Author Archives: Matt

SHIRLEY ROE’s REVIEW

rical Fiction Book Reviews

Genre: Short Story/ Fiction
 
Title: I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust
Authors: Mathias B. Freese
 
Haunting is the best way to describe I Truly Lament. Much like Mathias Freese’s first book, The i Tetralogy, this book will stay in your memory for a long time.
The Holocaust is a subject that many authors have written about, but none so profoundly as Mr. Freese. He touches the very heart and soul of those that lived and those that died during these terrifying times.
I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust is a book of short stories that were previously published by the author. This compilation is an emotional, and sometimes difficult to read, collection for readers to experience the entire event through the eyes of the people that lived it.
A psychotherapist, teacher and writer, Mathias Freese digs deep into the psyche of his characters. I have often made reference to The i Tetralogy in conversation. The point of view of both the guard and the prisoner of the same situation, makes one ponder reality and how we create our own reality. It never leaves you and you will never see any situation quite the same again. I have to say, he is one of my favorite authors. Well done, once again Mr. Freese !
  Highly Recommended.
 
Reviewer: Shirley A. Roe, Allbooks Review International www.allbooksreviewint.com

LATEST INTERVIEW WITH A BLOGGER

How did you get inspired to write I Truly Lament?

I am not usually inspired to write anything. I sense a feeling or a constellation of felt-truths, often a gift, and I am serious about this, from my unconscious mind. What we do each day is really a thin patina that covers the engine that drives us. I count upon these surreptitious feelings I get and then I move on to express them. I have done this with all of my books. Having been a psychotherapist also comforts me in that to write is to express the inner self. What was your writing process like? Did you need to do a lot of research?

Sometimes I garner facts like a rolling stone. At 74 that is a life time of collection. If I don’t know the name of a movie star, of course, I look that up. In the pride I have I try to accomplish what I have to say by falling back – deeply so – on who I am. I have written stories about the concentration camps and survivors of those camps. What can you fall back upon except one’s compassion, sensibility and intuitive sense, the writer’s palette if you will. Facts are only appurtenances. I once wrote that fearlessness leads to authenticity in writing. I struggle to take no prisoners, to be graphic, honest, blunt if need be to advance the story I am working on. If you were describing this book to a friend, what would you say

Feel it rather than shy away from whatever truths I could manage to compose. I see too much of Holocaust aversion on the part of reviewers, as if the Holocaust is a hot coal. Like the Odyssey, the Holocaust should be read by each generation, for it is mankind’s newly minted original sin. Read the book knowing it is the author’s attempt to comprehend the ineffable. Can you tell us a little bit about the man behind the book?

Like Freud who said he was a godless Jew, I subscribe to that; the impact of being Jewish has been intense for me. I have worked as a teacher, and I practiced as a psychotherapist and while all that was going on, I wrote when I could. It took me thirty years to have a book of short stories published, Down to a Sunless Sea. I think of myself as the tortoise in Aesop’s fable. I don’t quit and redeem myself through perseverance. I did not go to school to write; I put in my 10,000 hours. I follow no rules, mostly breaking rules. How long have you been writing?

46 years. I have paid my dues. So the man goes to the green and plays his rounds. What does he remember? His swing, his birdies. I can’t comprehend that. I write not for posterity, except for my children. I write for personal clarity. Like Kazantzaki’s epitaph, “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.” I struggle for that existential experience. What’s next for you?

TESSESRAE, now being edited, a memoir of two summers, ’68,’69 , in Woodstock, describing how a man-child became a man by opening myself to feelings and relationships. Out of this entire book, what is your favorite paragraph?

“Slave”: The most appalling defeat in the camps was the absence of beauty. Regimentation was all, an artist without a palette.

Animal life had fled. Occasionally an errant bird chirped tis creed and flew away. Butterflies stayed away, no flora to cling to. If you think rats, vermin, maggots, and roaches are beautiful, it was Eden. Uniformity in everything was the rule. Barracks laid out in grids, barbed wire in rectangular enclosures. Even the circle was barred from the camp, for it was elusive to the German mind. Everything was squared off, nothing rounded. We lined up for morning roll calls, the appell (italics). The guttural voices of the German guards barked out the same repetitive orders. Geometry was God, diversity Satan’s whore, opinion a mother’s bastard, and questions a whore’s tease. Order above all. To my ears, the German gutturals obeyed in aural allegiance the mind-set of their speakers. When I fill the ice cube tray, I pause, knowing how well the Germans viewed us, frozen cubes all lined up.

