New York, NY, USA (August 12, 2014) — Journey of Ashes: A Boyhood in the Holocaust by author, Anna Ray-Jones and Holocaust survivor, Roman Ferber, who was one of the youngest survivors on Schindler’s List, is now published and available on Amazon.
The book traverses a fine line between humor and tragedy. While never downplaying the horrific anti-Semitism of the time, it presents a fascinating, lively memoir of a young boy growing up surrounded by the German occupation in Poland. It also depicts his family’s striving for normalcy in the face of the unimaginable. Many people, especially children, in the context of being terrorized by the Nazi regime, still maintained a strong semblance of what it meant to be ordinarily human. They laughed, argued, loved and feasted, and nurtured each other, even as their world was eroding.
By the time he reached his twelfth birthday, Roman had been confined in the Krakow Ghetto, and the camps of Plaszow, Gross Rosen, Brinnlitz, and Auschwitz. Thanks to his older brother, Manek Ferber and his friendship with Oskar Schindler, Roman found himself one of the youngest Jews on Schindler’s list, along with his father, grandfather and an 8-year old cousin, Wils Schnitzer. However, even the famous list didn’t save them from being exiled to Auschwitz where the lives of children where extinguished daily. Once his father was sent on a forced march to Germany in 1945 (where he was murdered) Roman was left to care for Wils alone. It is a tribute to his enduring courage and his sturdy sense of self that the two kids survived-as this book details.
The work is a creative collaboration between Holocaust survivor, Roman Ferber, and author/screenwriter, Anna Ray-Jones, who found in the shaping of the manuscript that much history is under constant reconstruction, and that veracity is not the only road to channeling Roman’s boyhood experiences onto the printed page. Holocaust literary fiction frequently offers philosophical and psychological elements not always present in testimonial narratives. Journey of Ashes claims a small corner in this field filled with variegated constructs of storytelling.
The result is a literary fusion: a book woven from true narrative, imagination, memory and fiction. In its telling, the story creates a point of view that combines a child’s acute observations with the verbal and psychological deft of an adult memoir. This allows the reader to journey with Roman the younger, seeing the world ablaze with destruction just as he witnessed it. Along the route one is also engaged in intimate commentary with the elderly survivor (now in his eighth decade) looking back at the boy who charted a living road through the maelstrom. Ray-Jones and her luminous writing blend fiction and interpretation with historic circumstance, mixing both real and constructed characters of the period and integrating them into the story.
The grace and humanity of the book places Journey of Ashes among the finest works of Holocaust literature. The work is also a poignant and timely rebuff to the recent eruptions in Europe where chants about gassing Jews makes anti-Israel protests into “…raw anti-Semitism finding a semi-respectable outlet.” Roman is a living witness to the dark places and senseless brutalities such extreme reactions can lead to.
Anna Ray-Jones is the author of Sustainable Architecture in Japan published by John Wiley & Sons, 2000. She has also written several screenplays including The Haunting of Rachel Gottlieb, a semi-finalist in the Nicholl’s Screenwriting Fellowships of 2005, and There Might be Angels, a finalist for the Kairos Screenwriting Prize of 2009. Her short story, Him Woolly, was a winner of the new fiction prize of 2009 awarded by the Journal of Arts and the Environment. Her next book, a work in progress, is called Loom Song, a novel about Irish linen weavers shipped out as felons to Australia in 1828. She is currently a Senior Vice-President at the PR agency of Donley Communications in New York City.
Holocaust survivor Roman Ferber was born in Poland in 1933. He spent his childhood confined by the Nazis in the Krakow Ghetto, and in the camps of Plaszow, Gross Rosen, Brinnlitz, and Auschwitz. After the liberation, he was rehabilitated in what had become the Displaced Persons camp of Bergen Belsen in northwestern Gemany. In 1949, at the age of 16, he immigrated with his mother to the USA and settled in New Jersey. For over three decades, he served under several mayors and held key positions in the city government of New York including: Special Assistant to the Deputy Mayor for Business & Community Development, Director of Manufacturing & Wholesaling, Director of Business Development, and Director of Job Development & Treasurer of the NYC Job Development Loan Program.