No Past Tense: Love and Survival in the Shadow of the Holocaust (Paperback)

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About the Author


D.Z. Stone is a journalist with academic training in cultural anthropology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and Newsday. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, she holds a Masters from Columbia University. She resides outside of New York City.

Praise For…


"Kati and Willi Salcers resilience in the face of terror demonstrates how nothing can stop us from living our lives. They are the definition of inspiration." — Tony RobbinsNY Times #1 Best Selling Author, Philanthropist, and the World's #1 Life and Business Strategist

"‘No Past Tense’ is not an easy book to read yet it is very important in terms of history. It is the biography of Katarina (Kati) Kellner and William (Willi) Salcer, two Czech Jews who as teenagers lived through the Holocaust in Hungary and survived Auschwitz and Mauthausen, respectively. Their stories are about their childhoods, their education in Budapest, and 16-year-old Kati meeting 19-year-old Willi in the Jewish ghetto in Plesivec, a Slovak village annexed by Hungary in 1938. After they were liberated from the camps they returned to learn that most Jews were gone and the villagers that remained did not want them back. As an act of defiance, Kati took up residence in a shed on her family’s property, and reclaimed what was hers and won Willi’s heart. They lived as smugglers in post-war Europe until 1946 when they illegally immigrated to what was then known as Palestine. They describe Palestine frankly and speak about issues that are rarely addressed, especially prejudice against ‘newcomers’ from other Jews. Willi built tanks for the Haganah, the underground Jewish army that eventually became the Israel Defense Forces and supported the War of Independence but he refused to move into homes that had been abandoned by Palestinian Arabs. After he was discharged from the Israeli Air Force, Willi founded the country’s first rubber factory and headed the association of Israeli manufacturers when he was only 28 years old. In 1958, because he did not want children to know war, Willi convinced Kati to move to America. What he did not tell her was that punitive tax fines, imposed when the government needed money due to the crisis in the Sinai, shook his faith in Israel. This is an aspect of Israeli life that we rarely hear about. In America, due to a few bad investments, Willi lost all their money and Kati suffered panic attacks for the first time. Willi was able to eventually rebuild his fortune, while Kati was able to rediscover her courage, and start living again. Holocaust memoirs can be very depressing and I know people who have totally sworn them off. This does not mean that they have done the same with the Holocaust but that it is time to take a break. What makes this different from other memoirs is that it motivates us through the courage seen by Willi and Kati. We have two distinct stories that come together about two people who always looked forward even during the bleakest of times. Through their resilience, they were able to reinvent themselves when it was necessary to do so. The Holocaust, of course, hovers over their lives but it does not stop them from achieving their lives goals. Most of us would be unable to bear being broken once but they were able to do so several times and some back stronger as a result. Today anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial seem to be more in the air than ever before and it is so important that we never forget the past. The Salcers did not share with their children that they has been in the camps and had it not been for Ron Salcer’s sense that his parents had experienced something terrible, this story would have gone untold. As Ron learned more through the interviews that he pushed his parents to record. It was then that he decided to contact D.Z. Stone to write down their life stories. In 1999, Stone conducted over 100 hours of interviews that eventually became this book." — Amos Lassen, reviewsbyamoslassen.com

