Reviewed By Heather Osborne for Readers’ Favorite

I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust by Mathias B. Freese is a unique compilation of short stories, taking the reader on a psychological journey through the emotions elicited by the Holocaust. Beginning with a man calling out to a golem, a Jewish monster from folklore, for assistance in escaping his tormentors, the stories provide a different perspective on the Holocaust. There are ones told from the perspective of prisoners in the concentration camps to a mock radio interview with Hitler’s lover, Eva Braun. The author offers the perspective of a Holocaust revisionist, someone who does not believe the Holocaust happened the way it is described, in the form of a letter. The collection concludes with the golem questioning his reason for existence.

I have read many books about the Holocaust as I find the subject very interesting from a psychological standpoint. I have to say though, that Mr. Freese has placed an entirely new twist on the subject. I will admit to being perplexed at first, having expected something a bit different. As the collection unfolded, I was drawn into the raw emotion. I particularly enjoyed the story, “Cantor Matyas Balogh.” Matyas found love so late in life, only to have it ripped from him. Freese does not just tell a tale, he creates a basis for reflection. I believe that he is completely correct when he states that someone can never truly understand the Holocaust. We can write about it, but the lasting impact on the people that survived can never be put into words. I Truly Lament is a remarkable collection that will leave the reader speechless.

The following are comments from your reviewer and do NOT appear in your final review. Usually these are concerns your reviewer had that they did not want to put in your final review. However, if these comments are positive you are welcome to quote them or even add them to your review.

I’ve said all I can say in the review, but thank you for letting me read this. I am truly blown away by your artistry, more than I can possibly convey in my short review. I hope I have done your book justice


Given these several weeks since I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust was released, I have experienced a subtle and sometimes not so subtle resistance to review the book. Holocaust aversion is not uncommon for all kinds of rational and irrational reasons.

I encountered this once before with the publication of The I Tetralogy, a major novel  on the Holocaust. Indeed, I had written a 20 page essay explaining my motives and rationale  for writing such a  book. I regret having done so.  Writing about the Holocaust needs no justification.

This talk, given in 2007, states my position. Be aware or don’t be aware of the Holocaust. If you are not cognizant of it, shy away from it or feel it is burdensome to discuss or consider, I can never reach you.

An address to the soldiers at the AFB Davis-Monthan in Arizona on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2007.


When Chaplain McCrory asked me to speak today, I was immediately overwhelmed with the task. I was not flattered; rather, I was moved—and very concerned not only that I speak with truth and force, but that I also am sensitive, for my book has been called pornographic—and holy.

As a writer I must see, and after I see to tell the truth, much like Teiresias telling Oedipus to lay off mom. The second injunction is to speak from the heart, not the mind, for the mind is a great conditioner. One must be free to croak some semblance of the truth. And the third rule is to get to the truth free of conditioning and self-censorship, to excavate within oneself like an oil drill . . . that is the task of a writer.

And when one luckily hits bedrock, when one tastes truth, it often is unpalatable. When the writer knows he has succeeded that more than compensates for the distasteful truths he may have unearthed, those gritty geodes of revealed truth.

I am not an expert on the Holocaust, nor are you. A survivor is not an expert on the Holocaust. One scholar wisely compared the Holocaust to a terrible train wreck; people wounded, dead, some wandering about in pain and confusion. It depends where you are in the train wreck; this determines your perspective, your feelings.

We are not even experts on ourselves. Do you really believe, more than a hundred years after Freud, that you are controlling or operating through rational and conscious effort? I think not. A spat with a son, daughter or spouse leaks unconscious forces. The greatness of Freud, that man of the Enlightenment, is that he tried to rationally examine the irrational, knowing full well he could go only so far. With that in mind, in my book I tried to examine the mind of the killer, the executioner, and I only succeeded when I allowed myself to become the Nazi, the killer. In that mode I was able to access some measure of insight. Actors do this if they are good actors; they attempt to access those parts of themselves that they, like us, keep away from themselves.

Everyone in this audience is unaware on different levels of who he or she is. We are not only blinded by the dark but by the light as well. I imagine the best we can do is to stumble about in the kitchen junk drawer looking for the flashlight when the lights are out. For me this is a fair description of humanity.

On this day we remember. Memory is one of the great themes—and gifts—of Judaism. We carry our loved ones in our minds, the greatest digital camera of them all. It is in memory that we keep alive the goodness, the sacrifice, the family ties we cherish. My deceased wife is very alive in me, almost a decade after her death. I am the sconce that holds her flame. That is all we have, is it not?

So, on this day I honor those innocents by not “sweetening” the Holocaust. Oh, no. I don’t Anne Frank it. Anne Frank’s diary was written while she was still outside of the camps. Hidden, of course, she was free to hold pen and paper. Indeed, some scholars do not consider it part of Holocaust literature. Unfortunately her diary has been used to soften, to ease horrific truths.

And what are these truths? Here I must take a risk with you.

