"Jacob's Courage" is a tender coming of age love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. It explores the dazzling beauty of passionate love, powerful faith and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered. From desperate despair, to unforgettable moments of chaste beauty, Jacob’s Courage examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality.


Jacob's Courage - Synopsis

How would you feel if, at age seventeen, the government removed you from school, evicted you from your home, looted your bank account and took all of your family's possessions? How would you feel if ruthless police prevented your parents from working and then deported you and your loved ones to a prison camp run by brutal taskmasters? How would you feel if you suddenly lost contact with everyone that you know and love? How would you feel if you were sent to the most frightening place in history, and then forced to perform unspeakable acts of horror in order to remain alive?

Jacob's Courage is a tender coming of age love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. This historical novel explores the dazzling beauty of passionate love and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered. From desperate despair, to unforgettable moments of chaste beauty, Jacob’s Courage examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality.

This is the story of an Austrian Jewish family's experience during World War II. The protagonists are seventeen year-old Jacob Silverman and his lover, Rachael Goldman. Jacob’s childhood is magnificent, in every way. He has a very close and affectionate relationship with his father, a warm and loving physician named Moshe. In 1939, Jacob is deeply in love with Rachael Goldberg, the daughter of Moshe’s colleague. She has swept him completely off his feet. Jacob prepares to study medicine, as his father had done before him. Yet, he cannot bear to leave Rachael, the love of his life. With Rachael, life is beautiful and promising, the future enticing.

One night, Jacob has an incredibly vivid and realistic nightmare, in which he is forced to feed the dead bodies of Jews into a gigantic inferno. In the dream, he is killed by an SS guard. Greatly disturbed by this ghastly vision, and influenced by his father, Jacob begins to believe that he will have an important role to play in the future. Jacob reaches the conclusion that he will one day be responsible for saving innocent people.

Jacob and Rachael explore their burgeoning love, while conditions surrounding them steadily deteriorate. From their beautiful existence in majestic Salzburg, the lovers and their families slowly lose everything – their homes, jobs, school, money, possessions and finally their liberty. Moved from ghetto to ghetto, starvation and disease take a heavy toll. One by one, family members fall victim to the horror. Life became a disaster, but love never falters. Jacob and Rachael are soul mates, inseparable, devoted and faithful. The depth of their passion and their commitment to Judaism is explored during their secret wedding ceremony inside the concentration camp called Theresienstadt.

Consider gentle and kind Moshe, burdened by guilt for failing to move his family out of danger while time permitted. He descends into a morass of depression. Moshe continues to practice medicine in the camps. But the tools of his trade and medicines are denied him by his Nazi tormentors. Finally, in Auschwitz, Moshe is asked to perform medical experiments on prisoners by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele.

Experience an awakening in Jacob as he takes violin lessons from some of the greatest musicians of Europe inside Theresienstadt. Feel the frustration when Rachael and Jacob are paraded in front of the Red Cross, in a grand deception. Rachael is brutally raped by the cruel camp commandant. Consider her misery when she soon discovers that she is pregnant.

Feel the exhilaration of a daring escape from Theresienstadt through a tunnel that could collapse at any moment. Run with Jacob and Rachael as they join the Czech and Polish partisans and participate in military missions against the Nazis. Witness the anguish as Jacob is shot, recaptured and tortured by the Gestapo for information. His untreated leg wound never heals properly, leaving him crippled for life.

Although hundreds of miles apart, Jacob and Rachael have simultaneous dreams in which they walk on beautiful mountains overlooking a strange desert that is green with bountiful agriculture on one side and barren on the other. Their handsome dark-haired child walks with them as they gaze upon the extraordinary land that calls out to them. The meaning of the dream escapes Jacob and Rachel. But its importance is never far from their thoughts.

Rachael’s baby is born in Poland, where friends of the partisans protect them. She is driven there during a terrifying snowstorm by Anton, leader of the partisans. Anton is deeply in love with Rachael. She resists his advances with all of her might. For Rachael, there will never be another love besides Jacob. She is obsessed with rescuing Jacob and his parents. Rachael and Anton trudge through the storm, escaping the Gestapo at every turn. Anton protects her fearlessly. Experience Rachael’s terror when Anton is critically wounded at a military checkpoint. Believeing him dead, she is forced to abandon his body and drive on to Poland by herself.  On the way, she goes into rapid and painful labor.

