Question and Answer with Karen Treiger
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: I was inspired to write this book because of Sam and Esther. For a Polish Jew, the Holocaust was the trial to meet all trials. Sam and Esther rose to the occasion - over and over again. For six years, their lives were filled with terror, persecution, theft, mass killings, death camps, hiding in a pit and the kindness of righteous Gentiles. I thought about my own life – of privilege and education – I realized the contrast between their lives in Poland and my life in Seattle was beyond what I could fathom. Then, first Esther and then Sam left us, as are the other Holocaust survivors. I asked, now who will tell the stories? We will tell them – in a new way – through our own experiences and our own stories.
Q: What do I want the reader to gain after reading My Soul is Filled with Joy?
A: The upcoming Jewish High Holy Days are a time of reflection and introspection. This book gives plenty of ammunition. It will make you wonder about what it means to be human. After all, it was human beings that created this intricate and massive system of murder. I want readers to take appreciate what they have in life and to know that we can choose how to live. We must stand up to hate and bigotry.
Q: What advice would you give someone researching their own family history?
A: With the tools we have today - the internet, ancestry.com, DNA testing and just putting yourself out there into the world - you can find people and relatives that you never dreamed of. We found a Goldberg cousin who survived the war as a boy and stayed in Poland, leaving his Judaism behind. It happened because my blog was publicly available, and a Polish Priest reached out to me. We found the surviving righteous Gentile who helped Sam and Esther through old letters, Google and Facebook. The world is open to us – let’s use it.
Q: What is your big take-away from your trips to Poland?
A: My take away is something that my husband, Shlomo, said in his speech at the ceremony when the Stys family received the high honor of being named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum: Barbarity is not inherited; it is not an inevitable national character, nor a necessary consequence of social class. There are good people and bad people in every country. We must choose which we will be.