BECOMING JANET

FINDING MYSELF IN THE HOLOCAUST

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Pub Date 7 May 2024 | Archive Date 15 Jul 2024
Cypress House | Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles

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Description

Blessed with blond hair and green eyes, four-year-old Gustawa Singer lived an idyllic life in Nowy Targ. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles doted on her, and strangers admired her flawless complexion, comparing her to a porcelain doll. Her father worked in her grandfather’s hardware store, and the family prospered. All of that was shattered on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. With nowhere to run or hide, her parents made the agonizing decision to give their daughter to a reluctant nanny and parted ways to maximize their chances of at least one of them returning alive. For the next three and a half years, Gustawa lived a clandestine existence, harboring a secret that her looks hid so well: she was Jewish. By the end of the war, more than 90 percent of her town’s Jews were annihilated; she was one of the few children to survive.

Becoming Janet is a mesmerizing account of how a young girl’s quick wits and the courage of a few virtuous individuals combined to beat the odds. Passed between strangers with both honorable and deceitful intentions, Gustawa maneuvered through terrifying situations with only the identity papers of a deceased Polish girl and a well-rehearsed cover story. Paradoxically, the people who inflicted lasting wounds on Gustawa were relatives, while a few brave strangers protected her like family.

In May 1945, her father, weighing 110 pounds, emerged from the camps. Miraculously, he found his only reason to live: Gustawa. After the war, they arrived in America and Gustawa’s story was buried by the demands of assimilation: Gustawa became Janet.

At a time when hate crime is rampant, Janet, age eighty-eight, speaks to thousands of people—from 6th graders to state legislators—inspiring them to be resilient, courageous, and above all, kind. 

Blessed with blond hair and green eyes, four-year-old Gustawa Singer lived an idyllic life in Nowy Targ. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles doted on her, and strangers admired her flawless complexion...


A Note From the Publisher

Cover Illustrator: Isaac Milley

Cartographer: Jacob Milley

eBook: 9798985408676

Cover Illustrator: Isaac Milley

Cartographer: Jacob Milley

eBook: 9798985408676


Advance Praise

“How does a Jewish child, just four years old when the Nazis invaded Poland, come to be one of the fortunate few who survived the Holocaust? Janet’s story of resiliency, adaptation, and the kindness of strangers will inspire and challenge you. It is a valuable contribution to our collective memory and to our understanding of the Holocaust and the ordinary people who did extraordinary things to survive.”

Jeremy Burton, CEO, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston

“Like the best cinema, a great memoir transports us into new worlds and new understanding. Janet Applefield’s powerful story of her childhood years surviving the Holocaust is one of those revelatory books. She tells a tale of childhood innocence disrupted by the brutal murder of her mother, her forced separation from her father, and an ongoing onslaught of cruelty and hatred that would make any parent shudder and weep--and all because that little girl just happened to be Jewish. Yet in Janet’s haunting story, there is also another moral too: A reminder of the capacity for human kindness and compassion and bravery, even in the worst of circumstances, that can ultimately triumph over hatred. And how wonderful that her story in the months after the war concludes with a miraculous, shocking act of serendipity. It’s true that we can never forget the Holocaust, and Janet Applefield is one of the few remaining survivors to provide first-hand testimony to its horrors. But her book is also a wakeup call--one we very much need today—of the dangers of following the path of hate, cruelty, and division.”

—David O. Russell, Director and Screenwriter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle

“Janet Singer Applefield’s book, Becoming Janet: Finding Myself in the Holocaust is an incredible story that is more compelling than any fiction. I stayed up all night to read it. But it is more than just a story of one young child’s experience of the horrors of the Holocaust. It also exemplifies both humanity’s cruelty and kindness and challenges us all to choose between the two.”

—Michael Macy, U.S. Diplomat (Senior Foreign Service ret.) Board member of the Abrahamic Reunion and Founder of the Solstice Peace Initiative

“Filled with heartbreaking and intimate detail, its horrors devastatingly remembered and powerfully told, Becoming Janet takes your breath away on virtually every page. Readers will be captivated by the unimaginably brave little girl at its center, as the story Janet Applefield courageously tells in this memoir has never seemed more timely and important.”

