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A World Erased

A Grandson's Search for His Family's Holocaust Secrets

Noah Lederman

This poignant memoir by Noah Lederman, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, transports readers from his grandparents’ kitchen table in Brooklyn to World War II Poland. In the 1950s, Noah’s grandparents raised their children on Holocaust stories. But because tales of rebellion and death camps gave his father and aunt constant nightmares, in Noah’s adolescence Grandma would only recount the PG version. Noah, however, craved the uncensored truth and always felt one right question away from their pasts. But when Poppy died at the end of the millennium, it seemed the Holocaust stories died with him. In the years that followed, without the love of her life by her side, Grandma could do little more than mourn.

After college, Noah, a travel writer, roamed the world for fifteen months with just one rule: avoid Poland. A few missteps in Europe, however, landed him in his grandparents’ country. When he returned home, he cautiously told Grandma about his time in Warsaw, fearing that the past would bring up memories too painful for her to relive. But, instead, remembering the Holocaust unexpectedly rejuvenated her, ending five years of mourning her husband. Together, they explored the memories—of Auschwitz and a half-dozen other camps, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the displaced persons camps—that his grandmother had buried for decades. And the woman he had playfully mocked as a child became his hero.

I was left with the stories—the ones that had been hidden, the ones that offered catharsis, the ones that gave me a second hero, the ones that resurrected a family, the ones that survived even death. Their shared journey profoundly illuminates the transformative power of never forgetting.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 256Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-6743-5 • Hardback • February 2017 • $24.95 • (£15.95)
978-1-4422-6744-2 • eBook • February 2017 • $23.99 • (£15.95)
Noah Lederman is an award-winning writer whose work has been published in The Economist, the Boston Globe, the Miami Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Sun-Times, Slate, Salon, the New Republic, Tablet Magazine, the Jerusalem Post, Tikkun, and elsewhere. He lives on Long Island.
Chapter 1 The Holocaust through Nightmares
Chapter 2 Super Poppy and the Meshugge Grandma
Chapter 3 The Hospital
Chapter 4 Keys to the Holocaust Vault
Chapter 5 Adrift
Chapter 6 Death in the Czech Republic
Chapter 7 The E-mail
Chapter 8 Otwock
Chapter 9 From Night to Dawn
Chapter 10 Peering into the Vault
Chapter 11 The Tapes
Chapter 12 Panama
Chapter 13 Escape from Warsaw
Chapter 14 Revision
Chapter 15 A Box of Photos
Chapter 16 The Four Questions
Chapter 17 Israel
Chapter 18 Research at Yad Vashem
Chapter 19 Poisonous DNA
Chapter 20 The Boy at the Gates of Warsaw
Chapter 21 Lightning Lad
Chapter 22 Escape from Treblinka
Chapter 23 The Liquidation
Chapter 24 Grandmas Determination
Chapter 25 Get Well Soon
Chapter 26 The Bronze Arm
Chapter 27 Bergen-Belsen
Chapter 28 Better and You Better
Chapter 29 Umschlagplatz
Chapter 30 The Mystery Camp
Chapter 31 A Return to the Camps
Chapter 32 Majdanek
Chapter 33 Birkenau
Chapter 34 Auschwitz
Chapter 35 The Buna
Chapter 36 Liberation
Chapter 37 In Search of New Beginnings
About the Author
As a youth, Lederman was only vaguely aware of the history of his grandparents as Holocaust survivors. In Lederman’s close, loving extended family in America, questions to his grandparents on the topic were usually deflected. As an adult, a trip to Holocaust-related sites in eastern Europe triggered an intense interest in Lederman for his family’s experiences. His now-widowed grandmother, perhaps as a form of therapy, slowly but with vivid detail finally revealed her story, and the result is this harrowing and deeply shocking if sometimes uplifting account. This is a wide-ranging memoir, covering the vibrant, prewar Jewish life in Poland, the Nazi-imposed Jewish ghetto and subsequent extermination camps, the postwar confinement in displaced person camps, and the move to America. In passionate and sometimes hate- filled invective, his grandmother lashes out at her Nazi persecutors but also at many goyim, Poles whom she describes as viciously anti-Semitic. If there is a hero here, it is Lederman’s grandmother, who consistently displays remarkable courage and resilience in the face of horrible traumas. This is a vital contribution to Holocaust collections.
Jay Freeman; Booklist

Noah Lederman . . . offers a compelling third-generation perspective on the Holocaust, the survivors, and their families. He craves the details about death camps and ghettos that gave his grandparents nightmares. Part travelogue into the Europe of former concentration camps and his grandparents’ native Poland, part quest for the ugly truths he was shielded from as a child, Lederman’s narrative opens with the death of his grandfather, and the urgent need to learn, delicately, from his grandmother what he can before her stories die with her.
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Lederman’s dogged persistence in getting his grandparents to recount their memories of the Holocaust pays off brilliantly. In A World Erased, he rescues their stories—and the stories of so many who survived, and so many who didn’t—and turns their experiences during the Holocaust into an enduring monument for his own generation and those to follow.
Wayne Hoffman, executive director, Tablet Magazine, and author of Sweet Like Sugar and An Older Man

Noah Lederman’s superbly written memoir has the emotional impact of a great novel but resonates with the truth of his own experience as the grandson of Holocaust survivors. It’s the story of a young man coming to terms with familial memory as he travels the world and finds his own place in it. This is a moving and important book.
Phyllis T. Smith, Author of I Am Livia

A World Erased is a book of dark tales that is suffused with tenderness on every page. As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, Lederman's journey of remembrance makes for urgent reading.
Sam Apple, author of Schlepping through the Alps

This gripping book traces the evolution of a young man's quest to uncover the stories of his grandparents’ harrowing past—a riveting journey through repressed memory, unspeakable trauma, and the landmarks of European genocide that lead the author to a fresh understanding of his family's wartime past and his own identity. A determined historian, dogged sleuth, and gifted storyteller, Lederman flecks his memoir with black humor and refreshing candor, illuminating how the horrors of the Holocaust are transmitted through the generations.
Andrew Jacobs, director of Four Seasons Lodge

• Winner, Philadelphia Inquirer Best Read