Needle in the Bone

Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other

Hardcover, November 2012, 978-1-61234-568-0. A Kansas Notable Book Winner

Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other highlights the astonishing stories of two Poles—a Holocaust survivor, Lou Frydman, and a Polish resistance fighter, Jarek Piekalkewicz, both teenagers during World War II who each defied outrageous odds, lost everything and just about everyone in the war, and yet summoned the courage to create a new life. Frydman survived six concentration camps and three death marches. By the end of the war, everyone in his extended family had been killed except for his brother and himself. Piekalkewicz started his own underground army at age sixteen. In addition, one of his uncles was the main leader and another the head treasurer for the Polish Resistance before each was discovered, tortured, and murdered by the Nazis. Frydman and Piekalkiewicz found each other in 1975 in Lawrence, Kansas, where they became best friends, forming a bond made of the trauma and courage embedded in each man’s experience.

Needle in the Bone offers a fresh approach to the Holocaust and the Polish Resistance by entwining the stories of two survivors. By blending extensive interviews with Frydman and Piekelkewicz, historical research, and the author’s own responses and questions, this book provides a unique perspective on still-compelling issues, including the meaning of the Holocaust, the nature of good and evil, and how people persevere in the face of unbearable pain and loss.

Needle in the Bone is the powerful tale of two young men’s courage, heroism, heartbreak, and survival during and after the Second World War. Both Poles, one man survived six concentration camps and three death marches, while the other was a Resistance fighter who, at age sixteen, commanded his own underground army of 100 men. Lovingly conceived, exhaustively researched, and beautifully written, this book is a magnificent achievement that not only provides important insights into the Holocaust and the Resistance, but also documents the indomitable will of two extraordinary men. ~ William Tuttle, author of “Daddy’s Gone to War”: The Second World War in the Lives of America’s Children,  and other books

Rich in factual detail and personal revelations, Needle in Bone is an intimate portrait of two friends who witnessed unimaginable atrocities during the Holocaust, and, in later years, grabbed a good share of happiness. The author, a loving friend of both men and their wives, holds the reader spellbound as she  elicits their indelible, horrific, and hope-inspiring stories. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s authentic emotional presence and self-disclosure ends up being a huge gift to her readers, and the book is a valuable, highly personal, contribution  to the literature on Holocaust history. ~ Harriet Lerner, PhD., author of The New York Times bestseller, The Dance of Anger, and Marriage Rules

Needle in the Bone is a compelling, story of two Poles—a Jewish resister who survived the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz, and other Nazi atrocities, and an Underground fighter who fought and survived the Nazi regime.Author Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg weaves in her own story as a Jewish American, adding valuable context and insights into the lives and experiences of Lou Frydman and Jarek Piekalkiewicz. Mirriam-Goldberg, a skilled interviewer, draws out their life stories, and that of their wives, Jane Frydman and Maura Piekalkiewicz. The two couples paths cross on a Fulbright in Poland, and they return to Kansas, becoming close friends and entwining their lives.In the hands of the author, we come to know the Frydmans and Piekalkiewiczs, and to better understand America and ourselves as Mirriam-Goldberg reflects on their lives, her own life, and the America in which the two couples live.It is a very American story of survival, new beginnings, hope and laughter in the face of horror, and faith in human goodness. You can’t resist liking and caring about Lou and Jane, Jarek and Maura, and Caryn Miriam-Goldberg.~ David Katzman, Professor Emeritus of American Studies, University of Kansas

With a poet’s eye for beauty among the ruins, Caryn Miriam-Goldberg has crafted a contemporary tale of two different men with a history of woe in common.  A welcome addition to literature about the Holocaust, and a reminder that good sometimes does survive and prosper. ~ Leonard Zeskind, author of Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream.

Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg has crafted a beautiful, moving story about the lives of two survivors of World War II, both of whom ended up at the University of Kansas where they became close friends....This summary does not do credit to Mirriam-Goldberg’s sensitive writing. The way she was able to blend both life stories into a seamless whole, her personal involvement with her subjects, her exhaustive research about Poland and the Holocaust during the war, and about the misconceptions of Polish anti-Semitism are truly impressive. Needle in the Bone should become required reading in any World War II or Holocaust history class. It is much more than the reminiscences of two old men. It is world history at its finest. ~ Andrea Kempf, Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

Needle in the Bone is dedicated to the children and grandchildren of Lou and Jarek, and in memory of Maura Piekalkiewicz and Lou Fryman: may their memories be for blessing.

Read Caryn's blog on this pivotal book.

Excerpt from the Introduction to Needle in the Bone

“None of you should be here,” says Maura Piekalkiewicz, as she fills her plate with latkes at our annual Hanukkah party. “When I went to the weddings of Lou and Jane Frydman’s children, all I could think was, ‘None of you should be here. It was not Hitler’s plan,’ but here you are,” she says, gesturing to the crowded living room where Lou, Jane, two of their grown sons, and their families are spread over couches and floors, playing dreidel for piles of M&Ms. “That you all survived, it’s a miracle!” she says, rolling her r’s.

Her beautiful face is glowing, and as is so often the case with Maura, she is ecstatic. She is also Irish, which makes this ecstasy seem even more lit from within with wonder and intensity. “Now my dear, I must get more of those spinach latkes before they’re all gone. They are a beauty!”

“None of you should be here” rings in my mind afterward when I think of Lou and Jane, both of whom were children in Europe during the Holocaust. Jane and her parents escaped from Budapest early enough to survive without threading the narrow eye of the concentration camps. Lou’s family in Poland didn’t, and out of dozens of his relatives, only he and his brother survived.

Lou Frydman, shortly after the Holocaust