inspired me to want to write.

After some small talk everyone felt comfortable enough with each other to discuss Joe’s memoir The Altered I.

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My heart was warmed each time there was a section from the book mentioned and the group collectively would recite parts from the text. I felt  joy sitting there listening to them tell Joe’s story. I really can’t describe it accurately, but, they knew him and his experiences from what they had read and it felt dear to me.

I was really happy that Joe was comfortable enough to express himself and tell his own story. Sometimes it just isn’t possible. But, with the love and respect directed toward him, he felt he was able to open up and tell his side. There were some unexpected emotions having Joe present. It’s one thing to read about someone’s tragic life story, and then quite another to have this person sitting at your dining room table! One of my friends said that the book club was in for a treat, but in actuality it was the other way around. I felt that this was a fine gift and it was privilege to be among them. These ladies spent their valuable time and money and invested it in a book I wrote. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

If interested in The Altered I Sample Pages

The Altered I is available in print and Kindle format from Amazon. In Kindle format at Amazon UK, as an e-book from Google Play books, and as a print book at BookBind.net

In Reno, NV as a print book: Sundance Books and Music, Grassroots Books, Buy Local (4001 S Virginia St, Reno, NV 89502 775-224-2242), and LeRue Press (775-356-1004).

In Carson City, NV as a print book, A to Zen Thrift and Gift , and Dog-Eared Books

 

 

Joe and I Meet Winston Churchill’s Secret Agent Max Ciampoli

Joe sitting with Max and Linda Ciampoli. Photo courtesy of Linda Ciampoli

Joe sitting with Max and Linda Ciampoli. Photo courtesy of Linda Ciampoli

Joe and I had the unique experience of meeting Mr. Ciampoli and his author wife Linda at a recent book signing event celebrating the sixth printing of their fantastic book at a local Reno bookstore Sundance Books and Music.

April, Linda and Max Ciampoli Churchill's Secret Agent

But really my first encounter with the Ciampoli’s begins a couple years prior to this fun event. As a member of the Historic Reno Preservation Society I had a chance meeting with my co-tour guide Anne Simone at a local Trader Joe’s parking lot. As we were standing there a petite, attractive woman who also knew Anne joined our conversation. I really can’t remember how it all transpired, but regardless Anne introduced us and Linda handed me her business card featuring the book cover of CHURCHILL’S SECRET AGENT. I recognized it at once because I had recently purchased it! I was excited to meet a local author who actually had a publishing agent and a book contract with one of the Big Five Publisher’s. I pocketed the card and went on my way.

Now fast forward to December 13, 2015 and Joe and I are invited to the book signing event! I found a couple of interviews on YouTube of the Ciampoli’s. You might want to check them out. Running time approximately 12 minutes each.

Linda Ciampoli sent me a couple of photos marking the event.

 

Part One

 

Part Two

The Web site: Churchill’s Secret Agent

CHURCHILL’S SECRET AGENT is available:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

IndieBound

Thanks for checking out this blog and sharing with me a highlight of our year.

 

If interested in Joseph Kempler’s memoir…

Joe’s memoir THE ALTERED I MEMOIR OF JOSEPH KEMPLER HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR is available from: 

Sundance Bookstore

Grassroots Books

Amazon paperback and Kindle

Amazon UK

Google Play books

Old Tales of Nevada with April Kempler Episode 212

Joseph Kempler family photo.

Joseph Kempler family photo.

I’m really excited and pleased to share the interview I did with John O’ Brien host of Old Tales of Nevada, a local television show. I was actually filling in a late notice cancellation, but hey, I’m not too proud! It was a real honor and a treat. I enjoyed it, and was thrilled by the prospect of sharing Joe’s story through this medium. It was my very first television interview, and I hope not my last.

Primarily, the interview had to do with Joe’s memoir THE ALTERED I, MEMOIR OF JOSEPH KEMPLER HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR. Joe was a young boy when WWII broke out in his home city of Krakow, Poland. He and his family had to pack up leave town when he was 13 years old, and by the time he was 14 he was working in a forced labor camp in Rakowice, Poland. He spent the next three years in six different concentration camps, Plaszow and Mauthausen being the most famous. Plaszow was known from the movie Schindler’s List, which parallels Joe’s personal experiences for a time.

Joe’s story isn’t an easy one to hear or tell about, but I’m grateful people want to hear it and have supported me by purchasing the book, liking my Facebook page, and leaving reviews for The Altered I.

I thought I’d share the interview here with you. I welcome your comments, or any additional questions you might have.

 

The Altered I is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon, Google Play Books, and directly from the publisher Lerue Press at 775-849-3814.

You Are Telling an Important Story

Joseph Kempler and his older sister Dziunka (Judy) Laub

Joseph Kempler and his older sister Dziunka (Judy) Laub

Last night I received the sweetest email from a reader of THE ALTERED I: MEMOIR OF JOSEPH KEMPLER, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, and I wanted to share it. I might add that Deb, the writer of the email, is also compiling her father’s memoirs into a book. Reading Deb’s words touched me to the heart. I feel sad that her father had to walk a similar path and endure all the horrible things Joseph did in order to survive, but I feel connected in some way by the shared memories of a father who went through the Holocaust.

