January 19, 2001
HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT BOCA RATON BOOK-AND-AUTHOR LUNCHEON
William Donat Survived War Hidden in Catholic Church Orphanage
WASHINGTON, D.C. — William Donat, whose late father, Alexander Donat, wrote the acclaimed memoir, The Holocaust Kingdom, will speak at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s annual Book-and-Author Luncheon on Tuesday, January 30, 2001, at noon at the St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton. The program is sponsored by the Museum’s Southeastern Regional Office.
The Holocaust Kingdom chronicles the fate of one Jewish family who survived the Warsaw Ghetto, as well as concentration and death camps, and was miraculously reunited after the war. Recording the tenuous daily life inside the shrinking borders of the Warsaw Ghetto, The Holocaust Kingdom reveals the hiding places in basements, apartments and attics that sheltered residents during Nazi roundups. The book documents the heroic street-by-street fighting by the Jewish resistance during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and recounts the enormous hope and pride these courageous efforts sparked in the Ghetto’s remaining inhabitants.
In the Ghetto’s final days, Wlodek’s (William’s Polish name) parents desperately worked to secure a haven for their five-year-old son. A Catholic couple agreed to harbor the child in their apartment. His presence was eventually betrayed to Polish authorities. The couple bribed the police and moved William to a Catholic Church orphanage. There, he meticulously hid his Jewish identity and for the remaining war years absorbed antisemitic teachings as the price for his survival. The Holocaust Kingdom recounts the child’s early struggle to reconcile his heritage with the prejudices instilled in him when finally reunited with his parents.
William’s parents — Alexander and Leona (Lena in the book) — survived the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and were sent to the Majdanek death camp. “Majdanek was hell,” recounts Alexander. “Not the naïve inferno of Dante, but a twentieth-century hell where the art of cruelty was refined to perfection and every facility of modern technology and psychology were combined to destroy men physically and spiritually.” From there, the couple’s paths diverged. Lena was interned in Auschwitz-Birkenau and Ravensbrük, while Alexander survived Radom and other labor camps. Alexander and Lena survived death marches, and were liberated in Dachau and Newstadt-Glöwen, respectively.
The Holocaust Kingdom, originally published by Holt-Reinhart in 1965, was re-issued in 1999 by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Library. With the assistance of William and Lena Donat, the new edition has been redesigned to enhance its utility for researchers. The Holocaust Museum’s Southeastern Regional Office is sponsoring the luncheon. Alice Abrams, Carol Cohen and Eydie Holz are the Event Committee Chairs. A book signing will follow the program.
To arrange media coverage of the luncheon, or an interview with William Donat, or to receive a copy of The Holocaust Kingdom, please contact the Holocaust Museum’s Media Relations Department, Andy Hollinger at (202) 488-6133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for the documentation, study and interpretation of Holocaust history, and serves as this country’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust. Since opening in April 1993, the Museum has welcomed more than 15 million visitors. The Museum’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.