In this episode of the Lean to the Left and Justice Counts podcasts, Mark Bello and I are speaking with David Tabatsky, the author of a riveting book about the Holocaust, “The Boy Behind the Door, How Salomon Kool Escaped the Nazis.”
David has authored, co-authored and edited many novels, including Friends Like These, The Marijuana Project, The Battle of Zig Zag Pass and Drunk Log.
He was our guest on a previous podcast with author Brian Felgoise, to discuss their book “Filthy Rich Lawyers, the Education of Ryan Coleman.”
But “The Boy Behind the Door” is totally different. It’s the true story of a young Jewish boy, who with luck, wit, and help from others manages to escape the Nazis as they murdered friends and family in his hometown in Amsterdam during World War II.
It's a riveting interview as Tabatsky tells us how that young boy overcame the terror of Nazi soldiers nearly capturing him to hide out in a nursery, then with others who were willing to help, even as some neighbors were turning in Jews to the Nazis to gain their favor.
Many years later, in his twilight years, that boy, Salomon Kool, told his story to Tabatsky so the award-winning author could share it with the world. The result: "The Boy Behind the Door: How Salomon Kool Escaped the Nazis."
Here are questions we asked Tabatsky:
Mark: We talked to you about Filthy Rich Lawyers, which is a completely different kind of book than “The Boy Behind The Door.” This one, it seems, was far more personal. It is based on a true story, the protagonist is an actual Holocaust survivor. Tell us the backstory. You actually traveled to Amsterdam and interviewed Salomon Kool. How were chosen for this project?
Bob: The story is a powerful document about a time in world history that we must never forget. Is this book targeted at young readers with that purpose in mind?
Mark: I don’t think I’m ruining anything by asking you this, but I will issue a spoiler alert. Salomon had parents, two brothers, and a sister, all of whom perished in concentration camps. He spent several years on the run, not knowing whether they were alive or dead. Did he share with you what that was like for a boy 13-16 years of age?
Bob: Many of his oppressors were Dutch, not German. Some were his own neighbors. Did he talk about what it was like to suddenly be treated like dirt by people who were once his friends?
Mark: I want to ask about the title. I read the book; I understand the reference, but I would like our listeners to hear it. There are so many stories from those times where fate, luck, or quick thinking, changed the course of history for this survivor or that one. Tell us about the title?
Robert: Mark asked about evil neighbors. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many righteous Dutch gentiles, at great risk to themselves, helped Salomon and hid him. Did he have fond memories of these people?
Mark: The book doesn’t delve too deeply into the relationship, but Salomon actually falls in love with the daughter of one of the couples who are hiding him. Tell us about that relationship? He ended up marrying another woman, after the war ended, but did he ever see or hear from Marta Rose again?
Bob: I’m wondering, Salomon hid from the Nazis and, with luck, was never actually captured. Obviously, many people, Jews and Gentiles, helped him achieve this rather miraculous outcome. I remember reading about Anne Frank and how several people hid out in an attic for years. We know some people survived or escaped from the camps We know that 6,000,000 Jews died, but do we know how many told similar survival stories like Salomon’s?
Mark: I want to go back to the issue of righteous gentiles. There has been an untick in anti-Semitism in America. Jews have always been targets for bad behavior, but here is an example of heroic behavior by a population that would have been safer by not assisting Jews. Was this primarily a Dutch thing, or was this happening in other European countries, as well.
Bob: Was your depiction of Salomon’s father accurate? Reading between the lines, it seemed to me that the man may have been losing his mind. The vignette about him proposing that the whole family commit suicide was heartbreaking. Was he thinking rationally at the time Salomon last saw him?
Mark: Share with our listeners, Salomon’s last moments with his mother. I cannot imagine how a young boy cope’s and survives such an experience.
Mark: Post war, Salomon spends the rest of his life in Amsterdam, true? Did he describe what life was like for Jews in Amsterdam after the war? Can you give our readers a sense of post-war Amsterdam? How many Jews survived and returned? Did they rebuild the population? Were they permitted to return to their homes? How were they treated by the Christian population that once oppressed them? How did the population get along?
Bob: I’m curious about Salomon’s post-war life. His entire family was wiped out. He marries another survivor and has two children who eventually move to Israel. Was he happy? Or was he sullen, bitter, and haunted? What were his spirits like?
Mark: Did he have survivor’s guilt? Please tell our listeners what that is and Salomon’s experience with it.
Mark: I got the impression that a man name Walter Suskind was responsible for saving a lot of Jewish lives. Can you tell our listeners who he was and his role in saving Salomon Kool?
Mark: Tell our listeners about the Magen David club. Is it still around?
Bob: Where can people get ahold of you and grab a copy of your fabulous book?
Listen to the Lean to the Left version:
Listen to the Justice Counts version:
Watch the complete interview: https://youtu.be/pKI7Mj45_qE