February 27, 2020

The Best Holocaust Novel You Never Read

I have spent the last almost four decades years of my life in an intensive journey through higher Jewish learning.

I had thought that I had heard of every Jewish thinker and every Jewish philosopher.

But I had never heard of Otto Weiss, and Otto Weiss turned out to become one of my profound teachers.

Except almost no one knows about him.

I first “met” Otto Weiss through my colleague, Rabbi Walter Rothschild of Berlin, Germany. He told me about a manuscript called “And God Saw That It Was Bad,” written by Otto Weiss. In 1941, Otto Weiss, his wife, and his daughter Helga were deported from Prague and interned in the infamous “model ghetto” of Theresienstadt. Every day, Otto would write a little bit of the book, and then get the pages to Helga to illustrate. He was like a Jewish Scheherazade – telling one more story to keep her alive.

Otto Weiss died in Auschwitz in 1944. Helga managed to survive Auschwitz by eluding none other than Joseph Mengele. And God Saw That It Was Bad was published by Yad Va Shem in 2010, edited by Ruth Bondy.