I suddenly woke up one morning and realized that we are now writing October. It is hard to believe that I have written nothing on my blog since last November. Where does time go? Did I stop traveling and promoting the book? Is the book “old news”?
Absolutely not! Not in your wildest dreams! The story of Norway and the Holocaust has taken over my life. I suddenly realized that what I set out to do is on the verge, or may even has reached “the verge” of reality. I was fortunate enough that Viking Magazine, which is the official magazine for Sons of Norway, was kind enough to publish an interview in their March 2013 issue. Even though the now popular Norwegian answer to John Grisham, Jo Nesbo, was featured in the same magazine, the interview with Irene Berman appeared to have generated a surprising interest in finding out more about the Untold Story of Norway and the Holocaust.
I cannot believe all the beautiful emails and letters that I have received over the past year with invitations to come to many major and many obscure places in the U.S. Unfortunately I live on the East Coast of the United States and 95% of the people that invite me live on the West Coast or in the Midwest. I am naturally flattered, thrilled and making every effort to visit these wonderful people while at the same time I am trying to coordinate at least two visits at the same time.
I have also started to write another book based on the same story. However, this book is fictional, which allows me creative freedom which I have never experienced before. I am working with a wonderful writer who is guiding me into the field of fiction opening a number of new doors to my dormant fantasy, which has allowed this newly revealed characteristic of mine to become rampant and wild. What I am trying to say is that I love writing fiction. Stay tuned, more to come…
I have spoken at a number of book events, the latter of which was a small, but highly emotional visit to Bristol, Rhode Island where the distribution of the audience was divided between 50% Jews and 50% Norwegian-Americans. The chemistry in the room of about 70 people was wonderful and emotional. United Brothers Synagogue, August 6, 2013
On September 29 I had the pleasure of traveling for six hours with a totally unknown couple from Connecticut to York, Pennsylvania. The woman had invited me to speak at her Norwegian Lodge and had convinced her husband that it was safe to pick up me, a stranger, on their way home from Vermont. We talked non-stop for six hours and kept on talking for another 24 hours. The event was similar to the one that I have described above and once again I was deeply touched by the interest displayed by the large crowd of Norwegian-Americans present who displayed an almost passionate interest in hearing this untold story. I was slated to return on Monday morning by two trains via Philadelphia and New York to Connecticut. It turned out that Amtrak, the railroad, was having electrical and functional problems and both my trains were cancelled. My hostess drove me from York, Pennsylvania to New York City after the event which gave us another chance to talk. I was able to get home from New York by myself. You could not ask for a better hostess than the one who invited me and went to great trouble to make me feel welcome.
The JCC in York, Pennsylvania features a magnificent sculpture on the wall in their lobby, which has fascinated me and stayed in my mind since I returned. Please see below.
“The Six Million”
It had been a long-held dream of the York Jewish Community Center to create a fitting memorial to those who perished in the Holocaust as a permanent reminder for generations to come. On May 4, 1997, that dream was realized with the dedication of our Holocaust Memorial Sculpture, “The Six Million.”
Designed by internationally-recognized artist Don Briddell, the 20′ x 9′ wall sculpture – fashioned in clay, then cast in resin and painted – portrays an endless sea of men, women and children as they step forward from the darkness and horror of the past into the light of our world today. Their faces are familiar, carved from photographic likenesses of those who died in the Holocaust. Hopeful and expectant, they portray the powerful strength of the human spirit – old relatives and friends coming to meet us again, after many long years of separation.
As we stand before them, we must ask ourselves whether we are ready to greet them in good faith. Has our world changed since the dark days of that terrible legacy? Have we abolished hatred, prejudice and intolerance? Can we say with confidence, “Never again”?
Before I close I want to remind all my friends and “old readers” and hopefully new readers that Norway will celebrate its 200 year Centennial of its Constitution on May 17, 2014.
Hopefully, I will have the pleasure of telling you more about this celebration in my next blog which I promise will appear soon.
I cannot close this blog without telling you what probably represents the most exciting event that I have experienced this year. Some of you may recall that at my book events or most certainly in my book I have mentioned the highly-respected Norwegian poet, Henrik Wergeland, who many people refer to as the Father of the 17th of May celebration. I had mentioned that my grandfather, Leif Levin, lived in Rjukan in Telemark, Norway and so did my father for many years as a young man. The family myth has repeatedly stated that my grandfather gave a speech on May 17, 1914 at Rjukan. I never knew the content of the speech. A couple of months ago I found out through the National Register of Norway that his speech delivered as a relatively young immigrant to Norway, was focused on his and other newly arrived Jews gratitude to Wergeland for repealing paragraph 2 of the Norwegian Constitution, allowing Jews to finally enter and settle in Norway.
The main focus of his speech was one sentence which read as follows: “Even if you are Jewish by religion, this will not prevent you from being Norwegian by nation.” In addition, for the first time I had the enormous honor and pleasure of reading the entire speech, which made me very proud. I have translated the speech into English and will probably introduce it in my blog at the beginning of 2014, one hundred years later.
I look forward to the next exciting months and to communicate with you again soon.