FOR BLOGGERS WHO WANT MY LIFE STORY

Mathias B. Freese

Published June 16th, 2008

Mathias B. Freese’s short story collection, Down to a Sunless Sea (Wheatmark, 2007), recently received an Independent Publisher Excellence Finalist Award, and was also named a finalist for the Reader Views Literary Award, as well as a finalist in the “popular fiction” category of the 2008 Arizona Book Awards, sponsored by Arizona Book Publishing.

A teacher and psychotherapist, Freese is the author of the four books of the i Tetralogy (Hats Off Books, 2005) — i, I am Gunther, Gunter’s Lament, and Gunther.

Freese hold masters degrees in secondary education and social work from Queens College of the City University of New York and Stony Brook University. For more than 30 years, he taught English and social studies in New York secondary schools.

Freese’s nonfiction articles have appeared in the New York Times, Voices: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy, and Publishers Marketing Association Newsletter. In 2005, the Society of Southwestern Authors honored Freese with a first-place award for personal essay.

Derek Alger: Your recent story collection, Down to a Sunless Sea, has received high praise, not to mention being named a finalist for the Reader Views Literary Award and receiving an Independent Publishers Excellence Finalist Award.

© Mathias Freese

Mathias Freese: The book reflects 30 odd years of a struggle to get published. I made a pact with myself more than two decades ago, I would someday publish a book that contained all my short stories, but they would have to be published in order to prove their worth. Not all were published, but in that pact made with myself is a statement about myself. I will not quit on you, on myself: it is characterological. To receive praise at 67 is a cosmic joke, wouldn’t you say? How would you, dear reader, deal with it? It bespeaks a sad ruefulness not defeated by that very compound; for the next morning light makes me greet the day for being alive. In the midst of my despair, or merry depression, is a force in love with life, alas, no control over the DNA in my flesh. It wills out when I don’t want it to.

DA: What was your childhood like?

MF: I am a passive-aggressive personality which, to my eyes, means that I took in as a child without metabolizing. The undigested, rageful parts spewed out like Ahab’s leg from Moby Dick’s mouth, from time to time. I was a receptor as a child. I did not experience my life so much as observe it, if that. I just associated to the earth bombarded by neutrinos that stream right through the core and out without nary one of us on to it. I reflect on all this in the title story of my book of short stories, Down to a Sunless Sea.

I was raised in the bland soup of benign neglect which did not give me enough sustenance to arm myself for life ahead. A weak father, a depressive for a mother, I later realized that my father was the third child in our family of four. And that my mother had married down, which suited her just fine, because that gave cause to her depression, all insights that came decades later.

We were lower middle class Jewish poor. I never experienced being poor — I ate, I was clothed, there were needs met. Allow me to share an anecdote about my parents and our status in life, all in one ball of wax. My parents worked for two or three days, not including the weeks and months before, to have me ready for my bar mitzvah. It was not catered. We could not afford that. So mom cooked several turkeys and all the Jewish trimmings. At that time, I had a Lionel train set which was increasing in size each year as my two uncles contributed by giving me locomotives and tenders and so on. My father took me aside and said that would I mind if he sold the train set to get additional money to pay for the bar mitzvah. I, of course, said yes, as I had no inner reference at the time, and this was the Fifties, parents as godhead. So an early choice that made me surrender something dear in order to acquire something less dear. I observed all this. I did not feel it until later. I miss those trains. It was a patrimony I would have passed down to my son and daughter. Anyone out there who wants to write a story about this?

DA: Did you always think like a writer?

MF: I don’t really know what it is to think like a writer. I think Matt. I came to writing out of pain, in small acts of serendipity. My first writing was an extended poem that I submitted to the high school yearbook in 1958, which was accepted. However, the English teacher misread it, edited so much out that it was significantly reduced and I had my first experience with editing, poor at that. The poem dealt with my inner depression, as I look back at it now, and that was overridden to give it a bluebird ending. In 1958, the word Holocaust had not entered the language, so what do you expect?

