After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring

By Joseph Polak

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 141

ISBN: 978-965-524-162-4


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After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring is the true story of a young infant boy and his mother who miraculously survive two concentration camps, and then, after the war, battle demons of the past, societal rejection, disbelief and invalidation as they struggle to reenter the world of the living. Neither God nor man emerge unscathed from this searing work, written by a distinguished, Boston-based rabbi. Early critics have suggested that this book constitutes a sequel to Anne Frank’s diary, the work she could have written, had she, like the author, survived Bergen-Belsen.

About the Author

Joseph Polak is an infant survivor of the Holocaust, during which time he was a prisoner at two concentration camps: Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen. He has published extensively in leading popular and scholarly periodicals and newspapers, including the Boston Globe, Commentary, Jewish Law Studies, Judaism, and Tradition. He is an assistant professor of public health (health law) at the Boston University School of Public Health; the rabbi emeritus of the Florence and Chafetz Hillel House at Boston University; and the chief justice at the Rabbinical Court of Massachusetts. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. Elie Wiesel is a Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, author of 57 books, and winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize. He lives in New York.

Praise for After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring

“This gem of a book, 70 years in the making, is already a classic, riveting in what it reveals, in the questions it releases. Polak’s insights into the human soul are as profound as any of the authors of nonfiction or fiction whose work I’ve read, cherished, reread. So often, I just sat quietly for a long while with a single sentence as its power penetrated and continued to reverberate. This author’s writing is extraordinary – it has the sure breathtaking tempo, evocative imagery and courage of poetry at its best. Polak has allowed us into the innermost sanctum of his life’s journey whose center is occupied by the Holocaust which demolished the world that should have been his and substituted a lifetime of questioning meaning, of running and hiding from pre-verbal memory, of searching for a way to keep living and shoulder the burden of witness.”

–Merle Feld, playwright, poet, author of A Spiritual Life and Finding Words

“As one of the last witnesses to the Shoah, certainly one of the youngest, Joseph Polak has written a memoir that is an essential contribution to the body of Holocaust literature. Polak’s testimony begins in utero when his mother is forced to ‘prove’ her late-stage pregnancy to the SS to stave off immediate deportation. His witness continues as a three-year-old liberated from Bergen-Belsen, and then beyond – as he portrays with great dignity the extraordinary burdens of survival. Thus, Rabbi Polak, in his person and in this writing, bridges the universe of physical survivors to that of the psychological survivors who must now carry testimony forward into future generations. With each new, breath-taking read of this slender volume, one uncovers layer upon layer of meaning. Not the least of these is the theological struggle that grips this deeply religious man. It comes not in one diatribe or complaint but as a subtle undercurrent throughout, a powerful vignette of the absurd here, a daring question there... This is a must read for anyone not afraid of grappling with the unfathomable.”

–Blu Greenberg, poet, writer, author of On Women and Judaism: A View from Tradition

“World-wide, Anne Frank is considered to be the authentic voice from within the Holocaust. Her diary is indeed precious and touching. And yet it ends with her deportation to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen where she dies a gruesome death. That is not part of her diary. From that same hideous place that claims her life emerges a little boy to continue the story. His story and her story merge. Joseph poses the questions and challenges to G-d that Anne might have posed, had she survived. Surely Joseph’s sensitive portrayal of this brief period of his life illustrates dramatically that for Jewish children, liberation was not particularly liberating….”

–Robert Krell, MD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, co-editor of And Life is Changed Forever: Holocaust Childhoods Remembered