—I have observed in my attempt to understand evil that given circumstances, given time and place, given events and opportunity, man is a killer.

—Although there were altruists during the Holocaust who saved Jews and others, they were rare. And we know that too.

—I have observed that man is a forgetful creature, and he repeats.

Freud’s great contribution was the repetition compulsion, that behaviors of individuals to constantly repeat behaviors, often consciously, often totally oblivious to and unaware of consequences—I submit Elizabeth Taylor and her many marriages; Anna Nicole Smith and her recurring drug issues; and the greatest example of all—war. There are enough books in all the libraries of the world that clearly tell us of the stupidities of war. Yet we repeat.

—I have observed, in a transitory state of paranoia and writer concern, that the man walking down the block might very well become my willing executioner if he so willed it. I submit the events in Virginia Tech.

And how do you go about living, Mr. Freese, with these thoughts?

The DNA in my body wins out; I enjoy the dusk, I enjoy the good and slow shower, the smell of roses, a good bagel, and a sublime bialy. Life compels me to go on. I did not die when my wife died—that would have been a betrayal. I went on. What is a survivor but someone who goes on? After the war, I learned that social service experts engaged Holocaust victims with great empathy and tried to help them bring order to their lives. What was observed was not a few of the survivors wanted other things, a job, a new location, and new skills. In short, they wanted to live, to begin again. This is life.

On one hand, I struggle to balance the failure of evolution in not making us whole human beings, for stationing the primitive T-Rex in our brains, and, on the other hand, the great gifts of humanity: literature, architecture, the Decalogue, culture. Yet I know full well in my heart of darkness what I am capable of, what you are capable of. I never forget that, while my culture gives me meds to keep me sedated.

There is a Nazi in each of us, and we must ever be vigilant as to his existence; I have met him in person—I just look in the mirror. I see what he has told me, and I have shared it in a book. Conrad called it the “horror! the horror!” I call it Man, and what Man is capable of. I dread the Golem within.

We say, “Never Again.” I assume that generally means that we will not allow genocide to occur again and in such horrific terms; but look about you; it is occurring.

The lament of the species is its moral sloth. We are an “after the fact” species. We do not act in preventative ways. And in our present culture we are absorbed by our glut.

Unlike Elie Wiesel who correctly writes and speaks against indifference, I see it differently. I caution us against ourselves, our very own make-up as a species. I believe this is the more difficult task, the one we run from.

Psychotherapy, which I practiced, is known as the impossible profession; it is as much art as it is science. In fact, Freud believed that a good therapist would be one without a medical degree, someone versed in arts, music, and culture. I give you, Otto Rank or Erik Erikson, as examples.

As a therapist I was the Shakespearean soothsayer. Really what is meant by that is the truth sayer. “Beware the Ides of the self,” I cautioned. People flee self-awareness. Nietzsche said it best: “Knowledge is death.”

On this day I think, I brood more about what capacities do I, do you, do others have to see themselves clearly and not through a glass darkly. It is on this day I reflect not only on the millions lost, but on the moral imperative for each of us to examine ourselves, for insight and self-awareness are the only mortal inhibitions we have to prevent such horrors in the future.

Perhaps in schools, at a time and when age appropriate, we should stop teaching about the Holocaust as history, although essential. Rather, we should begin to help our children to see inwardly—psychologically, emotionally, perceptively, intuitively—to see themselves clearly as creatures capable of great wrath.

Alas, it is too threatening to do so. Schools too often are agents of conditioning.

Is it not the real task, ultimately, to decondition ourselves? And that is the task of a lifetime, to see. Krishnamurti said it best: “The observer is the observed.”


Harry Jahal’s Interview with the Author

What does your Book Subject deals in ? Please give an introduction about your book ?

“No one who seriously encounters the Holocaust is ever done with it. I TRULY LAMENT is a varied collection of stories, inmates in death camps, survivors of these camps, disenchanted Golems complaining about their tasks, Holocaust deniers and their ravings, and collectors of Hitler curiosa (only recently a few linens from Hitler’s bedroom suite went up for sale!) as well as an imagined interview with Eva Braun during her last days in the bunker. The intent is to perceive the Holocaust from several points of view.
An astute historian of the Holocaust has observed that it is much like a train wreck, survivors wandering about in a daze, sense and understanding, for the moment absent. No comprehensive rational order in sight.
To have survived the Holocaust is to have been gutted as a human being. The inner self is ravished. Whether or not one recovers from that is beyond comprehension.
All literary depictions of the Holocaust end as failures, perhaps revealing shards of understanding. And is understanding ever enough?

Writing about the Holocaust is a ghastly grandiosity. The enduring mystery of the Holocaust is that memory must metabolize it endlessly and so we must try to describe it, for it goes beyond unimaginable boundaries. one soon realizes the fundamental understanding that the species is wildly damaged, for only a damaged species could have committed the Holocaust.

