gallery Out of Poland

Out of Poland – when the best revenge is to have survived

by Jenny Harrison

For decades the leather suitcase lay hidden under the house. When opened, it revealed letters, photographs and documents all in Polish and therefore inaccessible to those who didn’t speak the language.

Many years later one letter, written in 1946, was translated and the awful truth revealed.

The letters and documents told the story of the Siegel family who had lived in a small Polish village until the Germans came.  One son escaped and arrived in New Zealand where he made a life for himself, not knowing he had left his entire family to perish in the gas chambers.

The letters tell the story of the beautiful daughter who could have been saved but chose to go with her parents to the gas chamber so that they didn’t have to face it alone. They told a story of love and loyalty, of the betrayal of trust and of compassion.

The letters also the story of one of the worst crimes in human history and how it broOOPught out the best in some people – but also the worst.

Writing Out of Poland has been a long and difficult journey.

Even so, I feel privileged that, of all the millions of anonymous victims of Hitler, I have been able to get to know and cherish this one family. By remembering them I can honour all those who will forever remain anonymous.

Out of Poland – when the best revenge is to have survived


Michelle: I’ve just finished your book. I’m awed, humbled, inspired, chastened. What a remarkable, heart-filled, well researched, powerful, sensitive, beautiful work of compassion!  It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. What a gift you’ve crafted for so many people! Wow. ❤️

Brenda: Culture, fiction and fact collide as Jenny Harrison sensitively tells the story of one man, family, city and country caught in unspeakable events that precipitated WWII. Part detective story, she draws together fragmented and scanty evidence found in a hidden suitcase, symbolic of a family torn apart.  Bit by bit she uncovers the story of Naftali Siegel, the eldest son of a Polish Jewish family.  Born in Pruchnik, he is sent by his family to Italy in 1933 to train as a vet. Once qualified he had the good fortune to be assisted in 1938 by the Commission for the Relief of Jews in Italy, who forged documents for him to emigrate to Australia, and then to New Zealand.  He appears to have tried to help his family or at least his sister Malka escape from Poland.  Malka could pass as an Aryan German, and had an offer of a forged passport and papers.  Far away from the war, it was not until 1959 that Naftali discovered that Malka had, in 1942, been gassed with her family in Belzec extermination camp. Speaking  her truth quietly, Jenny shows that speaking of the unspeakable is an essential first step in healing of deep emotional wounds.

Amazon Customer:  Superb! Brilliant book that opened my eyes and showed me things I never even considered. Very well written!

Ann R:  You have told the family’s story with integrity, humblness and truth. Not a pretty story due to the topic, but one that has helped me to understand the plight of the Jewish community in Poland more fully. You have done an amazing job getting this book to print – a tragic story told beautifully. Once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I hope many, many people read it. Thank you for sharing this story.

Bev R: Well done on a powerful and impeccably research piece of work! The historical facts are dramatic by the present day effects are equally riveting as you go through the process of writing and dealing with the family. Great human interest. It stands as a strong testament to the lost souls who need to be remembered.

John R:  Well written and well researched on relations of Jews and Poles over centuries.

Ken J: The book to say the least is so interesting I could not put it down. I gave it to a friend whose grandfather was German and had, I think, relatives in Poland and he found it the same, so enthralling.

Gavin: This is a fascinating, well researched and well written story that draws you in and makes you want to keep reading into the early hours of the morning to see how the lives of the Siegel family will unfold. This is a story of Naftali, his family but also a story of the author’s research and interaction with the family. A riveting read that I couldn’t put down till the last page was turned.


Amazon Books

Paper Plus – Morrinsville

Paiko Stationers – Te Aroha

Carsons Books – Thames

Unity Books – Wellington

Writers Plot Readers Read – Upper Hutt

Polish Heritage Museum – Auckland

Paige’s Books – Whanganui

McCleod’s Books – Rotorua


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