9780385527194

Gertruda's Oath

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780385527194

  • ISBN10:

    0385527195

  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2010-08-03
  • Publisher: Doubleday Religion
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Summary

Trapped in the horrors of World War II, a woman and a child embark on a journey of survival in this page-turning true story that recalls the power and the poignancy ofSchindler's List. Michael Stolowitzky, the only son of a wealthy Jewish family in Poland, was just three years old when war broke out and the family lost everything. His father, desperate to settle his business affairs, travels to France, leaving Michael in the care of his mother and Gertruda Bablinska, a Catholic nanny devoted to the family. When Michael's mother has a stroke, Gertruda promises the dying woman that she will make her way to Palestine and raise him as her own son. Written with the invaluable assistance of Michael, now seventy-two and living in New York City, GERTRUDA'S OATH re-creates Michael and Gertruda's amazing journey. Gripping vignettes bring to life the people who helped ensure their survival, including SS officer Karl Rink, who made it his mission to save Jews after his own Jewish wife was murdered; Rink's daughter, Helga, who escaped to a kibbutz, where she lived until her recent death; and the Jewish physician Dr. Berman, who aided Michael and Gertruda through the worst of times. GERTRUDA'S OATH is a story of extraordinary courage and moral strength in the face of horrific events. LikeSchindler's List, it transcends history and religion to reveal the compassion and hope that miraculously thrives in a world immersed in war without end.

Author Biography

RAM OREN is known as the John Grisham of Israel. Formerly a lawyer and journalist, he founded the Keshet publishing company and has written more than sixteen runaway bestsellers. GERTRUDA’S OATH is Oren’s first English translation sold in the United States. He lives in Israel.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts

Introduction
The smoke clouds of war slowly began to dissipate and the spring sun broke through, caressing the ruins that buried tens of thousands of human beings, flooding the devastated streets, and scattering sparks of light on the waters of the broad Vistula River that slowly bubbled up to wash away memories of dread and death.
On the hill, above scarred Warsaw, stood the ancient and magnificent mansion of the Stolowitzky family, which had miraculouslysurvived the war intact. Four floors of hewn stone, carved edges, statues of ancient warriors on the roof ledge, impressive mosaic windows and painted wooden ceilings.
Only two of the original inhabitants of the mansion were still alive, a boy and his nanny, and they were on their way to another country, far away. In their new home, between peeling walls, rust spots spreading in the bathtub, and cheap furniture–that mansion with all its splendor and charm seemed like a daydream, the product of an overactive imagination.
The boy and his nanny, who adopted him as a son, lived in a small apartment in one of the alleys of Jaffa, in a tenement. From the window, they saw only dreary buildings, children playing in an abandoned yard, and women returning home from the market, carrying heavy shopping bags. Most of the day, the apartment was invaded by the noise of passing cars and the stench of garbage. In winter the smell of mildew permeated the rooms, and in summer the walls trapped a blazing stifling air.
In the mansion on the hill, everything, of course, was different. The big building with its spacious wings, its gardens, was properly heated in winter and properly cooled in summer. A pure breeze from the river blew in the windows and servants tiptoed about to avoid any undue noise. The closets were stuffed with expensive clothes. Luxurious meals were served in rare china dishes. The old heavy cutlery, polished clean, was gold, and the wine was poured into fine crystal glasses.
Michael Stolowitzky and his adoptive mother, Gertruda, had survived the war and now both of them were struggling to survive in the new land. He attended school. She was past her prime by now. Every morning she’d go to work as a cleaning woman in the northern part of the city and return in the evening, her joints aching and her eyes weary. Michael would greet her with a kiss, take off her shoes, cook her meager supper, and make her bed. He knew she was working too hard only to have enough money to send him to school and provide for all his needs. He swore that someday he would pay her back generously for everything she had done for him–for saving him from death, for devoting her life to him, for making sure he didn’t lack anything.
Poverty and shortages weren’t strangers to Michael Stolowitzky. He had experienced them throughout his journey of survival in the world war, but he also saw light at the end of the tunnel, the end of penury, the end of the daily struggle for existence. He believed that someday, in the not-too-distant future, everything would change and things would go back to the way they were, to the days when they knew wealth and comfort, days far from suffering and torments.
His rosy future was within reach, clear and concrete. Only a four- hour flight from Israel lay a blocked treasure, millions of dollars and gold bars deposited in Swiss banks by his late father, Jacob, the Jew who was called “the Rockefeller of Poland.” Michael was his only heir.
The legacy, a small recompense for the suffering and loss of the war, filled Michael’s thoughts and assumed a central place in his fantasies. When he was recruited into the Israeli army, he waited impatiently for his military service to end so he could work on getting the money. He was sent to a battle unit and was wounded in the leg by a bullet from a Syrian sniper during a firefight in the northern Kinneret.
Groaning in pain, he was taken to the operating room in t

Excerpted from Gertruda's Oath: A Child, a Promise, and a Heroic Escape During World War II by Ram Oren
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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