Title: Silent Letter.

Author: Yitzchak Mayer 

Publisher Mosaic Press

ISBN: 978-1-77161-243-2

What is the difference between peace, chaos and discord? What happens in a moment in time can alter your life and that of others within seconds. The time it takes to close your eyes, open a window or even place your silverware back on the table is all the time needed to change your entire world. The noise, the fear, the unknown and the knowledge that you have no idea where your life is going or what will happen next. Close your eyes and picture the scene of a woman and her two children home as men dressed in black burst into your home, take your husband and father of your children away never to be seen again. As the story opens you hear the voice of Roszy as Moritz her husband a member of the French Resistance is taken away.

Reminding him as she is writing to him as if he is reading her words that she has no idea where he is, whether he is alive or dead or whether he will ever read her words. This is a story that is so important, so vital to help the world remember that the Holocaust really happened and so many died at the hand of those that were cruel and inhumane. Left alone with her two sons, Erwin the author of this novel telling the story in his mother’s words, Jackie the youngest and Roszy seven months pregnant as she tries her best to learn the fate of Moritz who she does not know was taken to a concentration camp where he would succumb to death. Boarding many trains, leaving within the darkness of night, hoping to escape the wrath of the soldiers that board each train, they could not believe their restraint, the stalwart attitude of Erwin who took the place of his father and responded to all questions asked as she pretended to be mute and not able to answer. The story is told from the point of view of the mother as if she is reliving the moments before her husband was taken, reliving their courtship and explaining the fear in her children’s eyes until something would change it.

Taken off the train to Saint-Claude, false papers, diamonds hidden in a bar of soap and in her bag, fear strikes as she and her children are taken off the train and separated. She is taken to a clinic and her children to a convent without any words being said. At the clinic she is examined by a priest/doctor who promises to get her out of the clinic and to a hospital even though she has to pretend to not understand, be ill and hopefully survive. What happens next is right out of an underground account of how many escaped when the priest/doctor, officers and the nurse take her to her first destination the convent, get her children that appear to be shell shocked and afraid and she uses some of the diamonds as payment as we follow her and her children to the home of her sister where she will remain for a short time. Both her and Manya her sister are having children and although her sister enjoys tormenting her and insulting her even telling her the Moritz cared for her more than Roszy, she never lets her guard down, never falters and somehow recalls even more of the past as she remembers how her sister met Jack, her husband who is also gone as they both know for a short moment in time they must ban together until they are alone once more. Can you see the stone faces of the children?

Can you hear the demeaning voices of the Gestapo? Can you feel the desperation and despair in the minds and hearts of these people as they are tossed aside, taken to prison camps and some survive but we know most don’t. How is she able to pretend that she mute and watch and hear how Erwin becomes her champion and speaks for her. The voice you hear is the mother’s voice as narrated by Erwin hoping to recant what his mother would say and find the inner strength to show how astute his perceptions were, her ability to survive and realize that in order to forge ahead she could not give in to her fears and hope to escape to Switzerland. How they get there and what roads they take, who helps them and what happens when Madam Ravel learns what they have planned will bring fear within the hearts of all those involved. 

Things get more difficult as she is accused of two crimes and sentenced to a detention center and her children will not be returned as her crimes although to the reader might not hold much gravity or weight but they do to the Swiss authorities and the nurses tending to her care. The ending and where she winds up will bring tears to your eyes as her child is born, his name registered and she is angered by not choosing it until someone comes to her aid, gives her hope as the child will be named David ben son of Moshe Leib.

The epilogue elaborates in detail where each one Jacob, Erwin, David and their mother winds up as a result of her being placed in a prison of her own in an apartment where she had to remain. Will they ever see her again? Their journeys took different paths and Erwin/Yitzchak chose his and to honor his mother and father by letter us all hear her words in a letter that might never be mailed and one which would remain as a Silent Letter revealed within the pages of this heartbreaking and compelling book.