Together: A Journey for Survival by Ann S. Arnold

59d562491933e5658d04_Together.jpg
59d562491933e5658d04_Together.jpg

Together: A Journey for Survival by Ann S. Arnold (Avalerion Books, 20160)

 

At the March meeting of the New Jersey Commission on the Holocaust, Mark Schonwetter, a survivor of the horrors of the 1930s and 40s, and his daughter, Ann S. Arnold, introduced the Commission to Ann's publication of her father's story, Together: A Journey for Survival. Arnold explained that she wanted the remarkable saga of her grandmother, aunt, and father's survival of the Holocaust to be recorded for future generations to know.

Early in the beautifully written memoir, Arnold states, “Only after I had children myself did I understand parts of the story all the way down in my soul. My grandmother's courage, strength, and perseverance will always stand as an example of the superhero-like qualities that can be found in a mother's love. She swore to her husband that she would keep them together. She kept her word.” (p.140) Through using her intuition, guts, and determination, Sala Schonwetter persevered in fighting to keep her little family alive during one of history's darkest hours.

Sign Up for E-News

The survivors of the Holocaust who are still alive today, for the most part, were children during those perilous times. Since most of the children who were sent to the concentration camps in Europe perished upon arrival, the remnants of the aging survivors are mostly children who were hidden by their neighbors. Many of the victims found shelter with brave citizens under Nazi siege, and are only now coming forward to tell their stories before they are lost to history forever. Talking about their experiences as fugitives remains a harrowing exercise for the handful of survivors who are still with us. When they do speak in schools, our students are held spellbound by their stories, and treat the elderly survivors with reverence and awe. It is truly amazing to attend a lecture given by a Holocaust survivor.

The Schonwetters lived in Brzostek, a village in Southern Poland. They ran a respectably prosperous farm until the arrival of the German army. Arnold tells us, “My grandfather quickly went from prestigious farmer and landowner to working on slave crews.” (p. ii) After her husband was taken in a round-up by the Germans and disappeared forever, Sala Schonwetter and her small son, Manek (who is known as Mark Schonwetter today) had a frightening encounter with an SS officer, in which a naughty Manek caused horses attached to a wagon to bolt, nearly unseating a uniformed soldier on a motorcycle. As Sala watched the drama unfold, she thought, “One heartbeat . . .Another heartbeat.” (p.10) In order to protect young Manek from a Nazi bullet, she beat her beloved son in front of the enraged soldier. From thereon, the lives of the Schonwetter family are marked by the conscious beats of a desperate mother's heart. The powerful theme of the beat of the human heart to stay alive, is the thread that connects one harrowing incident to another throughout the story.

In discussing the book with the Commission, Mark Schonwetter told the audience how his mother knew when it was safe to hide with families who agreed to take the risk. Arnold recounts her grandmother's logic in accepting help in this statement, “From house to house, she searched for someone willing to risk their lives to protect a Jewish family . . . Most of the people she entreated were happy to take them. This eagerness scared her. No sane person would want to risk the wrath of the Germans. Sala suspected their open arms meant they saw an opportunity to profit from their presence. She knew they would turn her and the children in at their first opportunity for nothing more than a jar of marmalade or a kilo of sugar. So she would move on.” (p.89)

Some of the time the little family stayed in barns, sleeping in sweet smelling hay. However, one farmer, a fellow named Ribba, escorted the Schonwetters to his stable. There he had dug out a grave, which he commanded Sala and her children get into. She stoutly refused to take up his offer until little Manek persuaded her by saying, “Marmusia, look. . . It's warm. Nice and warm. We don't have to worry about someone seeing us through the trees, and the wind cannot reach us down here. We will be able to sleep, really sleep, and not have to worry about anything.” (p. 91) Through the harsh Polish winter, the Schonwetter's existed in a forlorn pit, surviving on the meager bread and water that their host brought daily.

During the warmer months, Sala and her children scavenged the forests for berries, edible mushrooms, and whatever else they could find to eat. Constantly on the lookout for posses of German soldiers, the Schonwetters scrambled to stay hidden and survive. But, they emerged from the experience resembling skinny scarecrows left to pick up the remnants of their once happy lives.

Due to the violence and horror of the events of the Holocaust, it is difficult to find literature that is suitable for younger children. Staples of elementary and middle school reading materials are The Diary of Anne Frank, Number the Stars, and The Book Thief. Elie Wiesel's classic 100 page long story of his survival in the Auschwitz death camp is generally taught in the 8th or 9th grade. One of the compelling reasons to read Together:A Journey for Survival is that the horror is kept to the barest minimum and the larger themes of the struggle to survive, the importance of family in one's life, and the significance of having the courage to stand up to the bullies of the world, make this book a great one to use as an introduction to youngsters about the tragedies of the Holocaust.

Ann S. Arnold has achieved her goal of paying tribute to her strong and determined grandmother, but she also delivers the important message that even in the most dire events of the 20th century, there are moments of triumph and salvation to be recounted.

Beth Moroney, former English teacher and administrator in the Edison Public School District, specialized in teaching Creative Writing and Journalism. Recently Moroney published Significant Anniversaries of Holocaust/Genocide Education and Human/Civil Rights, available through the New Jersey Commission on the Holocaust. A passionate reader, Moroney is known for recommending literature to students, teachers, parents, and the general public for over forty years. Moroney can be contacted at trackdak19@hotmail.com.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Plainfield

You Meet the Most Amazing People on the Trail

The weather cooperated this weekend, so I went for more than one hike. After all, there are only just over fifty days before my walk to Maine commences, so why not.