By name and nomenclature, the Holocaust is but an approximation of what happened. The species cannot grasp its nature. The artist will only succeed marginally if he or she manages to drive that home.
The eternal perseveration of the species has become the Holocaust. We will never be done with it. We will never work it through.”
What was inspiration behind the characters that you wrote in the book ? Any real life people that have shades in them ?

“It was not based on individuals I know or did know. Given all the reading and reflection about the Holocaust, I left it entirely to my imagination, which is a good one, to create real characters. I wrote to describe or explain the pain of the Holocaust with whatever skills I had.”
How fascinating was the journey of writing this book ?

“An aspect of myself is not to please others but that while I write I share my experience with you, with me first. I have enriched my literary journey, not the other way around. I give to my writing and I learn in that way to write better. Krishnamurti famously said in one of his dialogues, “The word is not the thing itself.” So all my writing is just an approximation of what turmoil, tumult and insight I have about my human condition. As we all should know, to cite Christopher Hitchens, we are only partially rational, animal and often savage at that, and out human genome controls the robot that we are.”

Is the Plot of book somewhere inspired from any incident or things around ?

“THE I TETRALOGY, my extensive take on the Holocaust, represented much of who I am as a Jew and human being, of my growing up Jewish in America, In that novel as well as in I TRULY LAMENT I put all the skills, imagination and heartfelt renderings I could about man. I have gone beyond Wiesel’s affirmation that indifference is not tolerable any longer. I have arrived at a different assessment based on my reading, psychotherapeutic experience, my atheism — free of religious conditioning, the bane of civilization, and I have wandered into the unexplored country. man is out of control, always has been, genetically so!

Consequently writing about the Holocaust in these recent short stories allowed me to examine the nature of man so genetically far beyond Hobbes’s “short, nasty and brutish” assessment.”

Your Writing process involves any research work in media or is it totally based on imagination and experiences from life ?

“I’d pose your question another way. What can I do to become aware, and what can I do to decondition myself so that I can see clearly? In that is hope.”

Tell us a bit biographical journey of yours ? How did you became an author ?

“I wrote to express myself; it took me thirty years to publish a book of short stories that I self-promised that I would do so; I am the tortoise to the hare. I don’t quit and I have significant drives to my personality. Writing served throughout my young adulthood to explain myself to myself, a worthy effort and it goes far to explain why I am not beholden to the crowd or the latest fashion in writing.”

How different are you from your characters in the Books and stories you write ?

“I am everything in this recent collection of stories down to each period, semi-colon and punctuation. How could it be otherwise for any writer? I am not, nor will I ever separate out from what I say or write, for to do so is to abandon whatever integrity one has.”

Was this book originally planned or did it came to your mind while working on another project of yours ?

“Like all my work, it was ready unconsciously and so I just began to write and write. In one year I was able to get nine short stories published, which is unheard at least for me. Turn it around: I am the psychological and emotional template for whatever emerges from whatever and whomever I am, till the day I die.”

Anything that you would like to tell us about yourself or your book that we missed ?

“We are all born to be done away with, and in a sense we are all “near-death” experiences. I associate to Epicurus: “I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.” My writing experience can be extracted in a sense from Kazantzakis’s epitaph: “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.””

Any advice for new writers ?

“Advice sucks. Whatever advice I have received I had to process through my own machinery. So if you want to lick at the waters of advice-givers, make sure that your machinery is working real well and that you can discern good from bad. Break all the rules. Trust your unconscious, that which really writes your books.”

Will you dabble in other writing styles and what would it be ?

“Most of my work is grounded in the nitty-gritty of everyday life as well as the surreal fantasies I imagine. The thread that runs through all my work is my willingness not to censor my self, and a line from one of my essays says it all: “Fearlessness makes for authenticity in writing.” I try not to pull my punches.”

Where can readers Buy your Books ?

“From the author,;;”