"This unique and almost accidental biography of two young people, separately, living through horrible events during the Holocaust is bound to be considered a classic telling of the Holocaust experience. How is it accidental? Willi and Kati Salcer spent decades of their lives as Holocaust survivors shunning any and all opportunities to tell their stories. They were not interested in bringing those memories to the surface. Kati, in particular, did not think their horrible experiences could be made shareable. They finally succumbed at the insistence of their son Ron, who came to understand – without knowing any details – that his parents, once two young Jewish Czech teenagers, had been through terrible experiences during WWII. He managed to have them record their experiences for the Shoah Visual History Foundation in 1996. The Foundation is housed at the University of Southern California. Ron felt that more could be drawn out of them, and he also felt that their story should be available in book form. He sought and found the ideal person to build the chronicle for readers, preserving the couple’s voices while adding her own as well as an engaging narrative structure. That person is journalist and cultural anthropology specialist D.Z. Stone. Katarina Kellner and William Salcer, both from small Czech villages, met in 1944. Both had been educated in topnotch Budapest schools. After the Germans invaded Hungary, the young people, who had met in a ghetto, found themselves forced into labor camps. Willi survived Mauthausen and Kati survived Auschwitz. Hearing of Willi’s survival after Germany’s defeat, Kati successfully searched for him. Though their personalities and values were not entirely harmonious, they married. In 1946, they smuggled themselves into pre-state Israel, where they flourished until they felt the need to move on. After leaving Israel, they lived in many places, but most of their several homes were in the United States where they maintained citizenship and where Willi rebuilt and improved upon his remarkable career as an inventor and businessman. He held sixteen patents. All through the early part of their lives, and even into their later years, the Salcers suffered frequent, and sometimes unspeakable, hardships, as did their Czech relatives. How they faced and fought through those obstacles is illuminated by the dozens of stories synthesized brilliantly by Ms. Stone. Every reader will have his or her favorite story. Here are some of them: In April 1944, Hungarian gendarmes push Kati – along with her mother, brother and grandmother – from their home. Laughing all the way, the gendarmes direct them to enter the next-door home. Incredibly, this new Jewish ghetto included the home of Kati’s great uncle, Oscar Bing. It was actually a very nice home, well-supplied with food and other necessities. It was the nicest place of confinement one could imagine. Other aspects of the ghetto, however – a stepping stone to labor camps – were not so pleasant. Soon enough, the confiscated homes of the town’s Jews were taken over by their non-Jewish neighbors, few if any of whom showed any sympathy for their plight. In August 1945, after Kati’s liberation from Auschwitz and return to her family’s village, she went to the mayor’s office to discuss the return of the family-owned home and pharmacy. She wanted those Christians to be gone and everything restored. After the mayor hemmed and hawed, not ready to take such a step, Kati took matters more fully into her own hands and moved into the adjacent gardener’s shed. She became a grand example of positive chutzpah. In Kati’s own words decades later, she explained: Yes, you can say this was a provocative act. I knew people were watching from the house and there was a small crowd of villagers pointing at me and whispering, “What is she doing?” I was glad I was getting attention; let the entire village be reminded of what they had done. In February 1946, the recently married young couple, disgusted with conditions in postwar Europe, connect ed with an organization called Hakshara. This entity provided agricultural training for Jews hoping to emigrate to Palestine. Illegal immigration was the only immigration possible for the Salcers and other Jews. Just as luck would have it, while they were pursuing this Aliyah hope, Willi received a notice demanding him to report for duty in the Czechoslovakian army! How they finally made their way to a new life in pre-state Israel is one of the most fascinating stories in the book. The ship purchased for the voyage was renamed “The Jewish Soldier.” Willi contributed his skills for what would become the new Jewish state by designing and constructing tanks. Thus, he played his part in the unofficial Israeli army. Soon after, in 1948, he became a member of the newly formed Israeli Air Force. These vignettes, presented much more elaborately in the book, offer a taste of what No Past Tense has in store for readers. In the domain of their experience, there can only be now and the future. Thus the book’s title. October 16, the book’s publication date, is also the couple’s wedding anniversary. Even though they are gone from this world that tested them so severely, their abiding love and resilient natures come alive on every page."— Philip K. Jason, Federation Star

"In an age of Holocaust denial, which simply provides more proof of the fragility of human reason, books like this provide additional evidence of what happened because Hitler considered Jews vermin and the German people went along. That's reason enough to hope this volume finds lots of readers." —Bill Tammeus, Bill's 'Faith Matters' Blog

"Kati & Willi Salcers' resilience in the face of terror demonstrates how nothing can stop us from living our lives. They are the definition of inspiration! Check out their #biography, NO PAST TENSE: Love and Survival in the Shadow of the Holocaust." —Tony Robbins
Product Details
ISBN: 9781912676118
ISBN-10: 1912676117
Publisher: Vallentine Mitchell
Publication Date: October 16th, 2019
Pages: 300
Language: English