From as young as she can remember, Ella Scheinwald heard the stories from her father of him surviving the Holocaust.
It wasn’t something that Zeev Scheinwald wanted to tell his daughter, but the inquisitive young girl implored him to tell her what happened.
“My first recollection was him sitting next to my bed and me asking him – maybe I was five – and he hated to tell me,” said Scheinwald, a Chappaqua resident. “He always said it’s too difficult, a little girl shouldn’t hear it, and I would beg him to tell me and he would tell me. He censored what he told me but I had the sense that it was my job to save him.”
By the early 1990s, when Scheinwald had her own children, she finally convinced her father – whose name translated to English is Wolf – to write down his thoughts and remembrances on paper. Scheinwald’s intent wasn’t to inflict more pain, but have a record to share with her children and future generations of the horrors that were inflicted to one man, millions of times over.
What made Zeev’s story different, however, was at the start of World War II the 18-year-old was one of tens of thousands of Jews snatched from their homes and off the streets in his native Poland and throughout Europe to provide slave labor to international companies, a chapter of the Holocaust that is largely ignored, Scheinwald said. He spent much of the war at a weapons manufacturing firm HASAG.
Later he would be sent to Buchenwald, Auschwitz and Mauthausen, where he managed to survive until the end of the war.
American-based companies, including Ford and GM, also took advantage of forced labor, Scheinwald said.
While the companies profited using the mostly young and free labor, they didn’t care whether the workers lived or died.
“It was a paradox because when you have free manpower and you only give it maybe 800 calories a day, you want them to survive because they become skilled, but the paradox was the higher purpose was to exterminate them,” Scheinwald said.
After years of holding onto her father’s volumes of writings and about nine hours of tape recordings, about four years ago, at the behest of her husband who was captivated by the stories, Scheinwald decided to edit her father’s manuscript and send it to Amsterdam Publishers.
The finished product was “Wolf: A Story of Hate,” which will be released on May 5. While she had initially hoped to capture her father’s story, agreeing to put that story into print was a step she hadn’t necessarily planned.
“I think the trigger was my children got married, (the story) belonged to them and their spouses, to understand what’s in their DNA,” Scheinwald said.
Although her father, who passed away in 2016 at 93 years old, became a highly successful businessman and philanthropist, opening his own construction company in the Ivory Coast, where Scheinwald grew up, in many ways he never recovered.
“He lived like a murdered person inside,” she said. “He was the only one left from his whole family, his whole community and he was ridden with shame and guilt and pain.”
Scheinwald said that when Zeev was at Mauthausen near the end of the war, her father felt like giving up and dying. But he had a dream. Zeev would take the vision from that dream and years later built a memorial for all the murdered Jews in his hometown. It was vandalized with graffiti: “Holocaust Never Happened,” accompanied by a smiley face.
Scheinwald hopes the story provides future generations with an account of the atrocities that millions of people allowed to happen through one man’s life. She has seen not-so-subtle parallels to contemporary events in the United States, including Westchester.
“Unfortunately, the climate that we live in the United States, not only in the States, it’s really a climate of hate,” she said. “Hate is okay now. So when we were discussing what to call this book with the publisher, everything that came to me was the story of hate, the story of hate, because this hate, especially when it’s condoned by leadership, you get the green light to do anything you want.”
“Wolf: A Story of Hate” is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Story-Hate-Zeev-Scheinwald-ebook/dp/B085PRQ7YY/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=ella+scheinwald&qid=1584994998&sr=8-1 and at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wolf-zeev-scheinwald/1136639013?ean=9789493056435.