“This is not the book I intended to write”, states Adam P. Frankel, author of, THE SURVIVORS (Harper; October 29, 2019)
Having completed his tenure at the White house as a speech writer for Barack Obama, Frankel decided to direct his attention to writing a book about the experiences of his grandparents, Bubbie and Zayde Perecmen, both Holocaust survivors. Painstakingly piecing together, the fragments and remnants of their memories from those darkest of days, led him to discover a series of shocking truths about himself and his family which were too distressing for him to ignore.
“My life had been a lie”, said Frankel, “the person I saw in the mirror was no longer me.” Having unearthed heretofore unknown truths about his kith and kin, he suffered a crisis of identity as he speculated what other secrets were still buried beneath a conspiracy of silence. As the son of a mother who struggled with the lifelong curse of BPD (borderline personality disorder), Frankel wondered if the unspeakable horrors his grandparents witnessed and suffered in the Dachau and Stutthof concentration camps, had left more than invisible tattoos on their arms. They neither bore nor needed numbers to tell them that their days were numbered. However, against all odds, they were fortunate to survive the fate of those whose ashes remained in the crematoria ovens. Like many survivors, Bubbie and Zayde could not elude the shadows of their experiences which pursued them the rest of their lives. Frankel’s nagging anxiety was that the Shoah Trauma, a Holocaust survivor’s disease his grandparents suffered, had been bequeathed to his stricken mother, and now was furtively incubating in him.
During a rather painful discussion with his mother about the causes of her serial depression and attempted suicide, she asked him, “Aren’t you glad you were conceived in love?” He was stunned to silence, as her story of loyalty and betrayal tumbled down the labyrinth of the recesses of his ears. Once the blurted truth was processed, talk was not something he chose to do. He was consumed with anger against his mother, protective of his father’s feelings and too ashamed of the story he had to tell – until now.
In time, and with the unflinching support of his wife Steph, Frankel discovered the difference between the bond of blood and the beauty of love. His is a personal and painful story replete with unintended discoveries, mitigated by finding a restorative pathway to understanding, acceptance, forgiveness and love.