Author Michael Newman has lived many lives, from being the only child of Holocaust survivors, to 12-year-old Hungarian refugee, to self-made real estate magnate in Ontario, Canada. His father’s wartime experiences, including surviving the Mauthausen Nazi death camp, inspired Newman to pen his first novel, Between These Walls (FriesenPress).
In this history-spanning novel, our main protagonist is New York art curator Daniel Singer, who grew up the adopted son of a colonel that served in World War II. After receiving a mysterious packet from West Berlin, he goes on a mission to learn more about its contents.
Along the way, he mixes with the Mossad, Israel’s top intelligence agency, reveals surprising information about his roots, and uncovers the hidden histories of three families whose lives were buffeted by two World Wars, the Holocaust and three Middle East wars. His journey leads him to a moral dilemma. Ultimately, he must decide whether or not to take “the opportunity to right the most heinous of wrongs.”
AN AUTHOR WHOSE LIFE HAS BEEN FULL OF ADVENTURE — AND REFLECTION
Newman’s mother, aunt and grandmother were hidden by Righteous Gentiles in Budapest during World War II; his father fought in the Hungarian Army, dug trenches in a forced labor battalion near Stalingrad and later survived “eight terrible months” at Mauthausen in Austria. As a child, Newman slogged through mud and snow and dodged guard huts to escape into Austria, after the crushed 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Soviets. Today, he lives with his wife in Queens Quay, Toronto, retired from a career in real estate holdings that culminated in the founding of InterRent, a real estate investment trust on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
He’s come a long way, but Newman has never forgotten his family’s past. As an adult, he returned many times to Hungary and Austria with his parents, and every time was an emotionally moving experience. He has since taken his wife, three children and one granddaughter on trips to Mauthausen.
In 2006, Newman was so concerned over the “one-sided news coverage against Israel” during the Lebanon–Hezbollah war, he flew there to see what was going on. Without telling his family. The war broke out when “three Hezbollah terrorists from Lebanon kidnapped and murdered three Israel soldiers,” Newman explains.
Using a connection with the Israeli intelligence colonel, Newman spent a week in the war zone, visiting bomb shelters, air raid command centers and troops in the field. His activities later appeared in the Toronto Star and National Post.
Newman used that trip as a model for a character in his book who helped Israel fight for independence in 1948. “I am not a religious person, but I do identify myself with what happened during the Holocaust and I am very much a Zionist and support the founding of Israel,” Newman says.
A 2012 trip to Berlin also left a lasting impression on Newman. “I walked through Berlin and came across the stolpersteine,” Newman explains, referring to the engraved brass plaques embedded in the cobblestone streets which mark where Jewish families lived before the Nazis deported them to their deaths in Auschwitz. Newman wondered, who lived in the Jewish homes now and how did they come to possess them? (You can view photos of the plaques, Newman’s father and relevant historical documents at www.michaelnewmannovelist.com.)
THE NEXT CHAPTER FOR NEWMAN
These days, Newman is writing a sequel with the working title, A Daughter’s Revenge. He also hired a screenwriter on spec to craft a six-part series based on his first book. The writer will get a percentage of the proceeds if the show sells.
“Writing books is a career change I wasn’t expecting to make at this stage of life. It’s been gratifying for the ego…” Newman said, happy and fulfilled with where his decision to write novels continues to take him.