08 May 2013

My Mother's Secret by J.L.Witterick Review

Heroic Acts to Safeguard Jews
During WWII Revealed in
‘My Mother’s Secret’

TORONTO, ONTARIO – The highly acclaimed book, My Mother’s Secret, was released March 25, 2013, just weeks before Holocaust Remembrance Week April 7-14, 2013.

My Mother’s Secret is based on the true story of Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter Helena, who are honored as The Righteous Among the Nations, non-Jewish heroes who risked their lives to save Jewish citizens from certain death.

After 1939 when the Nazis invaded Poland and started the persecution of the Jewish population, Franciszka and her daughter provided shelter to Jewish individuals and families, as well as a German soldier, all acts punishable by death. With courage and cleverness, they outsmart the German commander and their neighbors.

My Mother’s Secret is a powerfully written story and has been chosen to be used as curriculum in studies by Middle East exchange students. The book has also been awarded Rising Starstature by iUniverse.

Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky said, “In My Mother’s Secret, a new level of heroism is revealed … heroism where no ‘wow’ or admiration was given.  True heroism is when no one sees or knows!  A truly inspiring and breathtaking book.”

Similar praise can be heard from Amir R. Gissin, Consul General, Toronto and Western Canada, Consulate General of Israel, who says, “Writer J. L. Witterick paints a vivid picture of the world of Franciszka Halamajowa, a heroine in Nazi-occupied Poland who, with her daughter Helena, harbored Jews despite the mortal danger. A moving and captivating portrait of that terrible period.”

“My Mother’s Secret is heroism defined. It is just so much more cherishable because it is a story based on fact.  We are indebted to Jenny Witterick for sharing this book with us,” says
Grady Harp one of the Top 50 Amazon Reviewers.

“My Mother’s Secret has a strong message about finding good in the midst of the most unbelievable evil,” adds one reviewer, “and it will continue to resonate with readers, young and old, for many years to come.”

All proceeds of the book sold at Indigo/Chapters, the largest book chain in Canada, will go to the Love of Reading Foundation, which buys books for poor communities.  And, each month for the next year, proceeds of books sold through other channels will be going to a different charity. 

Explaining why she selected the Love of Reading Foundation as a benefactor, Witterick says, “My parents were Chinese immigrants who came to Canada with $200 dollars in 1968. When I first came to Canada at the age of seven, we would buy used books from the Salvation Army for 5 and 10 cents. I believe that books are the key to learning and to improving a child’s economic future so I want to help put books into the hands of those who need them.”

About the Author
Canadian first time author J.L. Witterick encountered the true story of heroism during the Holocaust because of a chance viewing of a documentary about the Holocaust.  Witterick is not the usual author; she is the President of Sky Investment Counsel, one of the largest international money managers in Canada.  More commonly known as Jenny Witterick in the investment community, she was President of the Toronto Society of Financial Analysts in 1995/1996 and is a Certified Financial Advisor Charterholder.

Part I
·       “If you’re German and someone tells you that you’re born superior, that would sound pretty good,” my mother says. “Even better if the bad times are not your fault but caused by the Jewish people. It’s so much easier than trying to explain it logically.”

·       My father doesn’t argue with facts. He makes his points with attacks on the other person. He doesn’t fight fair. “What do you know about politics?” he says to my mother. “Cooking makes you smart, does it?” “It doesn’t make you blind” is what she says.

·       “If you choose to do the right thing, it’s a conscious decision at first. Then it becomes second nature. You don’t have to think about what is right, because doing the right thing becomes who you are, like a reflex. Your actions with time become your character.”

·       What did the British do while German soldiers were crossing into Poland? Despite declaring their support for Poland, the might of the Royal Air Force consisted of dropping leaflets asking Germany to reconsider their attack.” Casmir lowers his voice. “They should have been dropping bombs, if they were serious.” I realize then that Poland didn’t have the support of the friends that we thought. How could the world have been so misled?

·       This is a world where to be insignificant, necessary, or connected are the best ways to survive.

·       In June 1941, Hitler breaks his pact with Stalin and the Germans move to our side of the river. It seems like we have gone from bad to worse. The Nazis start persecuting the Jews just as the Russians did to the Poles, but they don’t discriminate. They treat all Jews, rich and poor, equally badly.

Part II

·       The Germans take everything valuable. They are ruthless and even have a dentist on hand to extract teeth for the gold fillings. We hear people begging and crying to keep their remaining possessions. I know that it’s useless to plead with thugs, and that’s how I see them. I could fight the bully in the schoolyard, but this is beyond anything that I can fix.

·       People are like water in a pond, where you cannot see the bottom. You think you know where it is shallow and where it is deep, but it’s only when you have to dive in headfirst that you find out where it is truly deep.

·       To cover our waste, she mixes it with the waste from the pigs and shovels it out. I see Franciszka with enlightened eyes now. This is the savviest woman I have ever known.

Part III

·       My father is a doctor and the head of the hospital. People bow when they see him. He believes that because of his position and his importance in the community, he doesn’t have to worry about being Jewish. My father is a smart man, but he is wrong. By the time he realizes this, it’s too late for us to escape.

·       Why do people hate us so much, Mama?” I ask. My mother says, “Do you remember what you said when you were a little boy, and you tripped on the street?” I shook my head, because I couldn’t remember. “You had fallen and were embarrassed, so you said that an ant tripped you. Do you think that an ant could have tripped you?” “No, of course not,” I answer. “Well, to Hitler, we’re the ant.”

Part IV

·       My commanders think that I am useless, but they don’t know that I shoot to miss. I can’t imagine taking life, any life.

·       The day I turn eighteen, the army reaches out and pulls me into it. Oma packs my favorite foods and tells me that she loves me over and over again. It’s terrible from the first. The army crushes gentle souls. 

·       We are to deport all the people in the ghetto to concentration camps. I hear that they will be executed there. It is sickening and I want no part of it, but there is nothing I can do—if I don’t want to be executed myself. That day is one of the most horrible of my life.

Final Part
·       My mother doesn’t play chess, but if she did, it would be with many moves ahead. 

·       We all find our own place in the world, but all of us are forever connected by a bond that will survive time and distance. 

·       I think it simply came down to not being able to turn people away who would have otherwise faced a certain death.

·       Does that make us exceptional? Or is it only exceptional because so many others chose not to do the same thing? The standard defines the exception. 

My Thoughts:
Who was Franciszka Halamajowa??  Franciszka Halamajowa acted as a Nazi sympathizer during World War II but actually hid 16 of her Jewish neighbors in a small Polish Town. They stayed in the hayloft over her pigsty and in a hole under the kitchen floor.

Stories of the Holocaust always give me the chills, as this period in this worlds history had an unbelievable amount of atrocities inflicted on one nationality of people, all for one man's whim...My Mother's Secret is based mostly on fact with fictionalized characters thrown in. To me it read like a novel, that is how engrossing it was to read. Such strong women to put their lives at risk daily. That is what Franciszka and her daughter Helena did when hiding 30 Jewish people until the war was over, not to mention how these people had to survive for 22 months. Crammed into tiny quarters, with what food that Franciszka was able to obtain. If you have not read anything regarding WWII about the Holocaust, I am sure that there are a few great books out there but this small book sure packed a wallop with me and I highly recommend it. I read it in one sitting, that is how engrossing it is.

Below is a picture of this courageous and brave lady..

I received a copy of this book for review and was not monetarily compensated for my review.

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