—Chris Connelly, reporter for ESPN

“I have experienced Janet powerfully telling her story to students and others through her work at Facing History and Ourselves. Reading this book, I felt like Janet was telling her story to me personally and reaching to touch the heart and mind and while telling it. One can hear in Janet’s narrative a call to center one’s moral compass and remember not only the atrocities and trauma of the Holocaust but to consider other choices individuals made—for courage, compassion, and resilience. One is inspired by Janet’s strength and wisdom as she journeys through her various identities. This book is a gift to young people and educators for years to come, so they might carry this story and its lessons and take them to heart.”

—Francesca Colletti, Executive Director, Facing History and Ourselves New England

“Janet Singer Applefield has authored a captivating, detailed chronology of her harrowing experiences between 1939-1945 in Nazi-occupied Poland. Writing clearly and concisely, she holds back none of her emotions as she takes us with her on her perilous journey of survival. Her story is both edifying and terrifying; heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Young Gustawa’s comfortable life with a loving extended family is turned upside down with the invasion of the Nazis beginning in 1939. Bit by bit, every aspect of her existence is destroyed until, at the tender age of seven, she is separated from her parents. Forced to conceal her Jewish identity beneath the facade of a new Christian name (“Krystyna”), she embarks on a dangerous odyssey for survival.

Applefield does not sugarcoat as she describes the apathy, even cruelty, of distant relatives entrusted with her care. Fortunately, she also encounters the best of humanity in the selfless acts of kindness and compassion she experiences from complete strangers who literally keep her alive.

Her losses are unimaginable: her mother, grandparents, uncles, and more. But her beloved father survives the camps and miraculously finds her. She ultimately relocates to the United States where she makes a life and finally becomes… Janet.

Her story is one of the triumph of the human spirit displayed against a backdrop of unfathomable hatred and evil—not only by the German invaders, but also by her Polish “friends” and neighbors who were often actively complicit in the objective of making Europe “Judenfrei” (free of Jews), even after the defeat of the Nazis.

Through her book, Janet will be able to reach many more thousands of people, especially young people, with the message she has spent much of her adult life delivering in local school visits: that we all have a choice to make, and by choosing to speak out against prejudice, injustice, or bullying, we can make a difference in the world. Becoming Janet is a must-read.”

—Rick Mann, Chair of the New England Holocaust Memorial

Abbreviated: both edifying and terrifying; heart-warming and heart-breaking.”

“A remarkable memoir by a Holocaust survivor. As a Jewish child, Janet Singer Applefield was secretly immersed in the world of Polish Catholicism, only to rediscover Judaism after the war. Her story is well worth reading if only to encounter this extraordinary survivor’s courage, decency, and inner strength.”

—Kevin P. Spicer, CSC, Dean of the May School of Arts & Sciences, Stonehill College, and author of Hitler’s Priests: Catholic Clergy and National Socialism

“This is not a typical Holocaust book but a real page-turner. Janet Singer Applefield vividly and shockingly offers her life story of extreme suffering and endurance, which took her from Nowy Targ, Poland to New Jersey, USA. It’s a vivid and shocking portrayal of man’s inhumanity to man, woman and child. The world really does need to know this story.

—Rashmee Roshan Lall, PhD, writer and journalist and creator of This Week, Those Books

“Janet Applefield’s deeply personal story Becoming Janet is told with detailed text and beautiful photographs, serving as a testament to the Holocaust and a legacy for all time, leaving the reader both horrified and hopeful at what humanity is capable of. Lessons abound in Applefield’s book, from her insights that Your name is your identity to Indifference is never the right choice, to explaining that character-building is what you choose to do when no one is watching. The study guide at the end of the book makes this a precious and practical resource for educators and parents to use to teach about the Holocaust.”

—Deborah L. Coltin Executive Director of Lappin Foundation and Holocaust Educator

“Janet’s story of survival and resilience is one that needs to be shared. For us Germans, remembering what happened during the Holocaust is of singular importance, as it forces us to confront our darkest chapter of history. In an increasingly polarized world, it is more important than ever to know what can happen when bigotry and hate go unchecked.”

