The Jewish Week
                April 25, 2014



     Sometimes human memory acts like a desert. It buries old towns and eras. Beneath the layers of sand it conceals former glory and tragedy, joy and pain. Many years pass before a random wanderer encounters the traces of past civilizations.

     Susan Rostan is not such a wanderer. She knows very well what’s her aim. Just like many members of the so-called second generation of survivors she wants to learn the fate of her loved ones in the terrible times of the Holocaust. Her purpose is clearly delineated: to dig out the forgotten Warsaw from the interwar period and the Nazi German occupation, and its former inhabitants. But it takes time, effort and patience, because the memories of Marian Rozenblum and his family have been strictly and deliberately hidden from all children.

     The author as an experienced archaeologist discovers layer after layer. Forgotten faces, names and events gradually emerge from under the surface. Little by little she reconstructs the course of events. The mosaic of scattered images and impressions forms unknown even to those closest, frightening and fascinating history of persecution and extermination, the struggle for life and survival.

     As a Pole, I highly appreciate the joint efforts of Susan and Marian to restore the memory of Polish Jews, former residents of my hometown. Their fate was fulfilled during World War 2, the conflict caused by the totalitarian regimes of Third Reich and Soviet Union. And the memory of my countrymen who risked their own lives as well as their families' lives whilst hiding and saving from death their Jewish friends, neighbors and even strangers. With this book, some of them receive the title of Righteous Among the Nations for their quiet heroism. We can only guess how many others will never be honoured.

     Witnesses are less and less, they pass away one by one. We’re running out of time. You have to hurry if you do not want to miss your Troy, Pompeii, Carthage. Cities of tragedy and glory, hidden under layers of sand of oblivion and ashes of the dead.

    --  Aleksander Kopiński, Polish literary critic, historian and genealogist

This book is an excellent example of combining personal and cultural history. It offers thorough research along with a well rounded portrayal of the main character. As a memoir writing instructor, I especially appreciated the author's modeling of how to interview an elderly person with compassion and sensitivity.

5.0 out of 5 stars @

 Amazing and Moving Read December 29, 2013

By Katherine Slifer


This book was amazing. I moved through the book slowly, not because it was a slow or boring read, but because it was such an emotional journey. It was well written, well done, and a joy to read despite the tragic content.

There are a few stories within this novel and all of them are moving. The novel begins with Susan Rostan's desire to create a family tree for her granddaughter. Her husband's family survived the German occupation in Poland, survived being forced into the Ghetto in Warsaw, and came out on top despite the loss of so many members of their family. What was so moving is how much emphasis was placed on how radiant her mother-in-law was despite all the hardship.

What I loved about this book is how well Rostan depicts the emotional journey Marian, her uncle-in-law, had to go on to tell her everything that he did about his life. I usually steer clear of books about the Holocaust because mostly I am left with the feeling of heartache and sadness and no understanding of how the information affected others. This novel literally depicts the journey of gathering the story of what the Rozenblums went through and then how the new revelations affected Rostan and her husband. Intermingled with these revelations where reenactments of different small scenes with Rostan's mother-in-law that were heartbreaking, deep, and read as though they were memories and not how Rostan envisioned life back then.

This book is a must-read. I loved it and I recommend it to anyone who loves history and the story of family.



Zohar -'s review 

Jan 17, 14


4 of 5 stars

bookshelves: 2013 

Read from December 24 to 26, 2013

See review at:

Digging: Lifting the Memorable from Within the Unthinkable by Susan Rostan is a non-fiction history of the author’s family. Ms Rostan’s research into her husband’s family is the basis of this book.

An aging uncle is the only surviving link to his family’s history -- the stories of tragic loss and heroic survival that he has refused to share. With an emerging feeling of responsibility to share his story with his family, for the sake of his sister’s namesake and future generations, he begins a painful journey into memories of his childhood in the Warsaw Ghetto and his subsequent survival in Nazi occupied Poland. As his experiences unfold, he haltingly recalls how he manages to escape the Ghetto and survive thanks to his father’s friend  a Pol­ish patriot who risks his own life to help the uncle, the uncle’s sis­ter, and count­less friends hide out­side the Ghetto. Out of his tor­tur­ous exca­va­tion of a past long sup­pressed, the uncle reveals not only the story of a fam­ily dev­as­tated by the Holo­caust, but also a family’s empow­er­ing respon­si­bil­ity to honor and renew his sister’s legacy of hope, car­ing, and laughter.

Digging: Lifting the Memorable from Within the Unthinkable by Susan Rostan is one of those books that, one day, I’d like to put together. The author did research into her husband’s family and found some astounding stories of survival and the human spirit.

I normally dislike to review such books. These are very personal works which are priceless to the authors and their families but usually aren’t very good unless you know the persons involved or have a personal interest. However, many of these books are not very well written or edited, mostly a collection of stories grandma told the kids at bedtime and didn’t want to get lost. This is all well and good and I wish my grandparents have written some sort of family history for my family and me.

But who am I to pass judgment on such works?

However, Digging was a fine book, interesting and with multiple angles. Not only is it a fascinating glimpse into Poland during World War II and an amazing survival story but also struggle the Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum, bureaucracy to include her uncle’s savior, Stanis­law Drabich, as a Righteous Gentile.

The book is an easy read on a difficult subject, which the author does a wonderful job describing. Ms. Rostan also touches on a very important subject, the fact that Holocaust survivors are reluctant to share their horrific experiences with future generations to learn from and/or remember. That is a travesty which their heirs of all ages (from Mrs. Rostan to Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation) are working hard to rectify.

The one thing I didn’t care for was that the author tried to capture her uncle’s style of talking which, for me, didn’t work. However, I do see how important it is from a familial perspective and important to her book and its intended audience.

Ms. Rostan wrote a good book and a wonderful story taking the reader along for the ride. I found the story of battling the bureaucracy very fascinating and am glad she included it, giving the book another dimension alongside the fascinating family history.


Digging: Lifting the Memorable from Within the Unthinkable
by Susan M. Rostan  

Review By Goodreads author Jay Howard 

Feb 04, 14


5 of 5 stars

Read in February, 2014

The title comes from the digging the author did into her husband’s family’s past, and the word is apt with regard to the meticulous research she did into the lives and deaths of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. The author has been just as thorough where the story is personal but far gentler than ‘digging’ would suggest.

For her granddaughter, Ella, Susan Rostan wanted to know the stories behind the lives of her husband’s mother, Elzbieta, and his uncle, Marian. Her writing speaks clearly of her great understanding, patience and empathy when gradually drawing out the memories Marian had kept locked within himself for so long. As their relationship grew stronger he trusted more of himself and his story to her. There is horror and grief in the telling of life under the Nazis, of the family members and friends lost, but it is also life-affirming, full of love and indomitable spirit.

Susan Rostan has executed her task flawlessly. This is a gracefully told narrative that kept me spellbound. It is not so much a story of the Holocaust as the story of a survivor and his relationship with his family. It is about life and love and enduring humanity in the face of unimaginable evil and adversity.