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What They Didn't Burn


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About the Author

Mel Laytner was a reporter and editor of hard news for more than twenty years, primarily covering the Middle East for NBC News and United Press International. After seven grinding years overseas, he won a prestigious Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economic and Business Journalism, which included a year's residency at the Columbia Graduate School of Business. He received his BA in political science at the City College of New York and master's degrees from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism (with a concentration in broadcast news) and Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (with a specialization in foreign policy analysis). Mel and his wife, an artist and teacher, live in New York City and are the proud parents of three daughters.


Amazon # 1 Best Seller in History, Minority Studies, Jewish Biographies & Memoirs2022 Readers' Favorite Book Awards Honorable Mention in Non-Fiction (Historical)2022 Montaigne Medal Finalist"A scrupulously researched and dramatic remembrance... the author presents his findings with a remarkable blend of meticulousness and unabashed emotion, movingly communicating what he experienced during the process."
-Kirkus Reviews
"Laytner's compelling, well-plotted memoir is always engaging and conscientiously structured....Laytner's prose is precisely detailed and candidly confidential-a careful blend of reportage and opinion that strengthens the project. Alternating between the present and the past tense, Laytner expertly grounds the reader in both the historical sections and the contemporary narrative arc of the work...A thought-provoking, impressive union of historical information and personal narrative."-BookLife Prize
"Dra mat ic, har row ing, and haunt ing. Dolek's per son al sto ry turns into a his tor i cal sto ry of Holo caust sur vival and determination . . . A well-writ ten, potent sto ry of mem o ry and trib ute told with integri ty and weight."-Jewish Book Council
"The skills of the author - veteran newsman Mel Laytner - as both a writer and reporter are brilliantly evident...In clear, confident and sometimes starkly written prose, a son recovers what might well be the memories lost with his father's loss of life. Even after seven decades, new classics of Holocaust literature, such as this one, are still possible."-Benjamin Franklin Awards judge (history)
" ...a memoir and history like no other Holocaust story...Its eye-opening impact makes What They Didn't Burn unparalleled, powerful, and essential reading that will ideally prompt debates and group studies about Holocaust survivors and Nazi experiences."-Diane Donovan, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
"What a thrilling story of wartime survival! Mel Laytner has unraveled the secrets of his father's past, balancing a son's love and admiration with a reporter's commitment to the facts. Chasing after hidden diamonds and digging up damning Nazi documents, Laytner weaves a chronicle of courage and luck that brings to life an unforgettable cast of characters. A great detective story - and an important work of history."-Ann Kirschner, author of Sala's Gift and Lady at the O.K. Corral
"I know of no other work that so eloquently combines a dogged search for a Nazi paper trail of evidence and a son's reconciliation with his family's Holocaust legacy. What They Didn't Burn is not only an engaging piece of rigorous research, but also a harrowing and heartwarming personal saga of discovery."-Scott Miller, author of Refuge Denied: The St. Louis Passengers and the Holocaust
"A remarkable historiographical achievement that blends the narrative pleasures of a detective story with the intellectual fireworks of a micro-history. In tracing the evidence and reconstructing the facts concerning a single Auschwitz prisoner, Laytner has made a major contribution to the history of that camp and, as such, to our understanding of the Holocaust."-Robert Jan van Pelt, author of The Case For Auschwitz, Evidence from the Irving Trial
"Tightly written and compelling on every page...Very highly recommended."-Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
"...A compelling blend of memoir and historical research, beautifully written. Laytner's deeply personal story is an important addition to Holocaust literature, but will also resonate as a historical detective story. Along the way, he ponders how do we know what we know about history, and the lives of those who made it or were brutalized by it? Are documents better evidence than memory? How does one understand the ethical (and unethical) choices made by victims and victimizers alike?"-Kenneth S. Stern, director, Bard Center for the Study of Hate, author of The Conflict over The Conflict: The Israel/Palestine Campus Debate
"A deep dive into Nazi records reveals one man's diamond-hard resolve to survive...With Laytner's keen ear for dialogue and his evocative language, What They Didn't Burn eloquently bears witness to the tragedy of a family and a people."-Tucker Lieberman for Independent Book Review
"What They Didn't Burn offers the reader both an emotional account of a son retracing his father's traumatic experiences under Nazi persecution, and a gripping detective story of a savvy journalist uncovering 'what they didn't burn.' This beautifully written and deeply felt book, a powerful tribute to his father's fortitude, also serves as a reminder that the long shadow of the Nazi past stretches over generations."-Gabrielle Robinson, author of Api's Berlin Diaries
"Mel Laytner's book is remarkable . . . He puts his readers into every scene, astonishing us with surprises that allowed many Jews to survive, escaping the hideous concentration camps: Blechhammer, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and others . . . Never forget the Holocaust. You will never forget Laytner's book as well."-Joelle Sander, author of Before Their Time: Four Generations of Teenage Mothers, awarded Best Book for Adults About Children by the Braun Center for Holocaust Studies
"This book is meticulously researched and incredibly well-written...It's factual, but evokes strong emotions. It's not dry and dusty, instead reads like fiction through good writing. It doesn't dramatize or become hyper emotional for effect. It's just so real. So frighteningly real and true...This is one of those really important books that everyone should read."-Goodreads

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