Montrose native and writer/illustrator Tim E. Ogline’s newest graphic novel focuses on the story of the Goldberg family – a couple that survived the Holocaust, settled in South Carolina and established a successful business.
Ogline teamed up with Frank W. Baker, and editor John Shableski for the book, We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story.
Ogline co-plotted/co-scripted and illustrated this YA non-fiction graphic novel working from Frank W. Baker’s story and script. “We’ve collaborated closely with the Goldberg family of Columbia, SC, to share the story of their parents. I’ve pored through many hours of recorded oral testimonies as well as have conducted exhaustive secondary research of historical events to establish the backstory and the backdrop against which their story unfolded,” he said.
The back cover reads: “During Adolf Hitler’s rule over Germany there were over 40,000 Nazi concentration, labor, and death camps built with the intent of erasing an entire population of Jews, Sinti and Roma, as well as ‘other examples of impure races.’
“Bluma Tishgarten and Felix Goldberg were both young Polish Jews caught up in the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, the rise of anti-semitism, and more. But yet they survived.
“Bluma and Felix’s miraculous story of survival, combined with the rise of nationalism and fascism, leading to the extermination of millions of human beings is also a cautionary tale… a dangerous history that, if we do not heed the warning signs, could very well be repeated.”
“Frank Baker brought me the story,” Ogline said. Baker grew up with the Goldberg family. Baker had heard Felix Goldberg give a talk on his Holocaust experiences. Afterward, Felix handed Frank the speech and said, “Do something with this.”
It was a powerful moment for Baker, but the speech sat on his desk for years. An effort to turn the speech into an educational, historical presentation was not as impactful as he wished, Ogline said of Baker’s early attempts to bring the Goldbergs’ story to the public. A colleague suggested presenting it in graphic novel form.
Ogline received a message in February 2021, asking if he would be interested in helping to tell the Goldbergs’ Holocaust story. He immediately felt the weight of the subject and the time-crunch. “We had 10 months to do the book, which is insane,” Ogline said. Weekly meetings kept the collaborators on track and the focus on the storytelling.
They focused on the script and the pages. “We were thinking about it in terms of what needed more breathing room,” Ogline said. “Entering Auschwitz – more space is given to this scene.”
Beginning with the modern day opening sequence of the Goldberg’s children visit to a cemetery talking about their parents, the graphic novel looks back at the years 1917-1939. “We needed to see, how did we get here?” The graphic novel was blocked out in a grid, the pages were then build. “We took the framework of the script and added layers of context.”
“I found myself continuing to edit,” he said. Ogline researched the events that led to the rise of antisemitism and then curated those to tell the Goldbergs’ story with the historical context. “As the war begins, we bring readers to the nexus of evil,” Ogline said.
Maps in the page backgrounds show how the countries are related, Ogline explained – with the boundaries of Poland, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. “That has been a 1,000-year-plus battleground for that territory,” he said.
On writing about the rise of antisemitism, Ogline said, “It’s hard to understand that in our culture, I don’t understand why people have that animus.”
But, he also cautioned, “We think it can’t happen again, but it can. It’s an ever-present threat. Look America right now, we’re so divided, so tribalized.”
The book has received praise from Publishers Weekly, “This affecting work, which interweaves WWII historical facts among the family’s personal history, is vital reading.”
Ogline’s first book was Ben Franklin For Beginners, He is currently working on a new graphic novel, Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth and Other Words of Wisdom.
We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story can be ordered at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1637610211