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

South Brunswick-Cranbury

South Brunswick and Cranbury Police Blotter

August 9, 2017

Sponsored by Reilly's Collision Center in Monmouth Junction. Click here and scroll down for the latest updates and alerts from South Brunswick and Cranbury Police.

See the most recent messages from South Brunswick Twp Police Department, powered by Nixle.

Gun-wielding suspect drives robbery victim to bank with two young children in tow

April 11, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers police are investigating a lunchtime robbery on Tuesday in front of Campbell Hall, 617 George St., on the College Avenue campus, which involved two young children and a trip to a Somerset Street bank.

The victim, who is affiliated with Rutgers University, reported that he was walking near Campbell Hall dorm at 12:30 p.m. when a vehicle, ...

South Brunswick: Mayor Killmurray’s Funeral Plans Announced, Township Prepares For Administration Change

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Township officials announced funeral plans for Mayor Christopher Killmurray and plans to deal with filling his position and a second one on the Council.

Killmurray, 55, died at home Sunday morning after battling brain cancer for several years.

According to the township, a viewing is scheduled for 3-7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Cecilia’s Roman Catholic Church at ...

South Brunswick: Mayor Christopher Killmurray, 55, Dies

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Township Mayor Christopher Killmurray died at home Sunday morning, officials announced.

In an alert to residents, Township Manager Bernard Hvozdovic said that Killmurray, 55, passed away at home surrounded by his family after battling brain cancer for several years.

A Democrat, Killmurray was first elected to the Township Council in 2003 and served as deputy ...

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

April 11, 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 ...

State Attorney General Releases Princeton Panera Shooting Video

April 9, 2018

TRENTON – The Attorney General’s Office today released surveillance footage related to the March 20th shooting at Panera Bread in Princeton, New Jersey, during which state troopers fatally shot Scott L. Mielentz, 56, of Lawrenceville, N.J.

The shooting remains under investigation by the Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team (“SRT”).  However, certain ...

April 12 Webinar "Are You Stressing Your Horse Out?

Dr. Williams will be hosting the webinar "Are You 'Stressing Out' Your Horse? Understanding Types of Stress & How to Manage or Reduce Each."

The presentation will be next Thursday, April 12th at 12:p.m. To join the webinar go https://demo.bigbluebutton.org/b/rooms/ca-70ef9c13/EquineStressWilliams prior to the meeting. 

Test your connection early to ensure ...

Somerset: KPS Garage Offers Spring Time Special

Don't let the weather fool you Spring is here, and KPS Garage is offering a special new and existing customers!

1) Freewheel alignment with the purchase of four tires

2) Spring has Sprung Special $29.95

Change oil & filter 
Free tire rotation
Free 30 point safety inspection

exclusions apply

3) Free pair of Bosch wiper blades with any service or ...