The Last Witness

Feature

My father used to take me to the local Jewish bakery where this kindly woman behind the counter would serve us. I remember seeing numbers on her arm, but I was just a boy and didn’t know what those numbers meant. Later I found out. One day in the not-too-distant future there is going to be one person left. One survivor. This is what my novel The Last Witness is about.

I’m like many writers in that an idea for a book may germinate over time before any writing begins. That’s what happened with The Last Witness which is set in the year 2039 when the world is abysmally ignorant and complacent about events of the last century. Jack Fisher is a 100-year-old man whose worst memories took place before he was 5. His story hearkens back to the Jewish ghetto of his birth and to Auschwitz where he had to fend for himself to survive as a little boy after losing all his family. Jack becomes the central figure in a missing-person investigation when his granddaughter suddenly disappears. While assisting police, he finds himself in danger and must reach into the darkest corners of his memory to come out alive.

I did a lot of research to write this book. Even though it’s a novel, I wanted things to be accurate. That meant interviewing such people as noted Holocaust historian Sir Martin Gilbert, meeting real-life survivors who were just children when they were liberated in 1945, and looking into the current state of Holocaust awareness which is not a pretty picture.

Then there is Elly Gotz who spent three years as a boy in a Jewish ghetto in Lithuania. Elly, a remarkable man, was a great help to me with the flashbacks of my novel. Only Elly could tell me that I couldn’t have oranges in the ghetto because there were no oranges in Poland during the German occupation. Only Elly could tell me that German soldiers had rifles, not machine guns, in the ghetto. He could tell me this because he knew first-hand.

TheLastWitness-BookCoverThree years ago I wrote an article for The National Post about sagging knowledge of the Holocaust. I found that a 2007 poll in the United Kingdom showed that 28% of young people aged 18-29 did not know if the Holocaust happened. A survey commissioned two years earlier looked at Holocaust knowledge in the United States and several European countries. It found that knowledge was highest in Sweden and lowest in the U.S.

The Last Witness is being released as an e-book and in print through Story Merchant Books, and is now available at Amazon.


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