A BORDER TOWN IN POLAND -- BOOK REVIEWS
"A memorable memoir -- a fabulous book -- a major work of love and devotion. Revolutions in Poland, Russia and Germany are described vividly, with their effects. Surviving by smuggling, by entrepreneurship, by obtaining papers legal and otherwise, are like a major thriller. Everyone with relatives who came to America to escape persecution will find something remarkable here."
-- Main Line Times, 30 Nov. 2021
"What stories Hirsch Bieler and the authors have to tell! Some of the most vivid involve Zelde, the clever crone who ran Grajewo's smuggling business that helped Hirsch survive [Great War] poverty but also resulted in hair-raising escapes. Through nimble footwork he prospers in Weimar Germany, the Third Reich and British Palestine, eventually reaching the U.S. Then the book's final sections reprint his Polish family's heartbreaking 1939-41 letters pleading for help, and recount his desperate attempts to provide it. A tale of displacement, resilience, loss, and hope."
-- [Capitol] Hill Rag, December 2021
"Couldn't put it down. An amazing and wonderful book. What an essential contribution to history! -- defies superlatives."
-- Hon. Andrew Maguire
Former Congressman, D-NJ
“An important addition to twentieth century history. The book is very carefully researched with terrific visuals of maps and family photos to carry along a vivid and energising oral history, now published in its full glory. There was meaning if not wealth, and infinite ingenuity to evade, subvert, smuggle across and ultimately to leave the Russian Pale that confined an estimated 5 million Jews by 1897, and which included this one border town within a thousand mile slice of territory."
-- Quad (formerly Oxford Today), Alumni Newsletter of Oxford University (January 2022)
"What a fascinating treasure trove of material, and so good you have put it together. I am continually amazed at the archival work done and made available and how important this is to give a flavour of the times our families went through."
-- Lady Esther Gilbert
Historian; co-author, Sir Martin Gilbert, acclaimed Holocaust and European Jewry Historian
"I love this book. I’ve read it twice over and hope to order more!"
-- Paris Singer
Author, Dancer, Philanthropist
"An intimate look at Hirsch Bieler's circuitous, five-decade-long journey of survival. Immerses us in the life and memorable inhabitants of Grajewo, including smuggling, a dangerous occupation that contributed a major part of the town’s economy, [then moves on to prosperity in Weimar Germany] in the fur trade and selling oil and lubricants, before being dismissed under the Nazis. It took a year and enormous money for a “capital flight” tax before he, his pianist wife and small daughter could escape. From Palestine miraculously they were able to immigrate to the U.S. in 1938, though his extended family in Germany, Denmark, and Poland were threatened. What follows are increasingly distressing letters to Bieler from his family pleading for help -- then nothing. Essential to the book is what the Levins write — that Bieler’s “painstakingly detailed tales were an act of recreation, a memorial meant to make his times and their inhabitants live again.”"
-- Martha's Vineyard Times (May 2023)