Rachael’s baby is born in a Polish hospital. He has blonde hair and blue eyes, bearing a strong resemblance to the evil Theresienstadt commandant. At first, Rachael despises the child. Later, she grows to love him. Anton made arrangements to have a Jewish family, the Levins, care for the baby, as Rachael rejoins the partisans. Sol and Freda Levin, hiding in a farmhouse from the Gestapo, swear to protect the child with their own lives. Their devotion to Rachael and the baby is unquestioned. Weeks later, the Gestapo arrives, torturing and murdering all of them, including the baby. Ironically, they murder the child of the German commandant.

Jacob and his parents are deported from Theresienstadt.  Ride the crowded, fetid train to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Jacob’s mother is immediately selected for “special treatment.” Reflect on the dilemma of Jacob’s father, a physician asked to participate in medical experiments with the mendacious Dr. Mengele. Moshe provides his own rebellion, at the cost of his life.

Jacob slides toward death from starvation, disease and his terrible leg injury. Yet, he is driven by the premonition that God has a plan for him to lead a rebellion. In Auschwitz, Jacob befriends many prisoners and kapos. They help him to collect data and photographs proving the terrifying Nazi criminal acts. Jacob manages to get the documents to the Allies through Rachael. In the process, his close friend Paul is killed, protecting the information and saving Rachael’s life.

Even while separated by hundreds of miles, Jacob and Rachael continue to have identical, repeated dreams.  They walk on a silent mountainside with a beatiful young boy who is their son.  His long, dark curls flow out behind as he races around his parents in joy.  Somehow, they know that they have been made whole and happy, in a land that belongs to them.  Gazing down, they see green, cultivated fields filled with luscious crops on one side, with brown, barren desert on the other side.  The wind whips aroud them, breaking the stoic silence of the mountain.  Suddenly the moutain is shaken by the crashing of artillery from on top.  Far below, in a tiny agricultural settlement, a puff of smoke marks the explosion. 

Like ants flowing from a disturbed antill, people run for cover in the far distance.  The attack continues, as the frightened child runs to Jacob and Rachel with tears in his eyes.  Who is attacking their beautiful home?  Each night, the dream is repeated.  But, where is this place?  Why is it repeatedly attacked?

Jacob joins the Auschwitz orchestra. His ability to play violin saves his life, temporarily. But the psychological toll is horrific. Day after day, he plays for the long queue, waiting their turn for the gas chamber. He begins to have new nightmares, haunted by the faces of the innocent children, waiting for an underserved, premature death.

Jacob's obsession about saving innocent prisoners deepens. Is it his imagination?  Or, is it a message from God?  Jacob feels compelled to lead a rebellion against the brutal Nazi guards.  But why has this vision been placed in his head? 

Finally, when the orchestra is no longer needed, Jacob becomes Sonderkommando. His horrid dream from five years earlier comes to fruition, as Jacob is forced to push the dead bodies of recently killed Jewish prisoners into the crematoria fire.  The horrid vision, implanted years ago in a terrifying nightmare, has become reality.

In January 1945, Russian troops draw near to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Surviving prisoners are force-marched into the frozen countryside. Without coats, hats, gloves and shoes, the prisoners soon begin to perish. The innocent prisoners of Auschwitz are exposed to a brutal, frigid winter, with no protection.  Frostbite and hypothermia run rampant.  Every prisoner who falls is shot. Jacob manages to stay on his feet, but he is forced to watch as hundreds of innocent survivors are shot, one after another. The icy temperatures cut deep into his bones. He cannot feel his extremities. Jacob's fingers and toes turn into a black morass of dead tissue and chronic pain. 