I still don’t know what it is to think like a writer. I am an autodidact, self-taught, no MFA (I’m lucky). I escaped conditioning. I believe to become a great writer or a very good one the writer must avoid organized teaching. I think like a shrink, a father, a lover, a mensch, but not as a writer. When I come to write, I go inward, very inward, and I allow my unconscious to blast through, often ooze, into awareness; that is how I write. I count on all the rules I’ve broken, all the errors I’ve made over 40 years. I count on who I am. I write for me and no one else. I am very serious about what I write. I was a very serious child, I believe now, with a superego, alas, the size of New Jersey. I still am serious. I have no time to write dreck.

You labeled isolation and confusion over the nature of life as the twin tracks in my book of short stories. Allow me to consider that. I was isolated as a child and very confused about the nature of the world itself as I was left to my own devices. I was a bright, perhaps very intelligent child, who was left to lie fallow, to wit, the nutrients ultimately drained from out the fields. I was also alone. It took me decades to learn to dwell in that without fear. I am very inner-directed now. I do not recall having my parents ever embracing me with grand affection, enjoying the mere existence of my being. There was little physical — or verbal! — affection and so, as young people do, I assumed there was something wrong with me. I was marginal. I experienced myself as cold — far from it, but then, yes. Again, I do not start out as a “writer” to deal with such themes; I just allow myself to coalesce and then clot, not really concerned too much with plot, literature’s device for making us happy and contented readers.

DA: The concept of moral courage obviously shaped your world view.

MF: In Hebrew School, I learned a great deal about moral courage; the first book I ever was given, by Grandma Flo, she of vaudeville, was called Jewish Legends. I devoured that book. It entered my bloodstream. Almost 50 years later the legends became part of a dream sequence in my major work, The i Tetralogy. They were that significant. Allow me to make a tangential observation: at least in my too assimilated Jewish family, a book or encyclopedia would be given as a gift but with no follow-up. My father once brought me a violin. I was perplexed. Was I to start playing it without instructions? Am I a genius? It took me years to fathom the aimlessness of the gift, for it lacked nurturance, the oil of relationship.

Shadrach, Meschach and Abendigo obviously caught my attention, for they were morally stronger before their sentence to be consumed by the flames. I offered that to the readers decades later in the Tetraology, writing “What was in them before that made them so fearless? That is the question to ponder.” I was also tested at 13 by an anti-Semitic experience which was indelible. I describe that in detail in my book as well. The key point was that I became a defender of the faith without realizing it. The conditioning as a Jew had settled upon me and I was tested very young. I value Churchillian courage, the courage of the Hebrews in the early texts; I taught myself, on some primal levels, to know who I was and to honor it and to stand up to it. I am in debt to the Hebraic tradition.

The prophet Nathan comes down from the hills, enters the palace, and tells David off to his face about Uriah’s death and his fornication with Bathsheba. My hope is that I could do that without god behind me — that is balls. However, the lesson was not lost upon me; that we are alone; that our worth comes from within; that we seek justice and give it; that fear must be dispensed with while we quake from it. So, if an alien dropped down from the sky and greeted me, I’d probably stroke out; however, I’d go up against any hundred Nazis in a herd.

DA: You say a major revelation about yourself came when you were about thirty?

MF: I advanced as a human being when I met Rochelle. In 1969-70, I was in therapy, and she had been in therapy for several years and it definitely showed. I was wired, unsure, reeling from a disastrous first marriage and a damaging financial onus. The anecdote is basic: I asked Rochelle what she thought of a tie I had put on and she said that it was very nice. In my neuroticism I challenged her, and said, in effect, to cut it out and tell me the truth. It was a classic defense in action — en garde! Her response was part gesture, part words; stepping toward me, she looked at me caringly and said that it was, indeed a very good-looking tie. I was disarmed. I had been told the truth twice and each time rendered tenderly, sincerely. I was married to Rochelle for 29 years until she died in a horrific car accident in 1999. Rochelle nurtured me with respect, she was kind to me, she gave me all the ingredients that I needed to grow. Grades in a master’s program became only A. I began to write better, four years into our marriage, my first significant story was published, “Herbie,” which is in my present collection. I was listed with Norman Mailer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Joyce Carol Oates in an anthology of short stories, edited by the famous Martha Foley, bless her soul. So, a nurturing marriage provided me with insight into myself and love.

