LAD Summary

Michael Edelstein was headstrong and independent, a self-described mamzer. He was 10 years old when he escaped under the barbed wire fence of the compound into which the Jewish townspeople of Skala-Podolsk had been rounded up on the morning of Sukkoth 1942. 

Six months later, he escaped again from the Borszczow ghetto on the eve of its liquidation. Then he survived for another year of hiding in forest bunkers and the ruins of buildings until the Nazis were finally driven from western Ukraine in 1944.

Edelstein spent his adolescent years in refugee camps in postwar Germany, arriving penniless in New York in 1951. He served in the U.S. Army, built a business as a roofing contractor and raised a family in Brooklyn—achieving the middle-class American dream. Then, later in life, he amassed a fortune in New York real estate, while also giving back through philanthropy on behalf of Israel and Jewish causes. 

What gave Michael Edelstein the transcendent strength to survive the horrors of the Holocaust? How did those experiences shape the man he would become, and set him on a course for business achievement and personal fulfillment? How did he rediscover humanity in himself and the world? 

These are the underlying questions addressed in this compelling tale of Holocaust survival and triumphant personal reinvention. 

Now 84, Edelstein finally takes the opportunity to narrate the details of his fascinating life story. From his trials in the forests and bunkers, to the purgatory of post-war Poland and Germany, to his early years in the U.S. as a Korea-era GI and self-made small businessman, to his ultimate successes in real estate and philanthropy, Edelstein fills his story with richly remembered details and relates it with characteristic Yiddish humor. 

It is a tale of unimaginable losses endured, adversities overcome, changes experienced and opportunities embraced. The same mamzer qualities that allowed Edelstein to survive the Holocaust—his courage, determination and practical resourcefulness—were those that he put to work in the brass-knuckled world of New York real estate.

Michael Edelstein had to survive before he could thrive. In defying the odds to accomplish both, he also rediscovered his essential humanity—his menschlichkeit—the one thing even the Nazis couldn't kill.