Archive for April, 2011

Remembering Barry Spanjaard, Joseph Wysocki on May 1

April 26, 2011 7 comments

From A to Zowie
Remembering Barry Spanjaard, Joseph Wysocki on May 1
By Richard Zowie
I’d like to talk about two men whose stories I had the privilege of hearing many years ago.

First, Barry Spanjaard.

Mr. Spanjaard, pronounced “Span-yard”, spoke at my high school in 1988. He was an American-born Dutch Jew of Spanish descent and one of the only known American citizens incarcerated in the Nazi death camps during World War II. His father was one of the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Second, Joseph Wysocki.

Around 2002, when I worked as a staff writer for a newspaper at Randolph Air Force Base outside San Antonio, Mr. Wysocki came to speak. A retired longtime businessman, he was a Polish Jew whose entire family had been wiped out in the death camps. He survived, but none of the other Jews from his hometown did.

The extermination of an entire family of Jews is bad enough, but an entire town?

Both Spanjaard and Wysocki gave their stories to do what they could ensure that the Holocaust would never be repeated again and would remain a hideous scar on twentieth century world history. Mr. Spanjaard traveled across America telling his story and even wrote a book titled Don’t Fence Me In, while Mr. Wysocki chose late in life to finally tell his story.

Sadly, both men have passed away.

Barry Spanjaard died in 1998 while Joseph Wysocki died about a week after speaking at Randolph.

I thought about these men a few years ago while watching Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List and again while watching Quentin Tarantino’s World War II fantasy Inglourious @#!*% , where American Jewish soldiers fight back against Nazis to try to stop the onslaught of their people. More recently, I thought of them again as I read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Will people remember their stories? How often do Americans visit Holocaust museums and ask questions?

One Holocaust story I also remember is one from a book by Israeli-born KISS rocker Gene Simmons. Born Chaim Witz, Simmons is the son of Hungarian Jews. His mother, Flora, is a Holocaust survivor. Simmons wrote that his mother had been a hairdresser and was kept alive by the camp’s commandant since his wife liked how Flora did her hair. Flora’s family was not as fortunate, as her mother and grandmother died in the gassed showers. Though not scheduled for execution that day, Flora’s mother chose to go in because she didn’t want her own mother to have to die alone.

I don’t cry often, but I found it difficult not to when reading that story. Simmons would grow up and never understand what it was like to have grandparents.

It is more important than ever to ask questions and learn their stories. Hutton Gibson, actor/director Mel Gibson’s father, famously has questioned whether the Holocaust happened or whether the estimated six million victims is accurate. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questions whether the Holocaust took place. For me, the somber stories and faded green tattooed numbers are far more convincing than these two kooks could ever possibly be.

When I look at Jewish friends of mine, such as David Rubini, along with past Jewish acquaintances such as Sylvia Hackett, Milton Glueck, Michelle Ehrlich and Alex Moss, I often wonder how many of them had family members who survived the horrors of the Holocaust. How many died needlessly simply because of being Jewish?

May 1 is Holocaust Remembrance Day. As we reflect on that day, we pray the Holocaust never happens again. And as long as complacency is kept in check, God willing, it never will.
Richard Zowie is a reporter and columnist. He owns a copy of Spanjaard’s book. Visit Richard’s blog at or e-mail him at 


My experiment in the kitchen: bell peppers, tomatoes, onions

You will never, ever see me on Hell’s Kitchen–not even just for kicks. I love to cook and am passionate about it, but strictly as a hobby. I don’t have the aptitude or desire to do it professionally. Managing 15 dishes at once? Nope, not for me. Writing’s my talent God has given me. Cooking is something I do strictly for pleasure.

A few years ago, I made home made spaghetti and I spent about an hour just on the sauce. You can’t do that in a restaurant. Everything has to be done yesterday. I like the freedom of relaxing, experimenting and going at my own pace.

So, tonight was one of those nights as I decided to use some ingredients to make a topping for tortilla chips: a yellow bell pepper, an orange bell pepper, an onion, a tomato. Mixed in was Italian seasoning, some oregano, some hot sauce and another seasoning I can’t recall. Then into a pan to sautee. Did this for a few minutes, stirring often.

Then, on top of tortilla chips, and then shredded cheese on top of that. Microwave for a minute and a half to melt the cheese.

The result wasn’t too bad. It won’t win any cooking awards, but it was pretty good.

Technically, what I had was vegetarian rather than vegan (the cheese nullified the vegan).

Next time, I will probably dice the peppers and tomatoes smaller and try to sautee them in olive oil for longer.

The leftover concoction of seasoned peppers, onions and tomatoes I will probably use tomorrow for breakfast to try to make an omelet. Will be making omelets for my young’uns (my two youngest sons) this weekend along with spaghetti (using, of course, home-made sauce; I hate store-bought sauces). Was told by a Facebook friend that my Texas friend, Aaron, is REALLY good at making omelets. Will have to consult with him.

Richard Zowie likes to cook, his specialty being spaghetti. He hopes someday to make spaghetti with fresh-made pasta. Post comments here or e-mail him at

Recent reads: Anne Frank’s diary, Sarah Palin’s ‘Going Rogue’

Anne Frank: A Diary of a Young Girl: It is sad to think that the last entry Anne made was about two months after the D-Day invasion. She died two months before her death camp was liberated. How telling is it that in the diary she wonders if her words will live on and if people in the future will read them. We get a first-hand look at an extremely precocious girl dealing with cabin fever, drama, romance and a frustration of wanting to go out and explore her world. She seemed very optimistic she would be liberated. Her journal now serves as a reminder of the terrible things done to the Jews by the Nazis.

Going Rogue by Sarah Palin: I enjoyed this a lot. Palin’s style is pretty easy to read as she takes you through her life from childhood all the way to her life after stepping down as governor of Alaska. I do find it funny that in this book she makes no mention whatsoever of Levi Johnston. Heh, heh, heh. I still am not sold about voting for Palin should she choose to run in the 2012 GOP primary, but this book details that her ways of thinking (fiscal responsibility, energy, etc.) is sorely needed among Republicans. Trash her if you want, but I don’t see any other Republicans with any real guts.

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