On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember especially survivor's Joe Rubinstein's family. We're so grateful that for the first time since 1942, Joe was able to see the faces of some of his beloved family when the below photos were recently located among German identity papers, including Joe's mother Reszka, his brother David and Joe's identical twin Chaim (right). All of them, including two other siblings for which we have no photos, were believed killed at the Treblinka death camp). To learn about Joe's family and his remarkable story: Auschwitz #34207 - The Joe Rubinstein Story
Posted: April 29, 2016 - 8:33pm
Topeka author to share Holocaust survivor's story Monday at Kansas Museum of History
Irene and Joe Rubinstein hold copies of Nancy Sprowell Geise's book "Auschwitz #34207," which tells the story of Joe's survival of being in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Geise, of Topeka, will be the featured speaker at the State of Kansas
Holocaust Commemoration Service at 1 p.m. Monday, May 2, at the Kansas Museum of History 6425 S.W. 6th.
After reading a few pages from Nancy Sprowell Geise’s book on Holocaust survivor Joe Rubinstein, I could plainly see how writing his story became the driving force of her life for the last three and a half years.
There are few words that adequately describe Rubinstein’s life.
Remarkable, certainly, but that doesn’t begin to do it justice.
Indomitable? Surely this encapsulates Rubinstein’s life.
Miraculous? Perhaps when all is said and done, this one word is closer to the truth than any of the others.
Ultimately, the right words will have to come from those who read Geise’s book “Auschwitz #34207: The Joe Rubinstein Story” (Merry Dissonance Press, softcover, 330 pages, $17.95).
In the year since her book was published, Geise has been making presentations to groups near and far, including at the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
She will be the featured speaker at the State of Kansas Holocaust Commemoration Service at 1 p.m. Monday, May 2, at the Kansas Museum of History, 6425 S.W. 6th. A PowerPoint presentation featuring photos that she has never shown before will be interwoven into her talk.
That she even wrote the book at all is something of a miracle, considering she met Rubinstein in 2007 when she was selling residences at a retirement community in Fort Collins, Colo.
“Joe and Irene were our first residents to move in,” Geise related. “One of my coworkers met Joe on his first visit — and he told her he was a Holocaust survivor.
“A few weeks later, I saw a number from a tattoo sticking out from under his sleeve. I asked him about it, and he said it was from Auschwitz.
“I asked him if one of our daughters could interview him for one of her history class projects, and he said ‘Never! I will never talk about it!’”
Geise, of Topeka, said she had “just assumed at that point that he’d been sharing that story for years.” It never occurred to her that it was something he hadn’t shared with anyone outside his immediate family — and his immediate family knew only bits and pieces.
“I let it go at that point, but we became great friends,” Geise said. “He was like a grandfather to me. He’s the most gregarious, kind, outgoing soul.
“He’s 95 now but he looks like he’s 75 and acts like it — he just spent most of the winter in Mexico near the beach.”
It seems an eternity from his years as a prisoner at Auschwitz, where he received 25 lashes for something he didn’t do. He survived his wounds — from which he surely would have died from blood loss — by submerging himself for hours in a mud-filled pit.
He lost all of his family members in other Nazi death camps, including his widowed mother and all four of his siblings, his identical twin among them.
One of Joe’s jobs at Auschwitz was moving the bodies of the dead in wooden hand carts from the gas chambers to open pits.
In spite of the millions who didn’t make it out of the death camps alive, Rubinstein did — somehow, some way.
His faith in God, which never really wavered, helped pull him through the unimaginable horrors of the death camps where he spent several years of his life.
He was liberated and married his wife, Irene, then immigrated to the United States with virtually no money in his pocket. But he was alive, and that was worth more than money could ever buy.
Rubinstein ended up making a very nice living as a shoe designer, of all things. He designed shoes for movie stars and for First Ladies.
And, in 2012, five years after Rubinstein first told her he would never talk about his story, Geise was on a trip back to the retirement community in Fort Collins where she formerly worked.
Seeing Rubinstein walking on a sidewalk as she drove her car, Geise stopped and rolled down her window. There was Joe, looking as good as always.
“He sticks his head in the window and out of the blue says, ‘Nancy, I’d like to tell you my story, and I’d like you to write it if you’d like,’ ” Rubinstein said. “At that point, I thought I was maybe writing a little keepsake for his family, but as soon as I started hearing his story, I knew this was something much bigger.”
As a Christian, Geise said she wasn’t sure how her book would be received by those in the Jewish community. But the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with several going so far as to tell her they were so pleased a non-Jew wanted to write and is so devoted to Joe’s story.
Joe himself recorded introductions for each chapter on the book’s newly released audio version. And in what Geise calls yet another miracle, a researcher she commissioned recently tracked down long-lost photos of some of his family members, who were all taken from him by the Nazis. Geise said when Joe saw the photos after some 70 years, it brought out the rawest of human emotions.