In Asia


By Fran Lewis, Reviewer

I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust: Mathias Freese
When someone is upset, really sorry about an event or something in they have caused, experienced or grieve they often lament. If you lament something than you are truly sorry about it and made a serious mistake. But, how does this apply to the profound, compelling and graphic short stories that Mathias B. Freese shares with readers as we take a journey back in time to the Holocaust. Take a shovel and dig a huge hole and throw hundreds of bodies in this open pit. Take another shovel and dig more ditches, hit some of those shoveling over the head, then throw the bodies into an open pit filled with flames. The Holocaust really did happen and the end result was death for so many. Millions found their way inside the vast crematoriums created just for the Jews. One man, a monster, lived out his dream to destroy a people that he came to hate because he felt that his race was superior. The suicide of this man and his girlfriend, pale in comparison to the fact that someone would have been glad to fire up one more oven for them both.
Each story focuses on different aspects of the Holocaust told in the voices of many. The first is Golem: I Need Your Help! A Golem is defined as “Hebrew for Unformed, a man artificially created by kabalistic rites: a robot. Throughout the first story we hear the voice of a Jewish Prisoner trying to escape and the banter between him and this imaginary figure. Words are Useless: The saying at the start of the story: So true. Next we hear the prisoner fighting for food and we meet the man of the future. Linking the thoughts and conversation to the favorite foods that many of use eat and enjoy, the conversation centers around whether the person should eat the food, whether it is safe and what happens when he asks if he should give it back. The conversation is typical of someone who wants food, another who seems to control what he gets and is this person really trying to make him feel human? What is the real purpose? The next story is an interview with Eva Braun, which is quite humorous and enlightening. Listen to the conversation; hear what she says about Hitler, his wants and needs and you decide if suicide was good enough for them both and just who the pawn is in this relationship. The next stories are difficult to read as Herr Doktor brought it too close to home. Imagine the fear in the eyes and hearts of the women who endure the unspeakable experiments and tortures inflicted on them by doctors claiming to follow orders. Herr Doktor tries to explain what he did, why and rationalizes what he did and does not seem to care or even feel any remorse for those that died at his own hand or were permanently scarred mentally and physically. Patients had no anesthesia. Doctors operating without sufficient drugs on people that were human guinea pigs or worse. Herr Doktor denies any responsibility, blame or even acknowledges the charges. A man who took the Hippocratic Oath to heal but in this case commit death or murder. Not passing the procedure to another doctor, not seeing the error of his ways, Herr Doktor: The operating table in the next room has some sharp knives all ready for you; Won’t you lie down please! My grandmother was a victim of these operations and experiments and so were her sisters.
The Indifferent Golem is followed by stories that are quite graphic, quite heartbreaking as the author allows readers to enter the camps, hear the voices of the prisoners, the cruelties inflicted by the guards, the stench, the death, decay and the inhuman treatment so many endured. Meet Max Weber the Revisionist and next the story titled: Of No Use.  Imagine feeling like nothing, not a person anymore and being treated like less than dirt. Imagine trying to hide from the wrath of the guards, dealing with their punishments, their torments and being forced to stand firm on the ground. Imagine watching your friend killed with a spade knocked against his skull and you might be next. See the barbed wire fence. The many who would be cremated and trenches that were dug because one sick man had a dream! As the back of a shovel as smashed against our narrator’s head colors exploded within his mind and the earth in the “trench overlapped itself.” The prisoner fell forward and felt like he was outside of his body floating into an unknown place that would swallow him whole. Read his description and hear his voice on pages 79-80. Snow Globe I is where you learn more about the camps, the deaths of so many and how they endured the cold. Gunther, the guard speaks, you listen, you do not question and you are like dead drones following orders while they are warm, you are freezing and your mind begins to wonder as these events invade your every dream or waking hour. Even living in the present or finally out of the camp the horrors and memories never fade.
Slaves were treated better than these prisoners and the barracks “ laid out grids, barbed wire in rectangular enclosures.” There freedoms gone, their voices not heard and the morning roll call for the pleasure of those in charge of the fate. How they even survived digging trenches knowing that it might be for them or the last thing they ever saw is quite remarkable. Do they please the taskmaster, endure his brutality or will they finally find a way to fight back but how? Is working harder and doing their deeds the only way to survive? Is if worth it?
The story Soap is bone chilling and the research and evidence given will make you cringe. Are Hitler’s shorts are fact! Jews as bars of soap not!
Meet Cantor Matyas Balogh and Rebecca who meet by chance in a chocolate shop. Hear their discussions, smile at their encounters and Cantor Balogh loved chocolates and meeting with Rebecca they shared their interests. She a lawyer and he a Cantor. The cantor who read Mein Kampf even underlining his favorite passages that dealt with anti-Semitism. He had no living relatives yet had friends everywhere. Join them on their short journey and taste the delicious chocolates and find out what happens when reality sets in as Rebecca shares her life about her parents, his family and camps. Their business confiscated, their lives gone and not knowing if all of them were dead or alive. The horrors come full circle and the ending will bring tears to your eyes. Hummingbird is quite compelling and the ending will bring it into focus: prisoners kept alive with the smallest or barest thread of existence. The author brings the story to life and the harsh realities of what was done to so many are quite hard to deny although some still do. How can they go willingly to their extermination? The cold hearts, the evil demeanor and the joy that that they inflicted pain and terror on so many comes through loud and clear each time you hear the voices of the guards, the interviews with Herr Doktor, the Golem and even just hearing each narrator’s account in the story they are telling you feel more than just their final moments. “ Life in the camps only became clearer after I lived it. Although I am distant from it, it still lies in me as a quivering, gaseous haze, a mirage. But was it ?
The next story once again focuses on the camp and what was done to many by Mueller. Taught not to answer! Silence is hard and the guards wallowed in their pain. As you read pages 147-148 and hear the prisoner’s account of the guards, their behaviors and how they come across it is amazing that they even tried to survive. February 1944 and standing in the frigid cold and wondering where the only God you know is and why he is not helping you out of the living nightmare. Snowstorms, blizzards, hungry and terrified are just some of what is described in the story titled Longing: longing to be free, eat and survive! Away is the story of what happens when one young boys mother is taken away. This story is followed by Hand and the memories of a young child. Sincerely, Max Weber is a letter to the author explaining why he disagrees with his description of how the Jewish people were treated, the inconsistencies he found and the fact that he disagrees with the numbers of those murdered, or sent to the ovens, the fact that he states no every camp had a crematoria and the depiction of the events. Read Sincerely, Max Weber and maybe you, the reader will answer him. Food, Part II: Past Forward is followed by “A Way Up,” which focuses on a man named Pincus who is told he cannot make a purchase in a store owned by a man named Herr Earhardt and the reasons why you just will believe. How can you exist but not in the minds of others? How can he stand there and be insulted and wait for a response. Read this story: A WAY UP and find out who can deal with evil and who cannot!
The Tea Table and the Disenchanted Golem round out the collection as author Mathias Freese reminds us that these events did happen, the stories might be fiction but the events are not. A golem is created by the Jew he states. They have feelings but not human ones. They are called upon to help Jews and safe them. Their jobs are different but are made from the same construction. Golems are “More than the last recourse.” Golems are death emissaries. When you invoke one not only do they kill for the person that invokes them but something in you, the person is killed too.
Read the story and learn why the Golem comes. Do Golems feel your pain or do you feel their pain? Listen to the Rabbi, Alexandra as the author helps readers understand why they come, what they do and what the end result will be. Golems fear nothing and hate Jews? Why call them up? Listen to his description of his feelings for Jews and understand the meaning of the word: Neshamah: NO SOUL! Stories that need to be told and voices within that should not be silenced. I Truly Lament: Sorry for the events, sorry for the mistakes · “The definition of lament is an expression of loss, sometimes through artistic expression.”( free But, who is truly lamenting and who is really sorry!
Fran Lewis: Reviewer