The survivors are forced onto a train.  Many cars have no roof. The frigid January wind plummets down upon them. Many more Holocaust victims die. Still, Jacob remains alive. The train stops in Austria, Jacob’s home country. Weighing little more than half his prior weight, Jacob has very little strength remaining. Still, Jacob is convinced that God has a plan for him to lead a prisoner rebellion.

As the survivors are marched from the train station through Bratislava, Austrian civilians are repelled, as though the survivors had Leprosy. They abandon nearby urban sidewalks as though death itself eminated from the Auschwitz prisoners.  Finally, in the countryside, Jacob spots his location – the scene God had implanted in his mind. The sleeping leader finally awakens.

The emaciated survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau are guarded by the worst of the SS - untrained youth and frail old men. Despite losing half their number during the long, bitter march through the glacial countryside, the survivors have a ten to one superiority in numbers. On Jacob’s command, they use it to incapacitate the SS and confiscate their weapons. They also commandeer a truck filled with rifles, grenades, mortars and ammunition.

Jacob creates a military bunker inside a nearby cave, which he had also seen in his dreams. Thanks to his military training with the partisans, Jacob, becomes a powerful and compelling leader. His men proudly fight to the death for him. Being mostly Jewish, they call themselves the "First Brigade of the Fighters of Israel". For more than three days, the starving band of gaunt Auschwitz survivors defeat wave after wave of German army attacks.

Jacob’s epiphany that he was God’s instrument comes to fruition with frightening clarity. Like the biblical Jacob, his dreams were prophetic visions of the future.  In a modern-day David and Goliath tale, Jews battle Nazis. A survivor paints two blue horizontal stripes on a pure white cloth with a Star of David in the center. He ties it to a pole and raises the flag that would one day represent the State of Israel.

Will Jacob and Rachael survive?  Will they ever see the beautiful dark-haired child and the distant mountainside that called to them in dreams?  Read Jacob's Courage to find out.

Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob’s Courage

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The Holocaust is the worst episode of genocide in history, not because of its brutality, but because of its remarkable scope. The Holocaust is spelled with a capital “H” because it represents the single most vast and devastating example of religious genocide in history. Six million Jews (and at least four million gypsies, homosexuals, political and Russian prisoners) were systematically exterminated. No merciful, quick ending was in store for these poor souls. They were not shot to death or hung. They were exterminated, like annoying insects or disgusting rodents. They were gassed to death, because that was the most efficient way to dispose of millions of innocent people.

These Jews were not criminals. They had broken no laws. They represented a threat to no one – but were instead a valuable resource for their societies. For countless generations, Jewish men served and died in the German armed forces. German Jews were counted among the leaders of business, government, education, science and the arts. However, because of the way they served God, millions Jews were systematically murdered. The elderly, frail women and children were often first into the gas chambers. Able-bodied men and women were kept barely alive for their value as forced labor. Those able to work were employed as slaves for the benefit of the military and German industrialists. Some German companies that used Jews as slaves exist today. When there was no more work to perform, or when the brutalized prisoners became sick and frail, they were gassed and burned, like bothersome pests.

My mother experienced vile anti-Semitism as a child in Russia. I heard many stories about vicious Cossacks who persecuted Jews in the Ukraine. She and her sisters survived and later flourished in America. Most of the remaining family, however, perished in the Holocaust. So, you see, the Holocaust is close to my heart. I bear it as a cumbersome stone attached to my soul - a lifelong burden of significant proportions. My ancestors cry out for justice. They lost everything that they treasured - their homes, valuables, jobs, freedom, relatives and finally – their children. They want you to comprehend the unspeakable evil that utterly destroyed them. I wonder what their precious progeny might have accomplished, had they been allowed to live. What lost treasures were burned with those tender, young bodies? Might one of them have cured cancer or discovered a swift end to global warming? Those innocent children deserved a chance to live, to love, to learn and to share their faith. Rather than a danger to society, they represented its best hope.