The value of that experience was to see the failure in not selecting an occupation or profession that was more suitable. How can you do that unless you know who you are?

A shrink said to me once, with consternation, “Why in the world are you a teacher?” In short, she thought I could have done better for myself. (Because I didn’t know any better; because I did not have counseling or healthy parental input.) I thought safe and became ensconced in schools. What is more neurotically safe than tenure?

DA: You taught high school English and social studies in New York City. What was the value of that experience?

MF: “Nicholas” is one story that represents dismay; “Young Man” is a description of my despair as well. I hated it, yet I was terrific at it. You can’t keep the life force down. I wrote throughout the years I spent in the penal colony. I got two articles about my experience in one high school published in the New York Times — that poisoned my relationship with other teachers for years. Acting out, I enjoyed the turmoil, for what I had said was devastatingly true. I think of Alceste in The Misanthrope.

I ran an alternative high school for several years and that was exciting, but it lasted for a short time and was knocked down. I was a New York Jew in Suffolk County, the land of the nouveau riche. Although I have a few good memories of teaching, I rue the experience as wasted except for the serendipitous rewards one gets from it. Teachers in public schools are as much slaves as their students, except, unlike their students, they are castrated. Frank McCourt says much the same thing about his teaching “career.”

DA: What prompted you to become a psychotherapist?

MF: To know. Pain. Intellect. I became a therapist to learn about myself and if I learned enough, like a good Jew, I would share it with you as well. I was intellectually ambitious.

At times a morose thought haunted me: is that all there is? — ending with a stone that says teacher. I wanted to grow, to come to the end of my days with a better appreciation of who I was and what I could do. So I became a teacher, writer and psychotherapist, and they bind together as a triple helix, brushing shoulders here and there to produce better thinking, better writing, a better living existence. I am not driven, how appalling. I am a seeker. “Reach what you cannot,” Nikos Kazantzakis’ Cretan grandfather advises (Report to Greco).

I live with that injunction; I had settled for a while with “Reach what you can.” As I look back, I also remember reading Freud, not understanding much, but reading him in my college days for “fun.” Moses and Monotheism and his book on DaVinci are real mind pleasures. Years later I was interviewed by Robert Langs, a Freudian psychoanalyst, for his book Madness and Cure. I was Mr. Edwards. The upshot was that I fought off a crazy shrink unconsciously and consciously; Langs saw into me pretty well …

DA: It’s pretty amazing that you wrote the first part of The i Tetralogy over a two-week period.

MF: The very first lines of The Tetralogy were written on the back of a torn envelope retrieved from a glove compartment as I waited for a friend to come home. I began to write and write. When I left him, I wrote for a good part of the night and for most of the week. It was a short novella and really didn’t need much editing. It poured out of me. It was as if I had channeled the contents of my soul in this particular direction. I cannot recall what it felt like, but I can say that I did not have to ponder for a day or week what I was going to say.

I was not concerned with plot or event; I was concerned with saying what I had to say although I did not know what I had to say. I believe it was everything I had experienced as a young boy and man as a Jew; it was as if I had lanced a lifelong abscess.

DA: It’s a remarkable achievement to write the four books of The i Tetralogy without having firsthand experience of the death camps.

MF: Without grandiosity I share what Freud said about his Interpretation of Dreams, to wit, a book like that comes but once in a lifetime. I doubt I will ever again reach such depths as I did with that book –but who knows? One of the gifts of the four volumes was that I took the putty knife and scraped clean the inner windowsills of my self.

The Tetralogy is four books on a related subject. I decided very early on to write volume 2, feeling that I had to strike while the iron was hot, to tell the story now from the point of view of the perpetrator. “i” was told in first person tense from the point of view of the victim. I consciously chose first person for the immediacy of that tense; and that was a killer to do.

It worked! You can taste things in that book, all kinds of sense and feelings. What you are asking is a profound question and I will kick it right back to you, Kafka never was a bug; Melville never was Ahab (or was he?). Acts of imagination can more than compensate for first-hand experience.

Allow me to dig my heels and go deeper. I believe that each of us is capable of being an executioner. I believe man is a damaged creature, he shits and sings from openings. I do not enthrall him. At times I find myself experiencing repugnance as a member of this species. We are invested in our magnitude. I turn rocks over to see the grubs others might choose not to see — that is a writer!

