It is not every day that a writer has his first book published. Especially one that was twenty-eight years in the making. That's right. Twenty-eight years.
To my surprise I met survivors of the group, among them the late Alfred Eisenstadter of New York, who fled Berlin in early 1941, as well as the late Ellen Compart of Boca Raton, Florida, who survived underground in Berlin until liberation. Most of the Baum group survivors that I met had emigrated before 1939 and returned to East Berlin.
I wanted to get to Berlin to do research so I wrote to the leaders of the two Germanys: Helmult Kohl (West) and Erich Honecker (East) requesting sponsorship. A representative of Kohl's politely rejected my request for assistance, but I was contacted by the press and culture head of the East German embassy in Washington, D.C., who arranged to meet me in Manhattan at a Chinese restaurant. My letter and articles to Erich Honecker were translated and he wanted to help me. The East German leader personally arranged for a visa for me through the head of the German Democratic Republic Anti-fascist Committee to visit East Berlin and meet survivors and do research. A little over a year later, there was a revolution in East Germany and Honecker was swept from power.
At the time I finished my first draft of the book, 1989, I was teaching history at the Lenox School on East 70th Street in Manhattan, New York. I hand-wrote most of the manuscript and typed it on a Commodore 64 computer with a dot-matrix font. I wanted to get feedback and begin developing some kind of buzz about my book, which at the time was called, Red Flags and Yellow Stars. I began to reach out to people who had some influence within the Holocaust research field. Therefore I contacted Michael Berenbaum, who at the time was the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. I sent him the manuscript of my book. He replied that he would be happy to write an introduction for Red Flags and Yellow Stars. Through a contact, I got an address for Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and writer, and wrote to him. He wanted to read my book so I mailed it off to him.
Thirteen years later I signed up for an internet discussion group on World War II called the Axis History Forum. I looked at the topics on the forum and saw one labeled 'Resistance.' I wrote two brief sentences saying that I had written a manuscript on the Herbert Baum group of Berlin. Within a day or two, I began getting messages from Jay Slater, the commissioning editor of The History Press in the U.K. He wanted to read my manuscript! No editor ever wanted to read it before; they just rejected it! At first I could not find it. Then I found a floppy disc covered with dust in my garage. I blew the dust off and read 'Baum group book' on the disc. I spent most of 2011 preparing it for publication. Now it is a few months away from publication. That is the story of how Berlin Ghetto: Herbert Baum and the Anti-fascist Resistance took twenty-eight years to finish.
Copyright (C) Eric Brothers 2012. All rights reserved.