"A Boy Named 68818"
"Israel Starck’s narrative of survival provides readers with a fresh and intimately woven account of life during the Holocaust. I am most impressed with Israel’s intense detail about the events of his life, his labor in the camp, his march in the Austrian Alps, and more importantly, his will to survive and to notice the unbelievable acts of courage and kindness that kept him alive. This book delivers an incredible promise of love and perseverance against the odds by bringing his story to light."
Stephen D. Smith
Executive Director, USC Shoah Foundation
"Yisroel Starck's unpretentious account and his extraordinary courage tested in the hellfire of WWII reveals his faith and humanity and will surely inspire young people to treasure the richness of faith."
Rabbi Meyer H. May
Executive Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center
"I was delighted to hear that my esteemed friend Mr. Israel Starck of Chicago will be publishing his memoir of his experiences during the Holocaust. This spellbinding book, A Boy Named 68818, tells us the story of Mr. Starck, an ember saved from the inferno of WWII, in easy-to-read prose, and is meant for both youth and adults alike.
Aside from telling the story of the author’s personal encounters throughout this era, A Boy Named 68818 teaches future generations an important lesson: how Jews sacrificed their lives in sanctification of G-d’s Name as well as how they knew how to live in sanctification of His Name in those hellish circumstances. Even in the harshest situations, Jews maintained their human dignity. They gave of the little food they had to their fellow, and eased his plight, even at the cost of their lives. They didn’t lash out and blaspheme the Almighty, but rather, until their final breath, thanked their Creator Who provides life and sustenance.
Israel, who was just a young boy during the war, and experienced all of the travails of the horrific Holocaust, has sanctified G-d’s Name ever since with his dignity, his way of life, and the esteemed family that he built, children and grandchildren following the path of their Fathers. All who see them will acknowledge that they are blessed by G-d (Isaiah 61:9).
In writing this book, the author has fulfilled the mitzvah “Remember what Amalek did to you…you shall not forget!” (Deuteronomy 25:17, 19), to remember and not forget that which the wicked have inflicted upon our People. In addition, he is fulfilling the will and testimony of the victims, may G-d avenge their blood.
As the years pass, and the numbers of the survivors who can never forget the events of those days are dwindling, the importance of books such as this increases dramatically, in order to remember and remind the entire world of what was."
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau
Chief Rabbi, Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, Israel
Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council
Former Chief Rabbi of Israel
Israel Starck's book is a powerful true-life account of a boy whose world was torn apart by the horrors of the Holocaust. The author's unique personal story also testifies to the acquisition of values for life and a view of the world, providing food for thought on several levels. In addition to historical, cultural and geographical topics, the book also touches upon spiritual questions and the relationship between religion and the Holocaust. As such, the book provides useful material for teaching about the Holocaust. With regard to the educational activities of the Jewish Museum in Prague, I consider this aspect of the work to be of great importance.
Director, Jewish Museum in Prague
A BOY NAMED 68818 is a Holocaust biography/memoir that is unique, layered, and extremely teachable.
UNIQUE: A BOY NAMED 68818 tells the story of Srulek Storch, a Jewish fourteen-year-old in wartime Czechoslovakia, who is arrested by the Nazis and deported to Auschwitz.
What is fascinating about this book is that it is co-written by Srulek (Israel Starck) and his daughter, Miriam (Starck) Miller. And so the book is both a memoir and a biography, since the memories of Nazi occupied Europe and the Nazi camps belong to Israel the survivor, yet those memories have been "translated" by his daughter into compelling, concise prose.
Although we don't get to see the story from Miriam's perspective directly (as seen in the second generation text MAUS by Art Spiegelman, for example), we can't help but be aware that Miriam has chosen to tell her father's story with certain words and in a particular way. And so her voice -- and the voice of the second generation -- is ever-present.
LAYERED: In addition to its compelling central narrative, A BOY NAMED 68818 is enhanced by exceptional illustrations, poetry (including the well known poem "The Butterfly" by Pavel Friedman), and biblical quotations. On the surface, these enhancements can be seen as overwhelming Srulek's story, but, as we fall into Srulek's world, these artworks, poems, and quotations can be seen as becoming part of the protagonist's journey.
In another context, the biblical quotations would be seen as cliché, but here they reflect Srulek's religious Jewish upbringing and religious beliefs, while the poetry throughout the book reminds us of the broader historical context and points to the idiosyncrasy of each individual's Holocaust experience. The illustrations by Gadi Pollack and Alex Firley are entirely absorbing and at times beautiful, despite the horrors they often convey.
The book is jam-packed and can sometimes be seen as being overthought and disjointed, but this combination also makes the reading experience intense, as well as reflective of the authors' goal to educate. In this sense, A BOY NAMED 68818 feels urgent, almost achingly desperate, mirroring the urgency of Holocaust education in the 21st Century and pointing to a time -- coming all too soon -- when there will no longer be witnesses and survivors of the Nazis' atrocities to tell their stories in person.
