Monday, July 24, 2017


I am pleased to welcome Lew Weinstein to my blog this week. He writes historical fiction based on thorough research. He has written five books. He pursued writing after a long career in management. His English teacher had always told him he had the gift for writing. 

What inspired you to write your first book?

My first novel, THE HERETIC, was published in 2000, when I was 60. I wanted to deal with the question of why Jews were so hated, but I felt that the Nazi era was just too complex for me to address as a novice author. So I went back in history until I came to the period in Spain just before the Spanish Inquisition, a time when the antisemitism of the Catholic Church was overt and evident, when economic and political conditions were unsettled and chaotic, and when interesting historical characters like Queen Isabel, Gutenberg, and Torquemada were active. So I started to research, developed characters, and began to lay out a plot line.

What books or authors have most influenced your life?

The first book I read that suggested to me that I might write historical fiction was The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers: A Novel by Margaret George. Since reading that very creative and delightfully told story, I have written 5 novels, all of which are based on historical events in one sense or another.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? 

My high school English teacher told me I could write, and that I should. Almost 40 years later, I took up that challenge. When THE HERETIC was published, I acknowledged my teacher and it occurred to me that perhaps, if she was still alive, I would send her a copy. She was alive (well into her 90s) and we had a delightful conversation, very moving for both of us. I still remember her ringing words, “I knew you could do it!” I was just in time; she died shortly thereafter.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Often history and historical books require a lot of research. Is this a challenge for you? 

I love reading history and finding aspects of events and people I can use in my novels. I have developed a system for recording my research that makes many thousands of notes immediately accessible in planning and during my writing. One of the challenges is to select facts and integrate them into the book in a way that supports rather than dominates my story. As my wife often admonishes: “don’t tell the reader all you know.”

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Especially for new writers, my primary advice is to write without worrying if what you are writing is perfect. It won’t be, but you cannot edit to make it better until there is a first draft.

What book are you introducing to us today? 

My latest novel, the first of what will be a two-part novel, is called A FLOOD OF EVIL. I am about 200 pages into a draft of the sequel.

How did you come up with the title? 

After the book was written, still untitled, I tried many combinations of words until I came up with something I think works.

Tell us what you like about the main characters of this book

There are two main fictional characters. We meet Berthold Becker as a 13 year old German boy (Catholic) in Munich, who is drawn into the Nazi maelstrom by his older brother’s participation in Hitler’s 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. We meet Anna Gorska preparing Shabbos dinner for her Orthodox Jewish family in the Polish shtetl of Ciechanow (where my grandparents lived). Some years later, Anna and Berthold improbably meet and fall in love, and shortly thereafter begin what turns into a dangerous and chaotic mission to try to stop the rise of Adolf Hitler. Their story is unearthed and told, many years later, by a Brandeis professor and her father, who prosecuted the case against Berthold Becker at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? 

It is easy to condemn all Germans who supported Hitler or at least acquiesced in what seemed to be (in hindsight?) his clear path to horror and death. It is a far different matter to put yourself in the shoes of those Germans and try to understand why they did what they did. The condemnation may remain, but it becomes more nuanced.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story? 

Democracy is fragile. Our democracy in America is far stronger than that which existed in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s but it too can be destroyed. Attack the press and eliminate free speech. Disrespect the other branches of government and render them impotent. Spread lies and propaganda again and again until a majority of the people cannot recognize the truth. Disassemble all aspects of compassionate government. Sound familiar? 

Please share an excerpt from the book 


November 1945 - Nuremberg

Berthold Becker showed little emotion as his jailer unlocked his cell and escorted him along the dark corridor lined with soldiers. For several weeks he had sat quietly and watched as the trials of the other high-ranking Nazis had proceeded, and for the past two days he had paid somewhat greater attention as the evidence against him was presented, and what he regarded as a pathetic defense followed. It wasn’t his attorney’s fault. He was guilty. He had done horrible things. He couldn’t change what he had done and now he would pay the price. He expected to be hanged.
In the courtroom, he walked past Hermann Göring, who still looked pompous and defiant, and Hjalmar Schacht, who smiled vaguely to himself, operating on a  higher intellectual level than anyone else, or so he thought. Last night at dinner, Schacht had argued, as he often did, that he had committed none of the nonsensical crimes the War Crimes Tribunal had invented.
“What are crimes against humanity?” Schacht had ranted. “Or crimes against peace? There have always been wars. These charges are absurd.”
Berthold understood the charges and did not object. He took his seat and watched the prosecutor, Abraham Weintraub, shuffle papers in preparation for his closing statement. The justices filed in - American, British, Russian and French - but before Weintraub could begin, Berthold’s appointed defense attorney asked to speak. About what? He had finished his case the day before, and his closing statement would come after the prosecutor’s.
“If it please the court, I have another witness.”
The Chief Justice looked to Prosecutor Weintraub who made no objection, and all eyes turned to the now open door at the back of the courtroom and the woman standing there.
Berthold choked back the sounds that began to erupt in his throat but could not stop the tears that flooded from his eyes. The woman entering the courtroom had been his closest friend and lover for fifteen years. She was forever in his thoughts. He had not expected to ever see her again.
Anna Gorska looked at Berthold and smiled. He moaned and covered his eyes. When he looked up, she had already taken her seat in the witness chair, and he had heard her familiar voice state her name. She spoke clearly, but her hand quivered and she gripped the desk to steady it.

Q: Are you a Polish citizen? A: Yes.
Q:  Are you a Jew?
A: Yes.
Q: Were you and your family held in the ghetto established by the Nazis in Warsaw? A: Yes.