I cannot tell this story without revealing the Holocaust, in every possible way. To gloss over the devastating brutality of the Nazi genocide, or the overwhelming psychological demoralization, would inflict yet another injustice upon my relatives. The only way that I can tell this story is with the truth. But, tales of shocking violence are not everyone’s cup of tea. In essence, I had to tell a story that no one wants to hear. Why would anyone yearn for a novel about the Holocaust, when they can tune out the world’s problems with their iPod or dismiss the fabric of cruelty with light-hearted movies and television comedy? Yet, the death of six million innocent people MUST be told. If not, there would be nothing to prevent more genocide, and then more after that! Everyone must hear this tragedy. Otherwise, we might one day again embrace the worst of human nature.

Jacob's Courage explores how humans behaved during the most brutal and horrendous genocide in history. We are complex beings. There is a great deal more to us than the ubiquitous battleground of good versus evil. We are not one or the other, but both. We are attractive and hideous, comforting and horrifying, vicious and compassionate; we worship and we loathe. We are not clouded by delusions of morality, but governed by them. So, when will we stop ostracizing people because of the way they praise God, or by virtue of the color of their skin? When will we learn to value the differences among us rather than fear them? We’re better than that. We must be better than that.

Perhaps above all, Jacob's Courage is a powerful and passionate love story. In 1939, seventeen-year-old Austrians Jacob Silverman and Rachael Goldberg are bright, talented, and deeply in love. Because they are Jews, their families lose everything; their jobs, possessions and money, contact with loved ones, and finally their liberty at the hands of the Nazis. Jacob and Rachael "grow up" during the Holocaust. As teenagers, they survive the beatings, rapes, and murderous acts of the Nazis, enjoy the physical and spiritual pleasure of being in love and are able to become husband and wife in the Theresienstadt Ghetto, before being imprisoned in Auschwitz. Eventually Jacob and Rachael become Partisans to fight the Nazi enemy. Theirs was a love for the ages. Stung by the death of loved-ones, enslaved and starved, they have nothing to count on but faith, love and courage.

Holocaust survivors were forced to examine every aspect of life, while they endured the unendurable, waiting for a slow, torturous death. This horror led some to curse God, even while others continue to praise God. Within this impenetrable abyss, many Jews continued to live out their faith, to practice the religion as best they could. The managed to summon the courage necessary to continue living, to suffer the intolerable. They refused to allow the foundation of their society to be destroyed. Within the Nazi camps, Jews created their own schools, orchestras, political leadership and medical clinics. On the road to certain death, they found a way to teach their children how to fulfill their religious commandments. This is profound courage not seen elsewhere in history, except for those brave Jews at Masada. Some of the most ardent examples of constructive human nature can be found in these terrifying Holocaust stories.

We must always tell the stories of the Holocaust. They represent the devastatingly worst and the extraordinarily best examples of the human spirit. These stories instruct us to recognize the inherent evil of humanity, lest it never be used again. As long as we teach our progeny about the Holocaust, there is hope for the future.

By Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob’s Courage

From Read the Spirit, January 29, 2009, “Why We Must Always Speak of the Holocaust”


Jacob's Courage - The Characterization of the Human Spirit

As the author of a Holocaust novel ("Jacob's Courage: A Holocaust Love Story"), I appreciate books that offer a frank, emotional examination of morality. Repugnance, despair and darkness exist within human nature. We therefore learn nothing about ourselves if we do not examine this part of our psyche.

"Jacob's Courage" explores how humans behaved during the most brutal and horrendous genocide in history. We are complex beings. There is a great deal more to us than the ubiquitous battleground of good versus evil. We are not one or the other, but a combination of both. We are beautiful and ugly, soothing and terrifying, brutal and caring; we love and we despise.

Deep within the fear and panic of the Holocaust were decisions about ethical behavior and our concept of integrity. Unlike animals, humans are governed by principles, moral beliefs and veracity. We are not clouded by delusions of morality, but governed by them. In "Jacob's Courage," my characters explore the human response to terror and morality, as well as the alluring beauty of passionate young love and the driving power of religious devotion. Our lives are complex - even within the garish midst of the Holocaust. Powerful passion and tender love also existed during times of horror and despair. So did a deep commitment to our relationship with faith and God. These powerful motivators churn within the consciousness of my characters, creating powerful new relationships and inspiring virtuous behavior. Yet, the world is seldom seen in black and white, or shades of gray - even during the Holocaust. In the midst of terrible anguish, beauty exists. Within beauty, despair can exist.

