After the unexpected death of her father, in 2013, Seward Park resident Karen Treiger quit her job as a lawyer to write a book about her in-laws, the late Esther and Shmuel “Sam” Goldberg, who survived the Holocaust. My Soul is Filled With Joy: A Holocaust Story was released in October. Treiger talks about her journey as an author.
On the process
I started with interviews of Esther and Sam from around 20 years ago. I interviewed people who knew them during the war. And I read tons of books about the Holocaust and World War II. Any person’s story is hard to comprehend without understanding the context of what was going on in Germany and Poland.
Sam got captured and taken to Treblinka (in Poland). Because of this book, he is only the second person on record to have survived after being forced to build one of these death camps.
The Treblinka uprising happened, and all of the prisoners started running out. Sam ended up in the woods, just outside of Stoczek, and randomly met Esther. She took him to the woman who was helping her, Helena (Stys). It was very dangerous for the Sty family to be helping these Jews, but they did anyway.
When it wasn’t too cold, they hid in a pit in the forest. When we went to Poland in 2016 — me, my husband (Shlomo Goldberg), four children, and future son-in-law — we saw the pit. My most amazing family moment was looking down into a pit in which my in-laws — my children’s grandparents — hid from the Nazis. We all had tears streaming down our faces. It was a powerful, holy moment.
On the power of telling the story
If I had waited to write this book, we may never have met the Stys family, and we never would have known the truth about some really important pieces of family history.
Delving deeper into Sam and Esther’s story, I can never take my life for granted. I can’t take for granted that I have a warm, soft bed to sleep in at night or a refrigerator full of food. I can’t take for granted that my children are safe.
We’re lucky enough in our lives to hear these stories while the people are still alive. As we see the survivors leaving us, it’s my generation and the next generation’s responsibility to deeply understand and tell their stories.
My Soul is Filled with Joy: A Holocaust Story is available on Amazon.