Joe has never been back to his home town of Radom, Poland, since being taken by the Nazis in 1942. A company has offered to make a documentary of Joe returning home to Poland but he isn’t sure he will be able to do so, as the memories are still very painful for him. But Geise said she is hoping he will decide to do so as she believes it could be healing for him.
A feature movie isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Her book, she said, is one filled with hope — along with faith and love. It is inspirational and has found audiences among people of many faiths or no religion at all.
“That’s really one of the miracles of Joe’s story,” Geise said. “He says to this day that may be one of the reasons he was spared is that people can learn they can overcome anything.
“And he did — he lost everything a human being can lose, with the exception of his life and his health, which he nearly lost, yet he found a way to go on and not just live but thrive.
“He tells everyone who will listen that we must love life, we must love God and we must love each other, because that’s all there is.”
The book is a finalist for Foreword Reviews’ 2015 Book of the Year. It also has a sparkling five-out-of-five star rating from 90 customer reviews on Amazon.com.
The Holocaust service on Monday afternoon will include remarks from Gov. Sam Brownback; participation by Kansas clergy, political leaders and students; and recognition of Holocaust survivors, World War II veterans and children of survivors.
Students from Most Pure Heart of Mary Elementary School, Topeka High School, Washburn Rural High School, Holy Name Elementary School and Immaculata High School are scheduled to attend. A reception sponsored by the Kansas State Holocaust Commission will follow the program.
The free event has limited seating.
Sunday was an emotional and great day at the Temple Beth Shalom Blintz Brunch. Since I will be giving the Keynote Speech at the State of Kansas Holocaust Commemoration Service May, 2, 2016 at the Kansas Historical Society, I was invited to come to the Blintz Brunch to sell and sign copies of my book Auschwitz 34207 so that the public will be able to read the book in advance of the service. And wow, what an event the Blintze was! Well over a thousand people came through the line. People of all faiths coming together to celebrate. They just kept coming and coming for nearly five hours. As a non-Jewish person, it was a tremendous honor to be invited to be a part of such a wonderful event and tradition!
I had so much fun sharing Joe's story, Auschwitz 34207, today at the Williamsburg Public Library. The staff and volunteers out did themselves with their wonderful event. From the sign on the highway welcoming me, to the many displays about the book throughout the library, to the food, the gifts and most especially...the wonderful audience...all helped in making this a very special event. Williamsburg won my heart! The day was made even more memorable with a delicious lunch at the town's famous Guy and Mae's Tavern BBQ restaurant (their ribs were a favorite of Johnny Carson)! Thanks to Carolyn for the invitation and to everyone who helped in making this a a tremendous day, including Shae, Eloise and library director Delay Sims. (Featured below are some of the folks who made this day so special. Thanks also to the many who aren't in any of the photos but who made the day wonderful.)
We are so honored to announce that Auschwitz 34207 has been selected as a Finalist in the 2015 Book of the Year Award by Foreword Review!
Auschwitz 34207 is still going strong and is now an Audio Book! Download at: http://www.audible.com/pd/Bios-Memoirs/Auschwitz-34207-Audiobook/B01BO4Z24E
Please help us spread the word about this remarkable man by writing honest reviews. (Screen shot Feb. 17, 2016)
Read more about Joe's remarkable story: Auschwitz 34207
In 1942, Joe Rubinstein (21) was taken from his home by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz. He would never again see another member of his family; they were all killed in the Holocaust. Since the war's end, Joe has been praying for just one photo of them. This week, by a miracle beyond our wildest imagination, Joe was able to hold a photo of his mother and two of his brothers-- Dawid, and Joe's identical twin Chaim. "This is the greatest, greatest gift of my life," 95 year old Joe whispered over and over. After reading about Joe's life story in Auschwitz 34207, people all over the world have joined Joe in praying that he find a photo of his family. Through the great work of a researcher, we were able to obtain the original ID forms with photos, long believed lost, of when Joe's family was forced by the Nazis into the ghetto in Radom, Poland.
As you can imagine, this was an incredible shock to Joe to suddenly see the beautiful faces of his beloved family. Please keep him in your prayers as he processes waves of new emotions--joys and sorrows anew, and that we will still find photos of two additional siblings. Through these long lost photos, we all feel as if his mother and brothers have in a sense, come back to life again. The miracle of Joe's Journey continues and continues. We are praising God for such a tremendous blessing this Thanksgiving week! Amen! (Joe's identical twin Chaim is on right with dark hair.)
Sharing Joe Rubinstein's story, Auschwitz 34207, at the Library of Congress yesterday, along with Anthony Pitch (author of the powerful book: Our Only Crime was Being Jewish), was truly one of the greatest honors of my life. Thanks to everyone who helped make this event possible and for all of those able to come. Thanks especially to two very special women: Gail Shirazi (event organizer, Library of Congress); and Michlean Amir (event moderator, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum). The entire experience, and the warm welcome from everyone, was beyond imagination. Thanks, too, to my husband Doran for all his logistical help and support throughout this memoriable trip. Without him, none of this would have been possible. Thanks also to Marsha Dubrow for helping spread the word, and to Crystal Geise for additional event publicity. (First three photos and the last below are by Bruce Guthrie. Thanks Bruce!) May the world never forget the holocaust and the precious lives lost and the survivors, whose lives were changed forever.