Compared to Anne Frank: Whew!

I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust … a review

The first book by Mathias B. Freese that I reviewed was last year, it too, like this one, was short stories. So, naturally, I approached this latest book with a certain set of preconceived notions about his style of writing and the overall content. It was however, quite a different experience. Freese is a gifted writer. I say this because I have read quite a few books about the holocaust and this has such a different approach to the whole issue. Each story involves a folk tale, or a fable, from Jewish folklore. And creatures, both good and bad, come alive to take the characters of the book through bizarre journeys.

One of the stories that touched me most was one that involved a ‘golem’ . “In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being, magically created entirely from inanimate matter.” Mothers tell children stories of the golem as a creature that must be summoned when no hope remains and the world is dark. A Jew who is escaping from a camp has the golem in his head and conversations follow. The story is bone-chilling. I have always marvelled at the cruelty of man to man but never have I come across such raw rendering of emotions. Even the story about Hitler’s relationship with Eva seems true.

Needless to say, it is a most depressing read. Do approach with caution. This book affected me almost as much as Anne Frank’s work, and that is the highest praise I can give it.



5.0 out of 5 stars

`When you’re dead, Ezra, I’ll tenderly throw you into the pit and say a few words over you.’, October 18, 2014


Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States) – See all my reviews




This review is from: I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust (Paperback)

Mathias B. Freese is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist. His recent collection of essays, “This Mobius Strip of Ifs,” was the winner of the National Indie Excellence Book Award of 2012 in general nonfiction and a 2012 Global Ebook Award finalist. His “I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust” was one of three finalists chosen in the 2012 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest out of 424 submissions.


Were Mathias B. Freese not such a gifted writer this book might become overbearing after a few stories. But the compassion and the ability to stand in the vantage of the speakers recalling the Holocaust is truly a profoundly moving experience. These stories ache and peel back the yellowing seal of time that disuse allows to settle over unrepeated truths and places us in the concentration camps, living (or surviving or enduring or not) along side fellow `detainees’. Freese makes us feel, smell, cringe, and cry as these arias are sung from the stage of hate created during WW II.


It is only by being placed there via the time capsule Freese provides that reminds us of the horror of this hideous blight on the face of humanity. Only then can we ever avoid its recurrence – or be more objective as we see the genocide and human trafficking and other brutalities that somehow become hidden in our newspapers. This is a book that should be in the hands of everyone, in all countries, of all beliefs, of all living survivors from that time, with the plea this never happens again. Grady Harp, October 14



For Immediate Release


Contact: Mathias B. Freese

1786 Tanner Circle, Henderson, NV 89012


   I Truly Lament – Working through the Holocaust by Mathias B. Freese

 “Weirdly wonderful” short story collection explores the Holocaust from diverse perspectives in literary styles ranging from gothic and romantic to phantasmagoric

 Acclaimed author Mathias B. Freese writes from the fundamental understanding that human beings are much less than we generally give them credit for. Further, he believes that the human species is wildly damaged, for only a damaged species could have committed the Holocaust.

With this principle in place, Freese, renowned for his award-winning novel The i Tetralogy, publishes a new collection of short stories, I Truly Lament – Working through the Holocaust.

