Today: How at 100 years old Dr. Hans Keilson became a bestselling author.
Born in Germany in 1909, for Hans, becoming a doctor would let him help humanity and he got his medical degree in 1934. But by then Adolf Hitler was in power and it became illegal for Hans, a Jewish man, to practice medicine. He was also a writer and soon after his first book “Life Goes On” was published, which was a critical look at German politics after World War 1, it was pulled from the shelves, as were the works of all Jewish writers.
To make a living, Hans taught gym classes at a private Jewish school. But his life became far more complicated when he and Gertrud Manz fell in love for she was a German Catholic and Jews and German Christians were not allowed to marry. In 1936, as the Nazis escalated their persecution of the Jews, he and Gertrud fled to Holland, where they lived in separate homes fearful Nazi sympathizers would target them. In 1938 Hans persuaded his parents to join them.
Hans also began writing a manuscript, “The Death of the Adversary,” about a Jewish man’s life in Germany under Nazi control, and later he began writing a second manuscript “Comedy in a Minor Key” about a Dutch couple who share their home with a Jewish man in hiding, as a real life Dutch couple did for him.
For in 1940, when the Nazis seized Holland, Jews quickly went underground. Hans buried his first manuscript and later the other with the hope of finishing them if he survived the war. As the Nazis took control, Hans’ father refused to hide for he was a German war hero from World War 1. Being a war hero meant nothing as the Nazis subsequently arrested him and Hans’ mother, deporting them to Auschwitz for execution. Their deaths would haunt Hans for the rest of his life.
In 1941 Hans went underground, living with the Dutch couple he would later write about. Also in 1941 Gertrude gave birth to their daughter Barbara and to avoid suspicion, she claimed the father was a German soldier. Hans joined the Dutch resistance group Vrije Groepen Amsterdam and using the name Dr. Van den Linden traveled across Holland secretly counseling Jewish children living underground, separated from their parents. As a result of this work, after the war he became a psychiatrist and helped start L’Ezrat Ha-Yeled (Children’s Aid) to take care of Jewish orphans whose parents died in the Holocaust. In 1979, he issued his ground breaking study; “Sequential Traumatization in Children,” about Holland’s orphaned and displaced Jewish children.
In the meantime, Hans dug up and finished his earlier manuscripts and they were published with minor success. But as a novelist with no more writings, he faded from public view. Then 45 years later in 2007, an incredible event occurred. Writer and literary translator Damion Searls found “Comedy in a Minor Key” in an Austrian sidewalk bargain bin. He bought it, read it and became so excited by it; he translated it into English and persuaded a major publisher to publish it in 2010. Damion also convinced the original publisher to reissue the 1962 English language version of “The Death of the Adversary.” Both books became best sellers and 100-year-old Hans, spry and mentally sharp was lifted from obscurity to a bestselling author, very much in demand.
But at 101, on May 31st, 2011 Hans passed away of natural causes. He is survived by two daughters and three grandchildren and by his second wife Marita whom he married in 1970 after Gertrud died in 1969. He is also survived by his legion of readers. And those readers have something very special awaiting them. In Germany in May, 2011 Hans’ memoir, “There Stands My House” was published in German and will likely soon be published in English. And in 2012, translated by Damion Searls, “Life Goes On,” Hans’s original book will also be republished.
Success Tip of the Week:
As happened with Hans, you never know what opportunity may suddenly arise. Your life may just be a bargain bin away from reaching unimaginable heights.
If you would like to see a 2 minute interview in German with Hans from late in his life please click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEVvcwmWG2o
In the next KazanToday:
How a man with no formal training became a renowned expert in his field.