This Saturday, some friends dragged me away from housecleaning (thank you!) for a quick jaunt through Watchung Reservation.  While we were there, we ran into two individuals from Westfield; the cosplayers introduced themselves ...

Go Take a Walk

Friday, March 30 was Take a Walk in the Park Day, so I did.  I really didn't have an excuse to not do so; the sun was shining, I had the day off, and I had no plans for the rest of the day.  So after a session with Abbe, my trainer at LifeTime Fitness, I made the short trip to Lake Surprise in Watchung Reservation. 

As I made my way around the lake, it was easy to see how ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_f81187da64c60de383ac_carefree_fridays

Fri, April 20, 6:00 PM

Plainfield High School, Plainfield

Carefree Fridays: Bridging the Gap with Law ...

Arts & Entertainment Police & Fire

Fri, April 20, 7:00 PM

Shiloh Baptist Church, Plainfield

Shiloh Baptist Church - 2018 Women's Conference ...

Religions And Spirituality

Carousel_image_76b50dcb673435ebd963_hkd_webbanner_300x250_e

Sat, April 21, 11:30 AM

Plainfield YMCA, Plainfield

Plainfield YMCA Healthy Kids Day

Health & Wellness

Gallery Reception to Showcase Sherman Feller’s Photography

April 20, 2018

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The public is invited to the Scotch Plains Public Library to view the photography of Sherman Feller. There will be an artists’ reception which the public is welcome to attend on Sunday, May 6 at from 1-3 pm.  Registration is not required for the reception.

Feller has exhibited six times at the Scotch Plains Library and at the Malamut Art Gallery, the Pearl ...

Op-Ed: New Jersey’s Out-of-Network Bill is a huge blow to the middle-class

April 5, 2018

As Trenton currently looks to balance the budget, once again it’s our state’s hardest working citizens who will be left holding the bag. This time, though, it will be the hardworking office and ancillary staff from our small business private medical practices.  A bill called “The Out-of-Network Consumer Protection Bill” A-2039/S-485 looks poised to make ...

More Than Just Kindness for Roxbury Student Adored by Tragically Killed Boy

April 17, 2018

ROXBURY, NJ – She lost her 10-year-old son three years ago in a boating accident on Lake Hopatcong, but Laurie D’Amico is sure her beloved Christopher speaks to her all the time. It’s subtle but firm, she says; messages that come as sparks of recollection, inspiration or intuition.

One of those unexpected inklings led Laura and her husband Chris to a jewelry ...

Blood Drive en Plainfield High School el viernes

April 12, 2018

PLAINFIELD, NJ - Un esfuerzo de sangre se llevará a cabo el viernes en Plainfield High School en asociación con la Cruz Roja Americana.

¿Alguna vez se ha preguntado qué le sucede a la pinta de sangre que dona?

Según la Cruz Roja, la donación se almacena en refrigeradores helados hasta que se transporta a un centro de la Cruz Roja y se escanea en una ...

Springtime Advice from Rapps Pharmacy

April 17, 2018

It may not feel like spring, but that spring weather is right around the corner and so is allergy season!  Here is some friendly advice from Rapps Pharmacy, your neighborhood pharmacy:

Combating the Allergy Season

As seasons change and pollen counts rise, more and more people clash with the aggravating symptoms of seasonal allergies. Beginning in February and lasting into early summer, ...

Featured Business: NJ Printing & Embroidery LLC

Featured Business: NJ Printing & Embroidery LLC

Nestled in the heart of Plainfield is NJ Printing & Embroidery, a family-owned business providing digital screen printing and embroidery for custom shirts, caps and other items.

The company also offers custom printed business cards, fliers, banners and storefront vinyls, and can provide expert graphic art design upon request.

Eric ...

'The Sting' shimmers and shakes at Paper Mill

‘The Sting ‘slithers and shakes at Paper Mill Playhouse

By LIZ KEILL

MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage in Millburn.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and ...

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (Citadel Press, 1970)

 

How does a reviewer do justice to a book called “the great American novel”? I first read Johnny Got His Gun during the Viet Nam war, when young people, nationwide, were protesting fighting in a war that was a senseless waste of life; a war in which the United States had no business participating.

The Truth About My Reading

The Truth About My Reading

I didn't get my Composition and Literature teacher at Montclair State College at all. A crusty old man with a dour disposition, Mr. Smith always seemed angry and rude. He appropriately intimidated freshmen, even me, an English major, who found this common core course beneath my dignity. Frankly, as a graduate of Highland Park High School, and a survivor of Mrs.

The German Girl

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa (Washington Square Press, 2016)

For each of the twelve million victims murdered during World War II there is a gutwrenching story to be told. I have read hundreds of memoirs, biographies, plays, and novels that recount the stories of the martyrs; some are exceptional, some are fair. The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa, an award-winning journalist, ...

The Skin Collector

The Skin Collector by Jeffery Deaver (Grand Central, 2014)

Jack the Ripper. The Boston Strangler. The Texas Watchtower Killer. The Zodiac Killer. The Angel of Death. The Butcher. BTK. The police and the press have a long history of dubbing serial killers with names that catch the attention of the public, usually having the effect of instilling greater fear and selling more print media so that ...

Queen Mary and the Cruiser

Queen Mary and the Cruiser by David A. Thomas and Patrick Holmes (Naval Institute Press, 1997)

“Had the forenoon watch and after eating went out onto the fo'c'sle. Just arrived at the top of the ladder by the PO's heads when the wave hit me---waist high---and knocked me over. Looking astern---through the bulkhead door which was open, saw the stern of a ship sticking up out of ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)

 

In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...