—Dr. Sonja Kreibich, Consul General of Germany to the New England States

“Before she became Janet, she was a child named Gustawa. A happy pampered little girl that lived in a small Polish town surrounded by the mountains. The Holocaust destroyed her family and put an abrupt end to her childhood idyll. Of the hundreds of Jewish children playing around the streets of the town before the war, she was the only child to return after the war. This book is a beautifully and movingly written story of her incredible rescue. It is also, or perhaps above all, a story about how, and to what extent, other people’s decisions, fueled by hatred, lack of empathy and fear or, on the contrary, inspired by boundless love, compassion and courage, can alter the fate of another or shape their ultimate identity.”

—Karolina Panz, PhD, Polish Center for Holocaust Research

“Janet Applefield’s firsthand account of surviving the Holocaust as a child is a compelling story of loss but also one of incredible survival. Janet’s story is a deeply moving and immersive experience that resonated both with high school staff and students. The power of her storytelling served as a stark reminder of the atrocities fueled by hatred during the Holocaust. Her ability to weave personal anecdotes with visual documentation allowed her to effectively convey the profound human cost of hate and victimization. In doing so, she not only focused on such a dark chapter in human history but also inspired reflection on the importance of empathy, tolerance, and the collective responsibility to prevent such horrors from happening again.”

—Rebecca Jackson Toch, Social Studies Teacher and Department Chair, North Middlesex Regional High School

“How does an innocent child, who at an early age learned that survival meant being “…as invisible as possible…,” find the courage and commitment to speak for those who no longer can? Beautifully written, Becoming Janet, was an emotional book to read. At regular intervals, I had to step away to weep for this child who would lose so much. Her story, however, is not only one of loss and survival but also one of experiencing both happiness and sorrow at the same time. When she and her father are joyfully reunited with her uncle on the docks of New York she also acknowledges, “All those who should have been standing beside us gripped our hearts tightly. In sharing her story, Janet reminds us that in a world that is still divided, our choices have the power to change the lives of others. We can choose kindness, we can choose courage, and we can choose empathy – just as those who played a part in her survival did.”

—Christina Warren, English as a Foreign Language Coach, Writer, Translator, Bern, Switzerland

“A deeply moving experience that resonated both with high school staff and students. Janet’s ability to weave personal anecdotes with visual documentation conveys the profound human cost of hate and victimization. Her focus on a dark chapter in human history inspires reflection on the importance of empathy, tolerance, and our collective responsibility to prevent such horrors from happening again.”

—Rebecca Jackson Toch, Social Studies Teacher and Department Chair,

North Middlesex Regional High School

“Janet’s story is one of perseverance and determination in the face of unspeakable horrors. She offers valuable lessons to future generations in their struggle against violence and hatred. As I think about what she experienced and how she has navigated each obstacle, I am continuously amazed by her resilience and strength.”

—Geoffrey Favakeh, 7th Grade Social Studies,

Bellingham, Mass. Public Schools

“An incredible presentation! Thank you so much, Janet, for sharing your living piece of history with us. Your story is important for all of us to know so that we will speak up when faced with intolerance, indifference, and hate. Silence is never the answer.”

—Kerry A. Payson, M.Ed.,

Theology Department, Bishop Feehan High School

“Janet’s experiences remind us to make sure we don’t repeat history. With the story of her personal, painful past, Janet shows us how to survive, how to keep hope, and how to love despite fear, hatred, and rejection. Please read this book to make yourself a better person and the world a better place for everyone.”

—Reverend Roy Herberger, Priest, Buffalo, New York 

“How does a Jewish child, just four years old when the Nazis invaded Poland, come to be one of the fortunate few who survived the Holocaust? Janet’s story of resiliency, adaptation, and the kindness...


Marketing Plan

Author tour to schools and corporations, ALA show display, specialty market outreach, bookclubs, prepubs to trade and consumer publications. 


Author tour to schools and corporations, ALA show display, specialty market outreach, bookclubs, prepubs to trade and consumer publications. 



Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9798985408669
PRICE US$17.95 (USD)
PAGES 200

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