250 Books Later, I Finally Tell Mom's Story

05/04/2015 05:27 pm ET | Updated May 04, 2016

You might ask what took me so long.

My mom, Jenny Graubart, a Holocaust refugee who spent World War II in Havana with her family before entering the United States, finally has her life story inside hard covers.
It only took her son, the author, decades to get around to making the book happen.

I run, a nationally known provider of ghostwritten memoirs and business books.

My company has written with members of the Forbes list, baseball hall of famer Dave Winfield, business leaders of all stripes, and has created family memoirs for leading members of the

American philanthropic community.

So what took me so long to telling my mother's story?

It's a reverse Jewish mother thing.

I didn't want to make her uncomfortable by having her relive some very painful years.

I finally realized it was time to tell my mother's story when my own children became old enough to understand that she and her family had been through the Holocaust.

No one lives forever. I realized that if we didn't get Mom's story down now, it would be lost forever.

My children would only know her as a nice old lady. They would have no idea of her history, which is their heritage.

Walter Graubart, Jenny's father and my grandfather, ran away from Poland to Czechoslovakia when he was 12.

He taught religious school there for a year and then went on to Belgium, where he sold buttons door to door before raising enough capital to start a men's clothing store.

The store was located in the town of Eyesden, on the Dutch border.

"My father was smart," my Mom says. "It was the Depression, and he knew that even then, coal miners had money. The part of Belgium where he opened his store was in coal country."

When the Nazis invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Walter Graubart knew it was time to leave. He abandoned his store and all its wares, taking his then-pregnant wife, Betty, and their three-year-old daughter, Jenny, first through France and then into Spain, from which they sailed
for Cuba.

"We were in France for Passover," Jenny recalls. "I remember my father inviting some Jewish soldiers from a nearby base to have the Seder with us.

"My father took the living room door off its hinges, and that's what we used as a dining room table."

The Graubarts made their way in a hay wagon from France into Spain and bribed the ship's crew in Barcelona so that the family could sleep in the infirmary instead of in steerage like the rest of those escaping Nazi Europe.

I actually had a member of the team do the interviewing. I thought it might be easier for my mother to open up to a third party."

The book, Memoirs Of A Jewish Gypsy, was published with two dozen photographs and a world of family memories.

My children are mostly too young to read the book and understand it. But it's incredibly special to them, and to my mother, that her book is in our home.

When they get a little older, they'll read it, and they'll discover how resourceful and courageous their great-grandparents were. If my grandfather hadn't left when he did, none of us would be here. I can't even begin to think of the fate that would have befallen my mother and her parents.

Mom agrees.

"To be honest," she admits, "I haven't even read the book. I'm sure it's fine. It just brings back too many memories. The main thing is that now my children, grandchildren, and one day their children will know our story.

"That's about as important a legacy as one could hope to leave."