International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record
A Walk With Esther, Book Release Date: Tuesday, January 27, 2015,

Aledo, IL: As the world notes the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps in Europe, local author Deb Bowen announces the release of her first book, A Walk With Esther.  She shares the stories of local Jewish Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans who witnessed the concentration camps. 

Over a decade ago, this Christian woman befriended Ida Kramer, a local Holocaust historian, and three Jewish Holocaust survivors. Bowen's book describes Ida's life and her discovery that her father's twin sister perished in the Holocaust. It shares the stories of three beautiful women, each named Esther, who survived Nazi Germany and later raised their families here in the Quad Cities.

Bowen created a project called A BOOK by ME, using young authors and illustrators to tell the stories of survivors and rescuers in simple children’s storybook form. Over 90 books have been created in the Holocaust series, with a dozen available for purchase. Bowen then decided to tell "the stories behind the stories" in her own book, relating how the project was created and spotlighting some of the individuals who inspired it. A Walk With Esther and the children’s books are available online at www.abookbyme.com. 

The book also tells about World War II veterans who saw the horrors of the Nazi camps. Another snapshot of the war is of brave people who risked everything to save Jewish lives. Bowen found two men from Davenport who grew up in Europe and rescued Jews during the war.

Some of the local stories told in A Walk With Esther are:

• Esther Avruch's story is her Polish family being taken to a concentration camp while Esther was outside of the Warsaw Ghetto looking for food one day. She became an orphan soon after. After immigrated to America, Esther and her husband Saul moved to Rock Island.

• Esther Katz whose Jewish family was taken from Czechoslavia to Auschwitz concentration camp. Her brother and father went straight to the gas chambers but Esther and her mother survived. Esther's grandmother suffocated on the cattle car on the way to Auschwitz. Esther and her husband Isador ran a kosher meat market in Rock Island for many years.

• Esther Schiff was a Polish girl who spent the night with a friend and returned home to find her parents gone. She never saw them again but her life was saved when she gave a non-Jewish name and went to Germany as a Polish slave labor worker. Saul's job with the US Army brought them to Rock Island many years ago.

• Dr. Ralph Troll - Ralph's mother was Jewish and taken to a camp. When they found out at school, his teacher sent him home saying he was Jewish and therefore, not worthy of an education. This brilliant young man became a college professor and taught at Augustana College for many years prior to his retirement.

• Soldier Roy Kouski of Port Byron - this young soldier had an amazing encounter with a young Jewish boy in a concentration camp. Mary Jean Eisenhower, grand daughter of the President, has been involved in trying to search for "Paul" to Roy's grand daughter can give him a message from Roy.

• Soldier Eugene Parmer of Maquoketa shot the lock off one of the gates of Dachau concentration camp.

• Soldier Jesse Crawford of Aledo carried Jewish prisoners too weak to walk out of a Nazi work camp. He, along with other soldiers took them to safety in a Displaced Persons camp

• Michael Rubovits, formerly of Rock Island, is a Jewish survivor from France. Michelle worked for many decades at the Rock Island public library checking out books to children. No one knew she had an amazing story to tell.

• Art Hilmo was born in Norway and part of the underground when the Nazis occupied his country. He skied Jews into the safety of Sweden in the dark of night. He returned to Norway with dynamite in his backpack to blow up the Nazi rail system. Art immigrated to the USA and lived in Davenport until he passed away.

• Jeno Berta was a small boy in Hungary when his family decided to hide a Jewish family of four in the barn. Six-year-old Jeno was responsible for carrying food to them each day. Today Jeno lives in Davenport.

• Rabbi Michael Samuel's father Leo - Leo was a tailor and his skills were needed by a Nazi made famous in Schindler's List, Amon Goth. Leo worked on his suits probably saved his life. His son Michael was Rabbi in Rock Island for many years.

The book launch for A Walk with Esther will be held at a local pub owned by rescuer Jeno Berta. Bowen's first book signing is planned at Jeno's Little Hungary at 4908 North Pine Street, Davenport, Iowa, on Friday, February 6 from 4-7 pm. Instead of "happy hour,” we will have "history hour,” but our hero, Jeno, sure hopes you come thirsty!

A Walk With Esther can be purchased at The Aledo Flower Shop in Aledo. Deb Bowen is available for interviews or speaking engagements. For book presentations, media appearances, interviews and/or book-signings, contact abookbyme@gmail.com.