A unique book fair was held in Montreal on Sunday afternoon, featuring the work of Holocaust survivors.
Authors like Leslie Vertes had the opportunity to share their personal and painful stories of survival with a wider audience at the fifth Holocaust Survivor Book Fair.
Vertes said he remained silent for several years, but felt it necessary to finally put pen to paper in his memoir Alone in the Storm.
“The untold story never happened and the verbal story is easily forgotten,” he said. “Only the written story, only the book will stay forever for generation after generation.”
Writing the book was an arduous task that took 18 months to complete.
“In the book, there is a story which is very difficult to write,” Vertes said, adding there were many sleepless nights. “I took lots of Valium because to relive and tell or write the tragic events — what I went through…”
Vertes was born in Hungary in 1924 and was just 20 years old when he was sent to a forced labour camp after Germany invaded in 1944.
“It was hard, difficult work,” he said of the camp. “We were abused and there was not too much to eat.”
Vertes spent six months in the camp before escaping with nine friends.
“Unfortunately, all of the nine were killed,” he said, adding he survived living under an assumed name.
“I was hiding in friend’s name because one of the Christian friends gave me his papers and that saved my life.”
For Vertes, Sunday’s book fair at the Holocaust Memorial Centre is about educating people.
“They have to learn why the Second World War happened,” he said.
The hope is that by learning about the past, people will learn to recognize the writing on the wall.
“Hopefully, the readers will be able to judge how to avoid another holocaust,” Vertes said.
“They will learn hate leads to killing. They will learn that if the slightest discrimination is not stopped, they will end up with another holocaust, another genocide.”