Join me for a book signing on Sunday November 8th at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and November 9th at the U.S. Library of Congress! What a tremendous honor to be invited to share Joe's story, Auschwitz 34207, in such incredible places with so many wonderful people! Thanks to everyone who made these events possible!
Tune in tomorrow: TV interview tomorrow (Wed.) 4 p.m. I am being interviewed... in-depth and live... by Ralph Hipp of WIBW...Channel 13, Topeka for my book Auschwitz 34207. Prayers that this goes well and is a tribute to Joe and all he endured and overcame. Thanks Ralph Hip for helping your viewers to learn more about this remarkable survivor!
Thanks so much to KCOL Fox Radio (Fort Collins, Colorado) and host Jimmy Lakey for interviewing me today about Joe's story, Auschwitz 34207. Jimmy is very interested in anything dealing with WWII and he did a great job asking questions. As soon as I have the podcast, I will post.
Yesterday was a dream come true! Joe and Irene joined me in Denver to meet narrator Richard Reiman to record Joe's opening chapter quotes for the audio version of Auschwitz 34207.
While there were a few tears reliving these sometimes painful words, there was also an abundance of love and laughter as Richard tenderly promoted Joe, sentence by sentence. We had fits of laughter with the hearing challenges when Joe had to turn his hearing aids off for the recording but then could not hear the prompts. With Richard's incredible voice talents, and the special quotes in Joe's own voice, preserved now forever, this is going to be one POWERFUL Audio Book! (Photos of our great day followed by celebration lunch.)
I am so honored to be presenting Auschwitz 34207 at the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington D.C. on November 9th with fellow author, Anthony Pitch, sharing information about our books followed by a discussion moderated by Michlean Amir (The U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum Resource Coordinator). On Sunday, November 8th, I have the great pleasure of doing a book signing at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. A very special thank you to Gail Shirazi of The Library of Congress and Michlean Amir and Paul Messersmith of the Holocaust Museum for helping to make these wonderful events possible. Please tell your family and friends...and join us November 8th and 9th in Washington D.C. Spread the word!
In July 2015 I had the tremendous honor to share Joe's Rubinstein's story, Auschwitz 34207, with the staff and volunteers of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. and was so grateful (and overwhelmed) to be awarded the Coin of Excellence from Dana Carroll, the Director of Museum Services. What a tremendous day to be in the company of so many who have dedicated their lives helping the world to never forget! I have been invited back to the Museum for a book signing on November 8, 2015 followed by a presentation at the U.S. Library of Congress November 9th! Wow!
Please join me in wishing this incredible man, a very happy birthday by writing him a note in the comment section of this post. You can read more about Joe's story: Auschwitz 34207. Currently #1 on Amazon in Holocaust Memoirs (Kindle)! Joe was born September 16, 1920.
Joe was taken by the Nazis from his home in Radom, Poland when he was 21 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He would never again see his family. His widowed mother and his four siblings, including identical twin, were later killed at the Treblinka death camp. Since the day he was taken, Joe has never returned home. Yet, Joe's is a story of tremendous hope, love, courage and faith...of overcoming against all odds.
The Festival is a nonprofit organization with the goal of helping to combat illiteracy. It began with many authors speaking at area schools on Friday. I had the privilege to speak to the students of Michelle Lucht's Language Arts classes at French Middle School in Topeka. What great classes with a wonderful teacher!
Friday night the Governor of Kansas and the First Lady hosted a welcome reception at the Governor's Mansion for all presenting authors and their guests along with the event sponsors. My husband and I had so much fun, were so honored to be there and to meet so many great writers and those with a heart and passion for promoting books and literature!
Thanks so much for everyone who came Saturday to the Kansas State Capitol for the Festival to hear about Joe's amazing story, for those who purchased books... and for those who sent so many well wishes! I loved every moment of the entire event! Thank you to the Kansas Book Festival organizers for the incredible invitation to be a presenting author!
What a nice way to start a Sunday morning. Auschwitz 34207 is back at #1 on Amazon's Best Seller list for Holocaust Memoirs. It changes hourly, but for the last few months, it has been either #1 or #2. Thanks to all for you support in spreading the word about Joe's incredible story!
Thank you to Cheyenne Derksen (staff writer) and the McPherson Sentinel for their wonderful article today about Auschwitz 34207! I really appreciate Cheyenne taking the time to ask me in-depth questions about Joe's remarkable story. (One correction to the article that I don't think I communicated well to her... Irene's beloved teenage brother was killed by the Nazis but her parents and other family members survived the war.) Joe's entire immediate family was killed, including his mother, three siblings and his identical twin.