As a young journalist on Fleet Street in 1960, Barbara Taylor Bradford became fascinated with the capture of Nazi mastermind Adolph Eichmann and his trial and execution in Israel.
“When he was tried, the British press very much covered it,” recalled Bradford, whose first novel, A Woman of Substance, sold 31 million copies.
Twenty-six novels later, the best-selling British author uses the backdrop of the Holocaust to tell of the struggles of a 14-year-old Jewish girl left to survive on her own in 1938 Nazi Germany. Letter from a Stranger was released on March 27.
“It’s about anti-Semitism,” Bradford told NJJN in a phone interview from her New York City home. “I think people are forgetting anti-Semitism is on the rise. Look what just happened in Toulouse, France. It’s here and I hate it. We were not born with such hatred. People actually have to learn to hate. It’s so terrible.”
Bradford will come to Young Israel of East Brunswick Sunday, May 6, as part of a national tour sponsored by Amit.
The 87-year-old organization operates 98 schools, youth villages, surrogate family residences, and other programs and is Israel’s only government-recognized religious Jewish education network incorporating academic and technological studies.
For Bradford, writing about the Holocaust seemed perfectly natural. She described her hometown of Leeds, England, as “a very Jewish city,” and her husband, Robert, is a German Jew who escaped the Holocaust.
“I’m a history buff so I was aware of this before I met Bob,” she explained.
Letter from a Stranger revolves around Justine Nolan, a documentary filmmaker who lost her grandmother — “the only source of love and comfort in her life” — a decade earlier. However, when Justine inadvertently opens a letter addressed to her mother, she learns that her grandmother is still alive and estranged from the family.
“The great mystery is why there is such a terrible estrangement,” said Bradford. “It is a book within a book as Justine finds a memoir left by her grandmother that was meant to be read after her death. You could say the book is a mystery with roots in the Holocaust and the survival of a young Jewish girl who triumphs in the end.”
A former fashion editor and columnist, Bradford was inducted in 2003 into the Writers Hall of Fame of America and was awarded an Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 2007 for her literary contributions.
“My friend, Trudy Gold, who is executive director of education and Holocaust studies at the London Jewish Cultural Centre, has told me how wonderful it is to have a popular novelist write about the Holocaust because so many people will read it,” said Bradford. “I always think, if you forget, it can happen again.”
She added, “I cried when I wrote it. You’ll cry when you read it.”