“Growing up and
living with a Holocaust survivor is a humbling
experience. I had the desire to write my
mother’s story when I was in my early twenties,
but she was not receptive at that time. Then one
day, decades later, she was talking to a man who
told her that he didn’t think the Holocaust ever
happened. She was angered, and she cried, and
now out of that saddening confrontation, an
incredible story has emerged.”
"When cruelty enters so early into your
life, it can destroy your world.
"Ursula's Prism: The Holocaust through a
Child's Eyes...A survivor's Story" is a
guide of struggling to survive in the
concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.
Author Anna Block bases her work on a
true story of survival, of a young girl
against all odds trying to succeed in a
world that couldn't care if she lives or
dies. "Ursula's Prism" is a riveting
work of fiction, highly recommended."
Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?
Who were your earliest influences and why?
I grew up in a suburb of Baltimore,
Maryland, a great place to be a kid. We lived in a row house across from
West Hills Park, which had a giant hill for sledding in the winter. The
hill was so steep that in the summertime the maintenance people would
shy away from cutting the grass on it. But that was okay with the
neighborhood children and me because we discovered that we could also
use cardboard boxes to slide down the hill. Baltimore was also a great
place for learning. My family would frequently take trips to museums,
art galleries and libraries. My father’s example is what encouraged me
to love reading. He would take me to the library on a regular basis. I
remember on one particular visit, I tried to impress my dad by selecting
a book that must have weighed at least ten pounds. He smiled and let me
take it home. I managed to read the first three chapters but the book
proved too much for a seven-year-old. When I was in middle school, my
English teacher favored my writing. She encouraged me to enter a
city-wide poetry contest, of which I won first place. I will never
forget the time she asked me to stand and read my short story to the
class. Her comment at the end of my reading; “I love how she writes, I
can just picture it in my mind,” still lingers audibly in my ears.
PageOneLit.com: Why do you write?
Writing is a natural instinct for
me. Even more than a desire, it is a need. How thrilling it is for me
when someone is impacted in a positive way by something I’ve written. I
hope to stir people into action.
Ursula’s Prism is not only my family’s history, but the history of a
nation. In a time of war, many heinous acts occur that clearly show the
evil that mankind can be capable of. But just as relevant, and even more
important, are the characteristics of strength, courage and honor that
wartime can develop. That’s what Ursula’s Prism is all about, courage,
determination, hope and faith.
PageOneLit.com: Who was Ursula Swart?
Ursula Swartz is my dear mother, the
one and only.
PageOneLit.com: Discuss your book new book "Ursula’s Prism". How
much research went into writing "Ursula’s Prism"?
Extensive interviews with my mother
over a two year period. I searched many, many websites dedicated to the
concentration camps and Bergen-Belsen specifically. I read through
encyclopedias and maps at my local library, and I read some books on the
subject. One such book, ....and God Cried, the Holocaust Remembered, by
Charles Lawliss, was very helpful to me. Plus I listened to the CD
lectures taught by Professor Thomas Childers entitled A History of
Hitler’s Empire, 2nd Edition, offered by The Teaching Company.
PageOneLit.com: Explain the "the
secrets of the prism".
Anna Block: The secrets of the prism are moral
characteristics that we are taught as we are growing up. These
characteristics are extremely important to a well-ordered life and
ultimately society. But I feel that sometimes the trials and
disappointments of life weaken our resolve to live up to certain
standards, or make us lose hope in the goodness in others. We must
remember that through the toughest times or circumstances, practicing
the “crystal prism principles” will bring out the best in ourselves and
PageOneLit.com: If Hollywood called and asked you to
cast "Ursula’s Prism" - Who would you cast and why??
I would have no idea where to begin
such a daunting task, so I believe it best to leave these decisions in
the hands of the experts, the casting directors. But I would hope that
my mother (who is charming), and I (who am daring), would be able to
play a small part.
PageOneLit.com: What are readers saying about "Ursula’s Prism" ?
When someone first said to me that
it was an “easy read” I felt a little insulted. Didn’t they realize how
much energy I had put into writing this book? But upon further
reflection, I realized what a compliment this really was. I took a
horrifying and difficult subject and presented it so the reader could
easily process it and hopefully sympathize with the victims and
survivors. Thank you to all who have read and will read my book.
PageOneLit.com: What do you hope to achieve with "Ursula’s
Anna Block: To touch people’s hearts in such a
way that they will never forget how important it is to have compassion
and respect for everyone. And, it doesn’t matter what trial you are
going through, you have the strength, courage and determination inside
of you to make it.
PageOneLit.com: What was the last book you read?
On my nightstand is a towering stack
of books. Several translations of the Bible and four other books that
I’m in the middle of right now, which include A Return to Love, by
Marianne Williamson, Mark’s Story, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, He’s
Just Not That Into You, by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, and Cinch!,
by Cynthia Sass.
PageOneLit.com: What's next?
I would like to do a sequel to
Ursula’s Prism. The continuation of my mother’s life and how she came to
America is quite interesting. I would also like to do a children’s book
about the “crystal prism principles” to be used as a parenting tool.