I became a Nazi. I felt what it was to become a Nazi. In the book, I composed Nazi “poetry.” Does this frighten you? Perhaps it should, because I believe there is a Nazi in each of us — loosely tethered at that. The T-Rex in our brain stems, the amygdala in juice. You ask how could people imagine such things? I reply, to wit, because it is in you and it is in me. “On the Holocaust” is a talk I gave on a military base in Arizona in commemoration of the Holocaust. It can be accessed on my website, mathiasfreese.com. I go into it much more deeply. I believe if we take hold of the handrails that line our inner conscious recesses we can walk these cavernous hallways into the darkest recesses of human behavior. Care to join me?

DA: Can you explain why you believe most everything we need to know about nature, and gods, is at the center of the apocalyptic nightmare of the holocaust?

MF: The Holocaust is today; human behavior is today. One of the greatest gifts of Judaism is memory. We don’t put it behind us and get on with it. We process – we metabolize — the past. That is why Jesse Jackson and Mel Gibson so misread Jews.

We remember. I view the Shoah as the quintessential statement of the human race. In it is everything you need to know about the species. “Never Again,” doesn’t even approach the issue. We are dealing with the primal, innate template of each of us — and early reports are that it is metastatic.

In the Raison d’ Etre of the Tetralogy, I write about “the confession” of the Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolph Hoess, who was required to write it prior to his hanging in 1947. A riveting book, perplexing and reptilian in its fascination, here was a man who had studied to be a seminarian, yet ended his life as a loyal and dedicated Nazi. The book has always stayed in mind, for within its pages is the entire Rosetta stone to the Nazi mind, to humankind gone to seed.

Hoess’s autobiographical tale stayed with me, made a deposit in my unconscious. If I recall correctly, the book is matter-of-fact, which makes it awful. It is descriptive and lacks self-analysis and moral insight. That makes it appalling.

I believe that the Holocaust, if we have centuries to come, will be revisited over and over again for the truths it reveals about human nature — and our species. I believe that the array of human behaviors revealed by the victims, the perpetrators and the bystanders reflects mightily about the inward processes of each one of us. There is no escaping this fact. We flee more from light than darkness. The Holocaust compels us to examine why we behaved and acted in such ways; it goes way beyond the Germans and Nazism. The Holocaust is a Baedecker into the human species. Pause for a second: what about humanity — its gods, its religions, its cultures, arts and so on — is not subsumed under Holocaust?

We are often moral cowards. I choose not to believe that there is a secondary school in this country that has a brave teacher who examines the Holocaust as part and parcel of human nature — oh, no, we escape with political, economic and social causes, all the drivel of intellectually deficient teachers who have to hurry to the next unit plan. I remember teachers spending little time on the Holocaust in social studies classes; I gave it my best effort in English class.

DA: You’ve endured your own tragedies over the years?

MF: What can I say? If you read the autobiographical essay at the end of the Tetralogy I write about the death of my wife and the suicide of my oldest daughter. I have had significant losses in my life, who will not? I go on. Closure is for simpletons. I will go on until it is my turn. What is there to learn from such tragic losses? To move on over the crack in the sidewalk, to take Lipitor, to lose weight and stop smoking. Loss is life’s signal for us to query forever.

DA: Could you elaborate on your notion that language is truly the Internet of the human race?

MF: It’s not called the web for nothing. What I imagine, what I say about what I imagine, is already in you. Human beings are a species that are universally alike; so it is the writer’s task, I feel, to simply have them stand on one strand on the web as I jump up and down on a distant strand, and the ripple effect is sent along and the resonance is felt by all similarly. Language provides that. We are all interlocked in our similar innate traits; the great writer, I imagine, uses that web as a trampoline, the rest of us are happy with a hearty ripple, if that.

AND SO IT BEGINS

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

ON MARKETING HOLOCAUST FICTION

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, mthsfreese@hotmail.com; Amazon.com; Wheatmark.com”

In Asia

http://www.carryonharry.com/I-Truly-Lamen-Mathias-B-Freese.php

 

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 dictionary.com) 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.

GRADY HARP’s REVIEW OF LAMENT

I TRULY LAMENT

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

By

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

(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)

(VINE VOICE)

(TOP 100 REVIEWER)

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

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