To ensure the information Joseph gave me was reliable and accurate I researched diligently, giving all I could to the task. I had to dig deep, so it is always reassuring, and validating when I get feedback saying exactly that! It isn’t that I wrote such an important story, it’s important information that must be related accurately. To speak the truth  is a heavy responsibility for any writer of history, but to track down the facts is equally important for such a topic as the Holocaust. I never want room for doubt that the Holocaust didn’t happen.

I hear often, and honestly it’s too often, how some young people today are being taught by their parents that the Holocaust is a myth, a legend, a fabrication. I struggle to understand this belief. So each time a young person has an opportunity to learn the truth, that is a victory. I encourage young people to read more memoirs of survivors. Not only of Holocaust survivors but read the memoirs of people who saved others who weren’t Jewish and could have been killed. Read the memoirs of soldiers who were there and witnessed it all. There are countless books written by people who were in the concentration camps, not only as prisoners-of-war, but as people who worked for the Nazis and who saw, and sometimes took part, in the atrocities taking place. Also, there were many others imprisoned in the concentration camps who weren’t Jewish but suffered alongside for their crimes against the state. Reading from various viewpoints and backgrounds will give a fuller understanding of that time and hopefully will substantiate that the Holocaust was real.

I realize this is getting more rare, but when a Holocaust survivor visits a  school a student should view this as an opportunity to ask their questions and get answers from the source.

Joseph and I have some upcoming Holocaust presentation events where people, old and young alike, can meet him personally, (shake his hand!) speak to him and feel connected to that particular time in history. Yes, it’s a hard history, which none of us likes, and would rather didn’t happen, but it’s important to keep it fresh in our minds because it truly wasn’t that long ago.

As time progresses and these survivors and soldiers who fought for their liberation die, so does the intensity of that event.

My words seem inadequate so I will let the letter explain everything.

 

(edited)

Dear April

I am reading the book you wrote about your father in law. This is unbelievable, the dates and journey your father in law took was the same as my dad.  My dad was in ghetto in Boryslaw then forced labor then Plashow to Mathausen (dates match up with my father’s transport) to Melk, eventually to Ebensee where he was liberated. My dad met a soldier years later who liberated Ebensee.

In 2007 to the date of his liberation I found his brother’s children. My dad believed his brother was killed in war. When his area was annexed to Russia his brother was drafted. The last my dad heard before he went to Plashow that his brother was severely wounded. After the war he contacted Russian military and there was no record of his brother. Can you believe the Russians changed the spelling of his first name by one letter and because of that he could not be found.

My dad is going to be 90. He still plays tennis goes to gym a few times per week.

You are telling a very important story.  I am humbled by your dad’s experiences. Your book is unique in so far as your father in law acknowledged what he had to do to survive. People don’t talk about that. Very painful.

How is he doing?

I will finish his book probably tomorrow.

Excellent job

Warm Regards,
Deb

 

As always you can find your copy of THE ALTERED I: MEMOIR OF JOSEPH KEMPLER, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle, Google Play Books, LeRue Press 775-356-1004, and announcing The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum store.

Holocaust Narratives Didn’t End at Liberation–Displaced Persons Camps

Many people don’t realize that the stories of Holocaust survivors continued months and years after they were liberated from concentration camps. Many of these survivors, including prisoners of war, had no homes or families to return to. What happened to them?

Millions were placed in what is called Displaced Persons camps. These institutions were difficult and challenging in themselves. Anti-Semitism still abounded. Living quarters were cramped with little privacy. Sometimes only a threadbare blanket separated individual families from each other. These close, and often unclean living conditions bred sickness.

In addition to physical discomfort, there were the emotional and mental anxieties bearing down on the survivors weakened shoulders. This was termed survivor’s guilt. Some displaced persons, wishing for a reunion with their family members went so far as to fantasize against all evidence that one of their family members had survived and was still living, or perhaps waiting for them in another country overseas. This type of thinking never went away and many carried the burden of guilt until they died.

Source: DPs Europe’s Displaced Persons, 1945-1951 by Mark Wyman

The Wild Place by Kathryn Hume

The Altered I: Memoir of Joseph Kempler Holocaust Survivor, as told to April Voytko Kempler

Read a sample from THE ALTERED I

 

Goodreads Giveaway for The Altered I: Memoir of Joseph Kempler, Holocaust Survivor

This is very exciting news: LeRue Press, publisher of THE ALTERED I, is hosting a Goodreads Giveaway. Ten copies will be given away.

Enter to win starting today, September 16-October 7, 2014. U.S. residents only, sorry Canada!

Click here to enter.

Synopsis:

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 on an adventure that changes his life forever. The family seeks shelter with a Polish peasant family in a small village, but the threat of discovery by the Nazis becomes imminent. Ultimately, Joseph determines that the best course of action is to join his brother, Dolek, in a forced labor camp. Thus begins a tortuous existence surviving six different concentration 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. After a brief encounter with Christians imprisoned in the same camp, Joseph is stunned by their demonstration of faith, a faith he a had long-since left behind. This group of Bible students, known as Bibelforscher, leaves an indelible impression on his mind. Years later, after emigrating to the United States, he converts to a Christian faith. The Altered I chronicles Joseph’s journey from his zealous beginnings in Judaism to his conversion, while shining new light on an untold story of the Holocaust.

 

Front Cover-Altered I 3rd revision

 

Author Bio:

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 titled 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.

You can also purchase this book from:

Amazon

Google Play books

LeRue Press

Sundance Books and Music