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Interview with Two Among the Righteous Few Author Marty Brounstein

By Maria Esteves – May 28, 2018

Marty A. Brounstein (MAB) is an author, consulting business manager and adjunct faculty member of the MBA Program at St. Mary’s College, CA. In 1993, his Practical Solutions Group provided leadership and organizational effectiveness to clients, from executives to managers and staff members in profit and non-profit sectors. His books included Coaching and Mentoring For Dummies, Communicating Effectively For Dummies, and Managing Teams For Dummies. His latest selling book TWO AMONG THE RIGHTEOUS FEW: A STORY OF COURAGE IN THE HOLOCAUST, about the awe inspiring heroism of Franciscus and Hermina Wijnakker, a young Catholic couple from the Netherlands who saved over a dozen Jewish children including his wife Lear Baars from the Nazi Holocaust during World War II, in Europe.

On Thursday, May 24, 2018, the Harvard Club of New York City featured a special presentation of TWO AMONG THE RIGHTEOUS FEW with guest speaker author Marty A. Brounstein, moderated by Holly Lynch, Host, Society of Fellows, along with a reception and book signing. I had the distinct honor and privilege of interviewing author Brounstein at the Harvard Club.

Q: What inspired you to write the book Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust?

MAB: In May 2009, my wife Leah Baars and I had a chance to take a trip to the Netherlands and by accident we met the Wijnakker children. They shared the story about their parents, two rescuers in the Holocaust. As I learned a little bit about the family, I met Frans Wijnakker Jr. the youngest of the three brothers and he showed me a picture which blew me away. It was a plaque dedicated to his parents from the Avenue of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. I knew what it meant, that’s the honor that goes to the non-Jew like Oscar Schindler who risked their lives to help save the life of a Jew. That probably was the source that sparked my inspiration not that I was going to do anything at that moment as well as my meaningful personal connection in this story.

The Avenue of the Righteous Tree Plaque, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem honoring
Frans & Mien Wijnakker, August, 1983.
 

Q: Briefly describe the book?

MAB: It’s the story of this young married Catholic couple named Frans and Mien Wijnakker and their rescue efforts not by design but a call for help. One thing led to another, Holland was under this brutal occupation of Nazi Germany for five miserable years and contrary to beliefs most people were not going to get involved to do anything to help the Jews who were being persecuted and murdered and they did! In the end, they saved the lives of over two dozen Jews from death and they never got caught, that’s pretty miraculous.


(From L-R) standing Shula Laub holding baby Lear Baars,
Avraham Laub; Frans Jr., Nellie, Thijs, and Jan Wijnakker.  

Q: What were the challenges in writing this book?

MAB: Putting enough pieces together to tell a story with substance. The Wijnakker family helped, without them this doesn’t happen. On that accidental visit in May 2009, they gave us a little self-published Dutch book titled Enkelen Van De Enkelen (A Few of the Few). They told us prior to the death of their father Frans, a friend of the family sat him down to hear his story of the war and created this little self-published book. The oldest of the Wijnakker sibling’s Nellie also helped fill in some of the blanks.

In April 2010, my wife and I met with Shulamit Schwarz who lives in Haifa, Israel and she had memories. At age 15, she was lucky to get out of Amsterdam alive, unlike her girlfriend Ann Frank. She was the very first-person Frans and Mien Wijnakker took into hiding in their home. I was able to put enough pieces together to say I have a story. I was able to use the little book along with a lot of historical research and Shula’s interview. I wish I could interview more people but they are not around.


Two Among the Righteous Few author Marty Brounstein, right, and
Lear (Ineke) Baars at the Harvard Club of New York City, Thursday,
May 24, 2018.  

Q: What were your greatest accomplishment in writing Two Among the Righteous Few?

MAB: The accomplishment to me which I did not expect is what happened since the book got published. I’m in my seventh year of an unexpected journey of sharing this story. Tonight, marks event number 634. Most authors don’t do that. Why have I kept going? Because the audience is telling me, “You must keep telling this story.” I’ve had supporters help along the way. Tonight’s host Holly Lynch is a perfect example, she arranged for this to happen. In November 2017, during my New York short speaking engagements, I met her at Christ and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.


Two Among the Righteous Few author Marty Brounstein,
left, with moderator Holly Lynch, Host, Society of Fellows
at the Harvard Club of New York City, Thursday, May 24, 2018.  

Q: Is this a young adult or teen book? If so, will the book be available in public schools across the country?

MAB: Yes, this book is very much for age 12 and up. It hits all levels, all ages. All the schools, that I’ve had some connection over the years invite me into the classroom to facilitate discussion. We are taking it to 8th grade students, high school students and I have a college class I hope to build on. In one situation, we’ve taken it to 6th grade level students.

Q: Will the book Two Among the Righteous Few be made into a film?

MAB: For the past seven years, I’ve had audiences spontaneously telling me you’re a great story teller. I hope to have those connections. Think of the movie Schindler’s List, think of the movie The Blind Side, put them together that’s this book.

Q: Can you end the interview with a blessing?

MAB: That’s how I end my story telling presentations. I want to Thank God for the courage and compassion of Frans and Mien Wijnakker.

Thank you, Marty. For more information, please visit: http://amongtherighteous.com/

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