Winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award 2000
100 cigarettes and a bottle of vodka – the reward in German-occupied Poland for turning in a Jew.
Arthur Schaller was eleven when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Along with the rest of the Jewish population of Warsaw, he and his family were confined in the Ghetto. His father had escaped to Soviet-occupied territory, so Arthur, his mother, and his brother struggled to survive in increasingly desperate conditions. When Arthur’s mother was rounded up by the Nazis, a family friend orchestrated Arthur’s daring escape to the other side of the Ghetto wall, where, until the end of the war, he posed as a Catholic orphan, working as a cowherd, moving from farm to farm to avoid detection. Drawing on his love for his family, his passion for music – his mother’s legacy – and his simple yet powerful faith, Arthur Schaller found the strength to endure.
About the author
Arthur Schaller immigrated to Canada in 1948 and settled in Toronto. It was only after fifty years had passed since the events described in the book that he was able to come to terms with his past through this affecting and powerful story. Arthur Schaller died a few months after the publication of the book.
“What makes his memoir so fresh and surprising is the way this sweet-natured boy was able to find transcendent moments of happiness in the midst of so much loss. The music lives on and so, in his memoir, does the spirit of a good man who reminds us of the possibilities of kindness, and of the responsibility to act against evil while there is still time.” – Michele Landsberg, The Toronto Star
“It has taken Schaller over 40 years of a safe, stable life in Canada to come to terms with his past and write this riveting story. It has been worth the wait.” – Quill and Quire
“In Poland’s Nazi-terrorized countryside, a Jewish boy’s life was worth just enough to be in constant danger. Arthur Schaller’s absorbing account makes clear that the daring and shrewd resilience needed to survive was distilled from powerful early memories of love and joy and faith — so powerful, evil was something that could be pitied.” – Ernest Hillen
“Told against the backdrop of the Holocaust and the Second World War, 100 Cigarettes and a Bottle of Vodka is a sensitive, clear-eyed memoir of a boy coming of age in Poland. Arthur Schaller’s book is also a testament to courage and sheer endurance, unencumbered by self-absorbed sentimentality. Schaller’s memoir is rigorous and honest, beautifully written and as gripping as a good novel.” – Isabel Vincent