"There have been hundreds of books on the Holocaust but Sweet Noise is special and compelling because it tells the larger history through the lives of Max's parents who had a secret romance while they waited to be deported to Auschwitz."
—from Imperfect Justice by Stuart E. Eizenstat
For nearly twenty years, I searched for the right way to share my parents’ story of love and perseverance before, during, and after the Holocaust. I had a wealth of material—my own memories of growing up in a house under the shadow of the camps; photographs I took during my mother’s powrót to Poland and Auschwitz in 1993, and the wrenching stories she shared with me there; and a box of love letters that my parents had written to each other during their separation after the war.
My first imperative was to organize and then work out my relationship to all this material—how to select, how to report, how to disengage, how to cope, and, finally, how to move on. Each new version of the book I attempted provided a step on my way to a deeper sense of clarity, a new place where I could eliminate the unnecessary and find the path that held this story together.
I knew the basics: the anti-Semitism my father experienced when told that he would have to stand in the back of his medical school classroom; the obligatory marriage to the woman who asked her father to pay for her future husband’s education in France; my father’s forced incarceration in the Zawiercie ghetto where he fell deeply in love with another woman, my mother, Frania; their separate transports to Auschwitz and the deaths of my father’s first wife and daughter; the fundamental facts surrounding their reunion after the war; and the powerful effect of a feature in The Saturday Evening Post which finally brought them together permanently in America.
In the end, it was the story told through their letters—told with more accuracy and more depth than I could ever supply—that provided the true essence of the book, giving it shape, substance, and meaning. My parents had learned to love each other across an ocean, and those letters—written in the confines of their hearts—had survived time and distance and revealed an insatiable passion.
Sweet Noise: Love in Wartime
Photographs and Text — Max Hirshfeld
Essays — Michael Berenbaum and Stuart E. Eizenstat
Design — David Skolkin
Video — Shane Alcock
Hardbound — 200 pages — 7.5 x 9.75
Publisher — Damiani — October 2019