Michael Stolowitzky – Gertruda’s Oath: A child, a Promise, and a Heroic Escape During World War II
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: How did Michael Stolowitzky first travel to Israel?
(This week Israel observes Yom Ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. We are offering you this program as English Corner’s commemoration of Yom Ha-Shoah.)
Michael Stolowitzky was born in Warsaw, in 1936, the only son of a wealthy Jewish family. When the nazis invaded Poland, his father was trapped in Paris, where he had traveled to try to settle his business affairs, leaving Michael in the care of his mother and devoted Catholic nanny, Gertruda Bablinska. When Michael’s mother suffered a stroke, Gertruda promised her that she would raise the boy as her own son, always keeping his Jewish identity, and take him to Palestine.
Ram Oren is a best-selling Israeli author, most of whose books are in the detective fiction genre. When he heard about Michael’s story, he tracked him down to New York, where he now lives. With Michael’s invaluable assistance, as well as his own independent research, Oren wrote Gertruda’s Oath: A Child, a Promise, and a Heroic Escape During World War II, which tells the gripping story of that journey. The book also tells a parallel story, that of Karl Rink, a German SS officer, who made it his mission to save Jews after his own Jewish wife was murdered, and Rink’s daughter, Helga. Gertruda’s Oath was originally published in Israel in 2007 and since then has been translated into eight languages.
While the events described in the book are true, it reads like an adventure novel, including many conversations, and also has photos from Stolowitzky’s own collection. It is a very readable book, which does not deal with the horrors of the ghettos or the camps that we’re accustomed to finding in Holocaust-themed books. Maybe paradoxically, this is what makes Gertruda’s Oath an extremely powerful story, but at the same time it’s not upsetting, so it’s suitable for young people as well as adults, and we highly recommend it to all our listeners.
After living in Israel for many years, Michael Stolowitzky relocated to New York. Since the publication of the book, he has travelled to many parts of the United States as well as other countries, to speak about his experiences with many different types of audiences, including elementary and high school students.