EXTREMELY TEACHABLE: What makes this book outstanding as an educational text is the extensive supplementary materials that can be found at the back of the book. (Note that while the book is 346 pages long, the main story takes up only the first 211 pages, many of which are artworks and poems -- this makes the text an excellent resource for classrooms and a worthy introduction to Holocaust testimony.) The supplementary materials include maps, historical timelines, family photographs, primary documents, images of real artifacts, suggested classroom activities, and reader questions, which will no doubt make this book a pleasure to teach.
Danny M. Cohen, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor of Instruction
School of Education & Social Policy
The Crown Family Center for Jewish & Israel Studies
"I have read Israel Starck’s riveting account of his life story of Holocaust tragedy and subsequent personal and family renewal and success. But this book is not only his story; it is in a greater sense the story of the Jewish people over the past many decades. The book is filled with fascinating detail, drama and a touch of necessary irony. Especially our new and coming generation should read it in order to familiarize themselves as to the joys, realities and challenges of being a proud and loyal Jew. I hope that this book will be widely read and distributed. It deserves to be so treated and appreciated."
Rabbi Berel Wein
Rav, Beit Knesset HaNassi, Rechavia, Jerusalem
Director, Destiny Foundation
"My heart broke from the horrors of Srulek's story. But I also rejoiced knowing that Srulek's strength of spirit and that of the people who helped and supported him enabled him to survive and to thrive. This book will bring the realities of the effects of intolerance and mob mentality to life for students. This is a story that should be shared!"
Project Coordinator of the 2006 News & Documentary Emmy® Award nominee,
Paper Clips, and of the Children’s Holocaust Memorial, Whitwell Middle School, TN
A Boy Named 68818 is a brilliant account of survival, heroism and faith. An important read for people of all ages, Mr. Starck's story serves as an inspiration to all.
Host/Exec-Producer, Nachum Segal Network
"I have just finished reading the advance copy of “A Boy Named 68818", and have found it to be a fascinating and inspiring story of courage, faith and family. The writing is so good that it was hard for me to put the book down. I highly recommend this book to both young and old."
Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.
President, Rabbinical Council of America
"I have gone through “A Boy Named 68818,” the personal wartime memoir of its author, R’ Yisroel (Israel) Starck. It is a valuable resource for yeshivos and Bais Yaakov’s that seek to instruct students in the history of churban Europe with material that reflects an
appropriate viewpoint. The fact that this often heart-wrenching story is brimming with content that will strengthen the fundamentals of Jewish belief and commitment to mitzvah observance makes the work eminently worthy of serving as a tool for Holocaust study geared to the faithful portrayal of Jewish faith.
In many Torah schools there is an ongoing search for such materials, and I am confident that, when disseminated, this book will be a welcome addition to Holocaust curricula. I congratulate the author on this significant achievement, and I am pleased to humbly add my endorsement to those already offered."
Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Klein
Director of Publications, Torah Umesorah
Director of Zechor Yemos Olam, Division of Holocaust Studies
"I hope that it will reach a wide audience of young readers. It includes not only the story of the horrific Holocaust of our people, but also the story of the steadfastness of a boy suffused with faith and Jewish values, a boy whose upbringing was deeply absorbed and accompanied him throughout his tribulations. The young reader will first capture the atmosphere of the shtetl Podhorjan where you spent a happy childhood together with your warm, vibrant family. He will then tremble as he reads of the winds of war sweeping over the area, the anti-Jewish decrees, your house being requisitioned by the Nazis, and then your family herded into the brick-factory and deported to Auschwitz in the notorious cattle-cars together with the rest of the community. . . .
It is common to hear the Holocaust referred to as a period of Divine concealment, and this is certainly correct. However, we should remember that the Holocaust was also a time of revelation – revelation of Divine providence, and revelation of the unique strength of the Jewish People to withstand all the troubles. Your story describes both these aspects."
Rabbanit Esther Farbstein
Director of the Holocaust Education Center,
Michlalah Women's College, Jerusalem
"Seventy years after the Holocaust, the third and fourth generation born since, is increasingly less aware of pre-war Jewish history and the tragic details of Churbon Europa.
Israel Starck has written a poignant memoir detailing his life in pre-war Hungary, his Holocaust experiences, and his determination to rebuild after the war. The book powerfully conveys lessons of emunah and mesiras nefesh and is richly illustrated in a sensitive manner.
"A Boy Named 68818" is geared towards junior high and high school students but it will be appreciated by adults and youth alike."
Director, The Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center
I remember thinking, another Holocaust book? Who has the strength to read it? Once I started it, I didn't want to put it down. It is a beautiful book and really unlike other Holocaust books. [Israel Starck] is a true Hero and I pray that Hashem gives him many more years in good health together with [his wife].
Publisher, The Jewish Press