Preserving Your Parent’s Legacy Before It’s Too Late

Eliezer Nussbaum, M.D., was born in Katowice, Poland; his father lost
his first wife and four children in the Holocaust and his mother lost her first
husband and son. He is a professor of Clinical Pediatrics Step VII at the
University of California and Chief of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine and Medical
Director of Pediatric Pulmonary and Cystic Fibrosis Center at Memorial Miller
Children’s Hospital of Long Beach. He has authored two novels, three
non-fiction books and more than 150 scientific publications, and was named
among the top U.S. doctors by US News and World Report in 2011-12. 
The Parents’ Legacy – In The Children’s Hands
As World War II ignited in Europe, the woman who would eventually bring
Eli Nussbaum into the world was already a young mother with a husband and a
little boy.
The family lived in Poland, part of the largest population of Jews in
Europe before the war. As the Nazis invaded her country in 1939, Bella-Rachel
Liebermench placed her toddler son in the protection of a monastery.
Eventually, she and her husband would be transported to a concentration
camp, where he would die and she would survive torture and deprivation. She
would never again find her first little boy.
That story is at the heart of a new novel, The Promise (www.elinussbaum.com), by Nussbaum, now one of the United States’
premiere pediatric pulmonologists.
“In writing a novel, I was able to truly immortalize my family’s stories
because a novel is something that will be read by many more people than just my
family,” Nussbaum says. “Having a record of a family, like a family tree or
what a  genealogist might prepare, is important, but few strangers will
want to curl up on a sofa with that and read.”
Nussbaum says adult children need to think creatively about how they
preserve and pass along their parents’ stories. Documenting names, dates and
milestones is fine, but the audience for that is limited. Recounting the events
that shaped your parents’ lives, and their reactions to them, not only
preserves their legacies, Nussbaum says, it can provide illustrative and
cautionary tales for the world at large.
He suggests:
• Make a StoryCorps recording: StoryCorps is a non-profit organization that
has collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews since 2003. Anyone can
share their story; it will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the
Library of Congress and participants receive a CD of their recording. Go to www.storycorps.org, find the location nearest you and make a
reservation. Bring a friend or loved one – someone who will either appreciate
your story or whose story you want to share – and think about the story you
want to tell. Staff at the recording sight will help you; the process takes
about 40 minutes.
• Create a digital slide show with soundtrack: Photos set to
music are an entertaining and often emotional way to share a story. Don’t try
to tell a whole life’s story in one slideshow – that’s more like watching
someone’s old home movies. Instead, choose an interesting time, event or story
to share. As you compile photos, music and narration, remember, you don’t want
to create a photo album, you want to tell a story. So you should have a
beginning, middle and end. Your finished product should be no more than two to
three minutes long. Caption the photos with names, dates and places. There are
numerous public sites online to share your show.
Nussbaum notes that he wrote his novel after his parents’ deaths; he
knew the stories, so he didn’t have to rely on his parents to re-tell them.
Those whose parents are still living should involve them in the process, if
possible. With StoryCorps, for example, parents can share their stories in
their own words.
“The older generations are beginning to pass away,” he notes. “For
example, in Israel, where I am also a citizen, a study of Holocaust survivors
found that by 2015, 66 percent of the survivors in that country will be over 80
years old, and their numbers will have shrunk from 240,000 to 144,000.  
“It’s important to preserve their legacy now. If your parents are
already gone, you need to do it before you can’t remember their stories.”
The Promise
You are not giving them up. You are saving them. You have my word that
I will see they are safe. At war’s end, I will reunite you. I promise. A
Holocaust story unlike any you’ve read before. When Yanusz Dov vows to protect
the family of his Jewish friend, Kalman Gold during the Nazi occupation of
Poland, he is drawn into a saga that spans three generations and three
continents. Yanusz stages a daring rescue from a concentration camp, hides the
escapees from relentless Nazi hunters, and risks his own family, church, and
life in order to keep Kalman, his wife, and his twin children safe. After
betrayal and the cruel realities of the occupation shatter the family ties, one
of the twins finds a new home in America, while the other is lost without a
trace. Separated by thousands of miles, brother and sister struggle for
survival, unaware that their fates are still bound together. Throughout it all,
Yanusz must rely on courage and faith to repay his childhood debt and fulfill
his lifelong promise.