Painful Joy: What's Inside?

Dear Reader:

I thought you would be interested in a quick introduction to what's inside Painful Joy.

The book is divided into 10 parts -- as the first half of the book focuses on each of my parents separately first my father, then my mother -- from their early years all the way through their experiences during the Second World War and of course, the Holocaust.

The second half encompasses their journey after their liberation, meeting in Sweden and starting anew first in Sweden, where my sister and I were born, and then emigrating to the U.S. as they remain survivors in many ways and pass along the results of their traumas to the next generation -- my sister and me. The story, as I said, is both heartbreaking -- and heartwarming. It has been a unexpected and critical education for me to discover and chronicle and what is likely to be an emotional and eye-opening journey for the reader as well. At least I hope so.

Here are the sections that follow the PREFACE -- where at the outset, I report about discovering a startling surprise about my parents. The facts are dry but I assure you as you my parents are transformed from complete strangers and as you come to know my parents, we begin to restore their humanity as I begin to peel away layers long hidden in time and memory. They come to life -- even as they endure loss. They will never be the same again.

A Readers' Guide to the First Half      


  • PART I: An Introduction that discusses uncovering my parents and then even QUESTIONING SURVIVAL.

  • PART II: The Prewar Years - Szlama Frydman (his given name) is born in a shtetl (small village) in southwestern Poland (then part of the Czarist Russian Empire. We follow him and his family growing up in nearby Bedzin and then meeting his first wife and starting a family in Dabrowa Gornicza, a coal-mining center nearby,

  • PART III: Szlama's War Years - We learn about a story he tells about that time 50 years later, as well as the world he loses and the slave labor and concentration camps he survives.

  • PART IV: The Prewar Years - Frimet Entenberg (later my mother, Frieda Friedman) - Another poor Polish Jew from a very large family survives World War I in an unexpected place and afterward we uncover her life and times in Krakow including her surprising connection to Steven Spielberg. Then there's the dance studio story.

  • PART V: Frimet's War Years - In my journey of discovery and revelation, I come to understand my mother's wartime story through Schindler's List as I uncover a life that undergoes unimaginable losses and unimaginable losses with interludes in Plaszow, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.


A Readers' Guide to the Second Half

  • Part VI: The Postwar Years - My parents find themselves in Sweden, where they find each other -- after still a new kind of camp. We follow them after their liberation, then their struggles with their past and future, and then with each other. My sister and I are born and the second half of their lives take an uncertain shape.

  • PART VII: In the USA - After too long, we all take an ocean journey to a new land and what hopefully is a new and better life. However, once a survivor, always a survivor -- even amidst the amusement park rides we can't go on in our new home in Brooklyn's Coney Island. here are strange, heartwarming and once more tragic stories that emerge. Read about yeshivas, pianos, the religious life, and much more through the lens of selected stories and memories. The struggles of growing up and growing old and the traumas that always accompanied all of us become ever more apparent as the years progress.

  • PART VIII - A Final Stop - Aging and memories found and lost take their toll. And under the most trying of circumstances, the concentration camp memories return in an unexpected way. The result is a new and shorter life in of all places, Mobile, Alabama.

  • PART IX - An Enduring Legacy - So what does science, genetics, psychology and human nature tell us about the effects of trauma over a lifetime -- not only for the survivors but the second generation of survivors and beyond? Information that will surprise and caution us all.

  • PART X - Coming Home - Recalling a family trip to Sweden - where the second half of the journey began - provides a bookend to what was, what is and perhaps, what might have been. The surprising discoveries don't end. The reader comes to understand the Painful Joy that I undertook to write this book, that my sister and I experienced and that my parents came to live.