A Book Review: The Orphans' Father

The WAVE occasionally highlights recent publications by our members, but usually those are medical journal articles or medical books. Today I’d like to discuss a new book that is not medical at all. WAVE readers likely need no introduction to Dan Osterweil, MD, CMD. Dan was for many years the CEO of CALTCM and has had an outstanding career as a leader in long term care, innovator of care models for the elderly, educator, author and editor. He has been a long-time faculty member at UCLA in their Geriatric Medicine division. Now Dan has written an absolutely riveting new book, “The Orphans' Father: A Jewish Doctor’s Inspiring WW2 Historical Novel, Based on the True Story of a Holocaust Survivor

Although some dialogue is reconstructed and the word “Novel” is in the title, this is not a work of fiction at all. If it were fiction, I think it would be considered unbelievable, because there are just too many hair-raising close calls, coincidences, inexplicable random violence, and murders to make it believable. But the truth is that this is a real story, that of Dan’s family’s experience with the rise of Naziism and the tides of war as the German army and eventually the Soviet army took over the area where his family lived. We follow his family members into various precarious living situations, into forced labor and transport camps, into exile in work camps in Siberia, and eventually into Hungary and post-war, into Israel. Dan’s father was a pediatrician, and at extreme personal risk both his father and mother were very involved in running an orphanage for Jewish war orphans that involved subterfuge to convince the Germans that the children were Christian, major efforts to get adequate food and medicine during wartime, multiple relocations to different countries, and eventual transfer of the children to Israel. Dan illustrates his parent’s heroism along with many others who risked their lives to save others during the war. He also vividly brings to life the monstrous behavior by individuals that was at the root of the collective horror of the Holocaust. It is hard to read of the travails of his family members without projecting their experiences during the war to what people must be experiencing right now in the Ukraine and other current war zones. Dan provides many family photographs to help us picture the protagonists of his stories, including documentation of his own arrival on the scene during their post-war years. This is an important book, and it is well written enough so it works at a page-turner level as well as a wonderful historical and literary level. As a bonus, there is an extra chapter at the end written by his cousin filling in the details of his own parallel experience during the war, with additional escapes, close calls, and deep tragedy. We at CALTCM are lucky to have benefited from Dan’s leadership, and the book makes clear that leadership and dedication to serving others are part of Dan’s legacy from his parents as well. Do yourself a favor and read “The Orphans' Father: A Jewish Doctor’s Inspiring WW2 Historical Novel, Based on the True Story of a Holocaust Survivor
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