“Bernice Lerner’s intelligent and perceptive book delves into the lives of survivors, and explores their anguish as well as their hope. Readers will find in it elements that may bring them closer to ineffable experiences.” —Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
“Bernice Lerner has written of extraordinary people whose professional achievements have brought them to prominence. Their personal life stories would be interesting. The fact that all were children survivors of the Holocaust makes their stories even more fascinating. To have begun where they began, to have come to this country as immigrants needing not only to learn a new language but to make up for years lost, education denied, trust destroyed, and to have come so far and done so much makes their achievements all the more impressive. One reads her book with anguish and with joy, with tears and with laughter, and one only catches a glimpse of what the world lost in the murder of more than one million children three score years ago.” —Michael Berenbaum, author of The World Must Know
“As a child psychiatrist, I was completely immersed in every page of this well written and compelling manuscript, which poses enormous questions about survival and meaning—how the young endure (and even prevail) under the most awful of circumstances. . . . This book will be regarded, too, as a milestone in the history of documentary work—storytelling (and listening) put on record carefully, movingly: the triumph of honorable intelligence, as it grew and grew in lives once threatened by murderous malevolence.” —Robert Coles, Pulitzer Prize Winner
The Triumph of Wounded Souls vividly recounts the stories of seven Holocaust survivors who overcame many obstacles to earn advanced degrees and become college and university professors. As Jews trapped in Nazi-occupied Europe from 1939 to 1945, these remarkable individuals witnessed and endured terror and torture. After the war they pursued academic subjects that increased their understanding of the world and gave them a sense of purpose. Their inspirational accounts demonstrate that despite the worst of circumstances it is possible to heal with time.
Each narrative chapter describes the social background and circumstances that helped to shape the survivor’s destiny. Lerner’s interrogative approach unearths surprising insights into each survivor’s distinct personality, beliefs, and aspirations. Isaac Bash and George Zimmerman both survived the horrors of Auschwitz to become physicists. Ruth Anna Putnam, a philosopher, endured the war in hiding with her non-Jewish grandparents. Samuel Stern, a biologist, spent his early childhood in Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen. Zvi Griliches survived a Dachau subsidiary camp to become a prominent economist. Maurice Vanderpol became a psychiatrist after spending years during the war hiding in Amsterdam. Micheline Federman was sheltered by French farmers and later became a pathologist.
While each survivor’s postwar journey is complex and unique, these seven scholars reveal that the contemplative life can serve as a salve for wounded souls. They are extraordinary examples of how those who act justly and purposefully can help to bring reconciliation and meaning to an unjust world. In sharing their personal stories, they illuminate the realm of human possibility.
“This is a valuable addition to the literature of the Holocaust, offering a coherent narrative of persecution and survival.” — Booklist
“Lerner’s tremendous contribution to the ever-expanding field of Holocaust literature begins with her unusual thesis and selection of people to interview. Through the telling and analysis of all of their stories of tenacity and humanity, The Triumph of Wounded Souls is a window into unfathomable experiences and ultimately a well of hope.” — The Jewish Advocate
“This remarkable volume shows how culture and tradition can assert themselves in the face of destruction, and how those affected by a great trauma can nevertheless devote their lives to improving humanity.” — The University Bookman