The twenty-seven stories in this collection include inmates in death camps, survivors of these camps, disenchanted Golems complaining about their designated rounds, modern Holocaust deniers and their ravings, collectors of Hitler curiosa (only recently, a few linens from Hitler’s bedroom suite went up for sale!), an imagined interview with Eva Braun during her last days in the Berlin bunker, a Nazi camp doctor who subtly denies his complicity, the love story of a Hungarian cantor, and many more.

Applying differing points of view, in styles ranging from gothic to romantic to phantasmagoric, Freese leads readers to what might be called his own final conclusion – that we will never be done with the Holocaust; we will never work it through.

Critic Duff Brenna, professor emeritus at CSU San Marcos, calls the collection “a monstrous achievement” and likens Freese to a “modern-day Melville wandering those same deserts of discontent, searching for answers to unsolvable questions.”

From out of 424 manuscripts, I Truly Lament – Working through the Holocaust was chosen as one of three finalists in the 2012 Leapfrog Fiction Contest.

 The author comments, “In my novel The i Tetralogy, considered by some critics an important contribution to Holocaust literature as well as a work of ‘undying artistic integrity’ (Arizona Daily Sun), I could not imagine it ‘all.’

Endorsement: “‘Freese says that ‘memory must metabolize [the Holocaust] endlessly,’ and his book certainly turns hell into harsh nourishment: keeps us alert, sharpens our nerves and outrage, forbids complacent sleep so the historical horror can’t be glossed over as mere nightmare. The Holocaust wasn’t a dream or even a madness. It was a lucid, non-anomalous act that is ever-present in rational Man. In the face of this fact, Freese never pulls punches. Rather, his deft, brutal, and insightful words punch and punch until dreams’ respite are no longer an option and insanity isn’t an excuse.” ~ David Herrle, author of Sharon Tate and the Daughters of Joy

I Truly Lament – Working through the Holocaust by Mathias B. Freese; Wheatmark; Fiction; Soft Cover 978-1-62787-161-7 $12.95


Author: Mathias B. Freese is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist. His recent collection of essays, This Möbius Strip of Ifs, was the winner of the National Indie Excellence Book Award of 2012 in general nonfiction and a 2012 Global eBook Award finalist. He is also the author of The i Tetralogy and Down to a Sunless Sea.

I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust

Adobe Photoshop PDF


I Truly Lament—Working Through the Holocaust is a varied collection of stories: inmates in death camps; survivors of these camps; disenchanted Golems complaining about their designated rounds; Holocaust deniers and their ravings; collectors of Hitler curiosa (only recently a few linens from Hitler’s bedroom suite went up for sale!);  an imagined interview with Eva Braun during her last days in the Berlin bunker; a Nazi camp doctor subtly denying his complicity; and the love story of a Hungarian cantor, among others.


“Freese says that ‘memory must metabolize [the Holocaust] endlessly,’ and his book certainly turns hell into harsh nourishment: keeps us alert, sharpens our nerves and outrage, forbids complacent sleep so the historical horror can’t be glossed over as mere nightmare. The Holocaust wasn’t a dream or even a madness. It was a lucid, non-anomalous act that is ever-present in rational Man. In the face of this fact Freese never pulls punches. Rather, his deft, brutal, and insightful words punch and punch until dreams’ respite are no longer an option and insanity isn’t an excuse.”

—David Herrle, Author of Sharon Tate and the Daughters of Joy

“… Freese’s haunting lament might best be explained (at least to me) by something Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about Herman Melville’s endless search for answers to questions that perplexed him all his adult life. Melville was incessantly obsessed with what one might call the why of it all—life, death, metaphysical mysteries. Similar to Freese, Melville was repeatedly afflicted with a dark and depressive state of mind.”

—Duff Brenna, Professor Emeritus CSU San Marcos

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I Truly Lament 3


“Overdraw me, Lord, and who cares if I break!  — Nikos Kazantzakis

I was a quiet child, passive, inoffensive, in no way troublesome, able to be left alone for hours, good, slightly curious, reasonably bright – unloved and untouched. No hand held me, no embrace told me I was unique, dearly desired and wanted. So, I unwittingly and unknowingly embraced myself. Like the sewers of Paris, I opened wide my eyes to the waters above; they entered my grates, became torrents and fled like rivers beneath the city of lights. “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree. . .”  Subterranean, I dwelt in Nod, east of Eden.

A catalogue of what children are denied, what is unavailable to them might serve a cautionary note.

Charlotte Russe, a confectioner’s delight of angel food cake topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry doused in sulfites, all tornadoed into an opened cardboard contrivance with an inner oval insert to hold the cake itself and a scalloped edge to serve as a diadem for the pile of schlag swirled on top. In the Fifties they were often arranged in a glass-tiered etagere at the corner candy store and the owner delivered to each eager child the Russe with a degree of care and mock awe.

