2008-02-29 / Community

Before The Voices Are Stilled:'A Raft On The River'

Rockaway Resident Pens Holocaust Memoir
A Wave Book Review By Howard Schwach

Wave columnist and Republican Party activist, Stuart Mirsky, is no newcomer to literature about the Holocaust.

Miriam Feuer Sorger Miriam Feuer Sorger He edited the manuscript that became "Bitter Freedom: Memoirs of a Holocaust Survivor," written by Rockaway resident Jafa Wallach in 2006, and became interested in the era and the hardships suffered by the Jewish people who endured the time when the Nazi's tried as hard as they could to eradicate the race from the face of the Earth.

"Bitter Freedom" is the story of a handful of Polish Jews who spent 22 months buried in the ground just 30 feet from Gestapo headquarters.

Mirsky believes that it is important to tell these stories now that so many of those Holocaust survivors are elderly and soon, their voices would be stilled.

Even those who were children when World War II ended in 1945 would now be elderly and it was now or never if their stories were going to be told.

Nevertheless, Mirsky was not sure he wanted to take on another Holocaust story. Then his mother, Ruth, spoke with him about a friend, local resident Miriam Sorger, who had a story to tell.

The cover of "A Raft On The River: A Young Girl's Struggle to Survive the Shadow of the Holocaust." The cover of "A Raft On The River: A Young Girl's Struggle to Survive the Shadow of the Holocaust." "I heard so many of these stories that I wasn't keen on hearing a new one," Mirsky says. "Still," she insisted, "this one is different."

And, it was.

Sorger's story was about survival against all odds during the Nazi occupation of Poland - a desperate and lonely flight through the countryside, hiding in plain sight as an ethnic Pole.

"Her story was so different and so intriguing, I knew that I had to do it," Mirsky said.

"Like many of my generation, I lived in the shadow of the Holocaust in those years," Sorger writes. "But I was more fortunate than many. Too frightened to remain where the Germans had sent us, the Kolomyia Ghetto, I found a way past the barbed wire bar- ricades where my family had been confined and went into hiding in what was then southeastern Poland, pretending to be someone I wasn't for close to three years. Nearly everyone I loved and left behind was lost."

At age fifteen, Miriam ran for her life through the war-torn countryside of her native Galicia. Her blind grandmother had been shot to death, and both her mother and sister had been taken away and brought to the Belzec concentration camp.

Adopting a new identity, Miriam found employment as a nanny in the home of a Ukranian priest, only to find out that she had gone from the frying pan into the fire when a frequent guest at the home turned out to be the local Gestapo commander.

It wasn't until 2006 and her eightieth birthday that she could finally bring herself to recount the events that brutally ripped her from her home and family, and tossed her adrift, alone into a river of fear and suffering.

Sorger's story had a happy ending. She met another Holocaust survivor and they wed and moved to the United States, where they raised their four children.

Her story, however is compelling and is must-reading for anybody interested in the Holocaust, or in survival.

The book was recently published in England by Paul Mould Publishing and will be available in the United States next month.

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