Q: Were you later transferred to Auschwitz? A: Yes.
            Q:  What happened to your family?
A: To the best of my knowledge, the Germans murdered every member of my family except me.

There was a sharp intake of breath in courtroom, then utter silence. Berthold imagined this was the first time most of those present had actually seen someone who had been a prisoner in a Nazi death camp.

Q: Did you know the defendant Berthold Becker before the war? A: Yes.
Q: How did you manage to survive at Auschwitz when so many others perished?
A: I became a whore. I serviced prison guards, SS and German Army officers.

Anna looked across the courtroom and locked eyes with Berthold. He managed just the slightest curve of his lips and she nodded in return. He sobbed, feeling her love, even now, especially now, when their life together was over.

Q: Did there come a time when Herr Becker came to Auschwitz?
A: Yes.
Q: Did Herr Becker subsequently help you escape from Auschwitz?
A: Yes.
            Q:  How did he accomplish that?
            A: He made up a story that whores were needed at another location and that it was an SS priority to move several of us to that location. He took us to Dachau.

Remembering their frantic trip from Auschwitz to Dachau, Berthold felt her touch, breathed her closeness, heard her sigh.

            Q:  What happened then?
            A:  The SS evacuated most of the Dachau prisoners to Buchenwald.
Q: But again you were saved?
A:  Berthold kept me hidden.
            Q:  And then?
A: Dachau was liberated by the U.S. Army. I believe that you, Prosecutor Weintraub, were there that day.
Berthold’s eyes spun to the prosecutor, who looked stunned. Weintraub had indeed been there, looking for high-ranking Nazis to arrest, but he had probably not noticed Anna.

            Q: I understand you have a statement to make. Would you care to do that now?
            A:  Yes. Thank you.

Gorska slowly unfolded several sheets of paper, the soft rustling of which was heard throughout the courtroom. Her voice at first pulsed with emotion, but she quickly steadied herself.
“Berthold Becker was a member of the Nazi Party, and in that capacity, he participated in the commission of at least some of the crimes he has been charged with by this Tribunal. I am sure he expects to be punished.” She paused. “But for reasons I will explain, he should not be put to death.
“Many Germans are guilty of acquiescing in the rise to power and subsequent crimes of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi associates. Most Germans offered no resistance to Hitler’s program of unprovoked war and the murder of millions of innocent Jews.”
Gorska paused again, looked at Berthold, and held his eyes with hers. Berthold’s heart pounded as he felt a stifling mixture of joy and pain. Anna continued.
“This defendant is not now and never was an evil man. He was dragged into a maelstrom not of his choosing and from which he was unable to escape. It is easy to say he should have done more to stop the Nazis and in hindsight perhaps he would agree.
“However, Berthold Becker, unlike many others, did frequently take great risks to try to oppose the Nazis and prevent their worst excesses. For the most part he failed in those efforts ... but at least he tried.”
Gorska sipped from a glass of water, then addressed the French, American and British justices in turn, looking directly at each one as she mentioned their countries.
“Honored justices, may I ask what your nations did to save Jews from Hitler? Perhaps you know how inadequate those efforts were, but I think your record bears repeating.
“France participated quite willingly, some even say enthusiastically, in the roundup of French Jews - citizens of France - knowing they were destined for extermination.
“American and British forces had no direct contact with Jews headed for extermination, but your leaders knew of the death camps and your airplanes could have bombed the camps or the rail lines serving them. Your countries chose not to do that and thus allowed the extermination of Jews to continue, in some cases until the very day the camps were liberated.”
Gorska slowly placed one page behind the others. She looked around the room, deliberately making eye contact, especially with those seated at the press tables. Almost everyone who met her stare looked away, made uncomfortable by her intensity.
“Berthold Becker, although a Nazi, did more than any of the great Allied nations to save Jewish lives. Many lives, not just mine. That is reason enough to spare his life now.
“But there is another reason, which I believe is even more important.
“Many Nazis who should be imprisoned or executed will perhaps never come to trial.  Many Germans are already denying that mass murders of Jews ever took place or claiming that if such things did happen, they were not known to them.
“Such false denials must not be allowed. Those who supported Adolf Hitler or acquiesced in his evil must not be allowed to hide from the depravity in which they were complicit.”
Anna looked directly at Berthold and he felt she was speaking to him, as if they were alone. “Berthold Becker had a unique vantage point during the entire Nazi terror. He knows and
will tell a truth that others deny.”
Looking back to the justices, speaking slowly, she delivered each of her final words as if it were a dagger.

“You have the power to allow the terrible story of German evil and guilt to be known. Do not take the life of this defendant. Let Berthold Becker live to tell his story.”
Her statement concluded, Gorska folded her hands in front of her and waited. Prosecutor Weintraub chose not to cross-examine and the witness was excused. She took a last look at Berthold in the defendant’s chair, openly struggling to keep her emotions in check, then rose and walked to the rear of the courtroom. Several members of the press rose to follow her. Just inside the door, one of the reporters hugged her. Anna broke down in tears and left the room encircled by the reporter’s arm.

Other books by Lew Weinstein available at


  1. Great interview Karen and Lew! I enjoyed the Q&A. The part about your teacher is very touching, Lew. I'm happy she lived to see your work and the result of her encouraging words.

    1. Lew's story about his teacher is a powerful one. It is proof that one person can have an important role in our life. We never know how our words or actions will affect another person. Thank you, Vashti for sharing your thoughts.

  2. VASHTI ... thank you for your comment. The entire connection with my former teacher, and our final conversation, was indeed an emotional exchange for both of us.