Orange crates with a 2×3 inch wide sturdy end pieces, the decals were detritus then, and now collectibles (“Indian River”) — the side slats were carefully pried away, held in place by brads on each end. With this material innovation began. Two slats nailed together into a wider brace stock formed a rifle and affixed with a whittled bayonet. The remaining square pieces were cut and made into a cardboard gun. So in hand one had a wooden letter L, a nail affixed beneath the long barrel, an inch or so from the tip, the held the rubber band that stretched from beneath to over and down the barrel’s snout where it grabbed onto a notch. Cardboard squares, 1” x 1” were cut out from one’s father’s shirts; they came from the cleaners with cardboard in those days. Children were environmentalists.

Glass straws bought at the nearest drugstore that still displayed apothecary jars filled with blue and red waters, served as street assault weapons, for handful of dusty barley or rice in one’s mouth fed its opening and one spent late afternoons spitting these pellets at one’s friends. Water guns at the time were in one color, like Ford’s Model T; it was a black, 45mm replica and it leaked eventually and it did not shoot too far; it was for close encounters but it was not menacing. At the time no one feared it might be mistaken for the real thing.

Definitely missed are the stolidly dramatic cars, Studebaker, Kaiser-Frazer, Packard, Hudson, for their designs allowed one to leap back and sit upon their sides next to the hood, and one was not a youngster until an owner called, “Hey, kid, get off my car!” Oh, the “mischief.” And the only stalwart polish was Simoniz, swirls of mist dewy circles on the car as one waited until it turn slightly milked and then buffed it out – and always in the shade, the place where men tooled with the carburetor.

Marshmallow chocolate covered twists were two cents apiece, and the candy store owner dug deep into the ice cream chest below the soda fountain to pull out these “truffles,” recalcitrant little creatures so delectable to the taste; much the same for a frozen Milky Way, sold to you on Brighton and Coney Island beaches by a white suited, white safari-hatted young man schlepping  a white box laced in khaki army belts as grips. Across Saharan sands, he lugged this white treasure trove.

As a child a beanie was essential and was constructed from the crown of a man’s hat, often dad’s. The brim was cut away, and edge turned up and scalloped – charms, pins, added to it. Hats? What are hats? They are the controller of men’s hands and a source of civility and politeness. They are the cowboy’s plumed helmet, his de Bergerac. Hats, then, were excuses to leave and reminders to go. They slept on beds.

What was an aunt if not a hat with a veil, perhaps black or white gloves – for every day wear; perhaps rouge, ah, yes, rouge. And what was folded tissue if not a blotter for thickly lipsticked lips.

I was texture and I was within a specified context.

An emasculated coat hanger left a metal Y. A thick rubber band tied to the end posts and then fed through the cushion of a nylon backing – nylons, seams, fixing seams, garter belts: oh, lust. The sling was fed with unripe berries from local street trees, city child as migrant worker, agricultural reaper.

Sleds were not oval or ellipsoid nor of plastic and composite but linear scarps, with metal runners, “American Flyers” – Rosebuds! – that one ran with and flopped upon snow – belly-whopping. Now one circles down a hill in a saucer as if in orbit, whereas before one crossed the continental divide, conquered a frontier.

Ice cream cones were 9 cents and came with a choice: spun sugar cones – too fragile, or the spiraled wafer funnel cones, Wicked Witch of the West hats. And the milk and cream content were biblically fatted. An occasional choice was the Mello-Roll, a cylinder of ice cream covered with paper than you unrolled and placed into a cone shaped like a sugar mallet, a diy treat.

Of all the Rosebuds of my childhoods, the blue Swiss phonograph my father brought home from a pawnshop in which he worked, gripped my fascination, for it was extremely compact, each black and gun-metal blue piece fit exquisitely – and beautifully – into its cramped confines, much like a trusted jack, each section in its proper position – and tightly aligned – in the trunk. The needle was thick, a stereophile’s conniption; however, it was on this well-tooled machine that I first heard Bozo the Clown and samplers from a series of 45 discs, if memory serves me right, of classical music. Tschaikovsky and Grieg still stay in mind. Alas, time has stolen this machine away.

I remember W.W. II fighter model airplane kits, balsa wood models that required sanding of the core fuselage, with decals, that could be assembled to one’s satisfaction if you did not rush, in a day or two, and then painted with gray “dope.” They taught us delay. The more advanced modeler worked with kits that came in a kind of spaghetti box. When opened dozens of long,  stiff sticks tumbled out, skeletal bones of the plane to be, a conclave of stilt walkers. Additionally, a thin balsa sheet was enclosed, all the individual parts highlighted, from which with either a razor blade or an X-acto blade, one excised the struts, what-have-you, that made up the interior of the fuselage and wings. Gossamer tissue paper was included as well, to be used for the craft’s skin and that was a dicey effort to complete. It was an exciting and exacting project, much over my head, and only the patient youngster, the advanced obsessive, could put it together with finesse. The room would reek from “dope,” an unknown high of the time.

