Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Secret of Priest's Grotto

The Secret of Priest's Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story by Peter Lane Taylor with Christos Nicola is a different sort of Holocaust story. Two stories are told together and one supplements the other. Chris Nicola is an American caver and has traveled all over the world looking at and crawling into caves. In 1993, he was exploring the Gypsum Giants, a large cave system in the Ukraine, when he heard about the special use of one small part of the cave. Legend had it that a number of Jewish families survived in the cave throughout 18 months of the Holocaust. Through the magic of the Internet, Nicola was able to connect with survivors of this amazing Holocaust story. Luckily Esther Stermer, one of the Jews in hiding in the cave, wrote her memories in a book titled: We Fight to Survive. Through interviews with the living survivors, Stermer's memories, and an extended visit to the cave, Nicola produced The Secret of Priest's Grotto which is informative and amazing. One main idea through the book is that the cave provided the Jews a freedom the outside world could not. Esther wrote: We were masters of our own fate in the cave. There was no one to whom we owed our safety or upon whom we depended. After our men came in from the outside and scraped off the mud which would cling to their clothing as they slid through the entrance, and they had washed, they were free men. (p. 59)
To view some pictures of the cave, click here to visit the Ukranian American Youth Caver Exchange Foundation. Or visit the Priest's Grotto Heritage Project.
Another excellent article about the research and expedition can be found at the National Geographic Adventure Magazine.

TITLE: The Secret of Priest's Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story
AUTHOR: Peter Lane Taylor with Christos Nicola
TYPE: non-fiction
RECOMMEND: An exceptional book telling two stories. Both are stories of persistence, one an unimaginable story of survival.


Chris N said...

I am Chris Nicola, the American Caver who you have mistaken for Peter Lane Taylor with whom I wrote the book "The Secret of Priest's Grotto". I brought Peter into the story when I discovered my first Survivor from the cave, a Sol Wexler, in December of 2002. For more details please go to

Chris Nicola

Charles said...

If you're interested in how intimacy, love and the Holocaust mixed together, take a look at Jacob's Courage. Jacob's Courage is a tender coming of age love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. This historical novel presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It explores the dazzling beauty of passionate love, powerful faith and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered. From desperate despair, to unforgettable moments of chaste beauty, Jacob’s Courage examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality.



Library Cat said...

Thank you so much for correcting my mistake. I certainly meant to get it right as I looked at many of the associated web sites before writing. At any rate, you have an amazing story and an amazing book. I have studied the Holocaust for many years and I think the story of these families touched me in a new and different way. I am so glad that you were persistent and followed up on this beautiful and courageous story of survival.

Library Cat said...

Thank you for the book recommendation. I wrote my master's paper on intimacy in the Holocaust camps and have visisted Theresienstadt, so I will probably like reading and reviewing this book - although you have given a wonderful introduction to the book for anyone searching this small blog.