Holocaust survivors lost everything, but perhaps somehow gained something as well. Certainly an honest examination of the Holocaust must reveal torturous brutality and death. Yes, many Holocaust survivors lost all of their loved ones. However, life is not always so simple. Deep within the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, the Jews of Europe continued to practice their religion, to teach their children and to love one another. Here, one can feel hope for the survival of the human spirit, among the ashes of destruction.

In an age of realism, readers seem to have a passion for books about real-life characters. As a child of this generation, I tend to agree. I have nothing against classic stories about good versus evil. Certainly good and evil exist always. Yet, today's more discerning reader expects characters to be more like themselves – multifaceted, often chaotic individuals who possess characteristics both good and bad. Novels should not always be about traditional heroes and villains. If we wish to emulate reality, then our good characters should become complex humans, with flaws, limitations, imperfections and faults. Our villains should possess some good qualities, as well.

No emotion pushes us to behave in a stronger sense than does guilt. I constructed characters aggravated constantly and aggressively by guilt. We are forever tortured by our past and guilt is the primary motivator in our decisions about the future. We can ignore it or learn from it, but we can never escape from it. I believe that it is impossible to write about the Holocaust without a hefty dose of guilt. In “Jacob's Courage” all of my characters are burdened by guilt – even the most innocent.

Characters living through the Holocaust were faced with the most perfidious forces. Deceit, brutality, cruelty, sickness, starvation and the death of loved-ones were the daily companions of Holocaust victims. Novels about this time are by causality dark and precarious. Yet, in the midst of this despair, there was life, love, passion, desire, religious fervor and the excitement known only to children. Even in such hopeless desolation, there was love of God, infatuation, romance and passion and longing for all of the things that humans crave. Characters such as these must by nature embellish the wide range of human attributes. Such was the complex state of being in a Nazi death camp.

"Jacob's Courage” describes the Holocaust through the eyes of a normal Jewish family. If we speak only of heroic individuals battling against dark forces, then we dismiss the truth of our nature. Humans are far more complex than such generic characters imply. Not all Jews imprisoned and tortured by Nazi Germany were good. Some became “kapos,” more ruthless than the SS. Not all Germans were bad. Some Germans were riddled with guilt and some expressed tender compassion for the imprisoned Jews. Yet, below the surface of brutality, we find the human instinct for life, liberty, love and compassion.

Most of the Jews in Nazi concentration camps comprehended that they would not survive. Yet, within the camps, the Jews constructed synagogues, schools, and orchestras. They had civic leaders, medical clinics, commerce and religious celebrations. Hidden from the SS, the Jews observed all of the covenants and rituals of Judaism, including holidays, marriage ceremonies, burials and circumcisions. Along the terrifying, dark path to the gas chambers of Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews lived, loved, learned and died. Yet, in their darkest moments, the Jews of Nazi concentration camps fabricated a “normal” life for their progeny. Despite their impending mortality, they created a normal world on the inside to protect children from the raging genocide on the outside. Such was the nature of their love. Yet this love transcended parental affection. Judaism cannot survive without Jewish children.

The Holocaust cannot be described without inflicting horror upon the reader. Such books are not for the faint of heart. The human spirit strives for autonomy and freedom, of course. Yet, if one is to search for an understanding of human nature, then one must descend into the depths of depravity and terror. We cannot understand humanity without comprehending its wicked flaws. Deep within the darkest recesses of brutal genocide, the “Jacob's Courage” reader will discover a faint flicker of light representing love, passion, desire, hope and reverence. Here is the essence of "Jacob's Courage" - an examination of morality, love and righteousness, in the midst of the dark whirlwind of malevolence.

Read more about Jacob's Courage at http://www.amazon.com/Jacobs-Courage-Holocaust-Love-Story/dp/9657344247/ref=sr_1_1/002-8189239-3149614?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1174846034&sr=1-1 and at http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/?page_id=3&preview=true, or visit the publisher at http://www.mazopublishers.com/jacobscourage.html