I would purchase a small tube of a black gooey substance with the feel of eely gum to; malleable, it came with a short plastic straw. I formed a round black pearl about one tip of the straw. I shaped and molded it, so when I blew into the tube – with gusto – a large balloon shape slowly emerged, often in wild, bulbous and Zeppelin-like figurations. I broke it off from the straw, quickly sealed the balloon by crimping it. It had heft and feel to it, this airy cherub and those that followed in quick succession. And how did I know then that the amount of either in this “toy” was enough to build a stairway to heaven.

At times I read thick, square fat little books with vellum-like pages, Tom Mix and Tarzan adventures, very much collectables now. . .or I “glued” paper “cockamamies” on my inner wrists, moist tattoos of all kinds – flags, puppies, stars, Mickey Mouse. Crackerjacks, then, as an aside, had metal, not plastic, gifts in their boxes, which took strong teeth to open – as if the seal was purposely glued shut tight to frustrate the young child: to create necessary delay before the reward within. As I think back perhaps the Fifties were a decade of delay.

Tinkertoys (is there a child today who is allowed to “tinker”?) came in a long tube, the Legos of the time, consisting of dowels and round wooden orbs, like space stations awaiting dockings. They entertained our fancy, for they required quirky constructional dreams in addition t coordination and experimentation. The one advantage, mild at that, over Erector sets, was they required screws, bolts and small wrenches. Tinkertoys was hands on. The found beach seashell brought to one’s ear and for a significant while, held interest – I was told they contained the sea’s crashing and I bought into the myth; better the myth than the scientific reason for spurring one’s imagination. Radio, not TV, held sway; imagination and creation as opposed to stupor and soporific moments. Analogue allowed the young child to tinker, turn a dial, sand a fuselage, putting a curve on a rubber ball, the immortal and ubiquitous Spaldeen.

The intimacy of my childhood was not with significant others, unfortunately. The childlike flora and fauna of my existence provided that. One’s “attention span” was not a moment or a span – it had breadth and gravity; mental bridges crossed from one point to another. And there were sufficient truss work to hold an idea in place and for some duration. I became Brooklyn Bridge.

A simple box camera, like Kodak’s Hawkeye, for one, could produce on large 626 (?) film, black and white shiny images with scalloped edges the chiaroscuro world of the post-war 40s and early 50s, film noir from a box, no less. Simpler pleasures were savored innocently, incorporatively, without knowing that. We acquired the honorable beauty of delay and frustration – that gratification meant so much more after an arduous journey (we were child analysts in training).

It was a time and a moment in which life reduced stress – at least for this child, and shaped the hours, in which seasons were ineluctable events and, like ocean waves, swept me into the deeper waters of childhood, the deep end.

One toy, one creative toy, my Uncle Seymour and Aunt Ruthie gifted me with was composed of a number of rubber molds, of people, clowns and animals – I remember not, in which I poured plaster-of-Paris (truly interactive). Placing the filled mold into a glass, its rubbery flanges overlapping and grasping the tumbler’s rim, it was cautiously placed into a refrigerator to harden over night – and then I had to wait.

Like Jello, I would test its surface waters with a finger tip, see if it was still liquid or if it had gone beyond gel to hard. To remove the rubber from the encased plaster led to errors and breakage, but finally, with patience, the statuary revealed itself and with the water colors that came with the kit, I began to color them, much like the Greeks who brashly poly chromed their marbles.

This is not nostalgia solely, although the first scent of this essence may strike you in that way. Rather, it is the latent configuring in all this that forms the human spirit to be. It is a child’s time, my time, a special elasticity over the years that provides the security of defined boundaries, outer perimeters from which one enters the forest primeval to forage and where the bravest of souls moves out from there to discover a clearing, or to ascend a rise – to master the terrain and one’s self. I would have to wait until the Sixties. At this moment all I can say is Ecce Homo who was this child.

It is to grow up with experience kneading you, not pushing or hurrying, just kneading you: preparing the flour that will rise like dough into bread, grain into the staff of life. We are all flour.

As I am much closer to my end than my beginning, I see the past clearer, apparently a consequence of aging. Short bursts of revelatory matter come to me – like quarks appearing on negatives, an indirect sighting, never seen eye to eye or in “reality,” but there, nevertheless.

I see the child I was that with the proper encouragement might have become the artist, the musician or the actor. I see the pip that grew into no tree, but only a rooting spring on a tree’s knot. I see the unbearable sadness of a will that might have soared. And, in a twist of fate, I became a scribbler, a writer of signs and symbols, runes. How odd. After all, to record is a surrogate living.

. . .

Dear Nikos: I know.

The bow is bent, the drawn cord attached, the tension taut. The pull is made, fingers and string brought close to the ear. The bow arced. And the quiver is empty, spent. To have an arrow to shoot, to expend oneself in thrust, in distance, to dynamically penetrate time and self and the world, has been sadly deferred.

And so I record, for each word mobilizes another part of myself, as I speed straight and true away into life ahead.

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