Zaidy's War: Four Armies, Three Continents, Two Brothers. One Man's Impossible Story of Endurance

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Benzion Malik was on a path of discovery. He was keen to learn about everything in life through the teachings of his faith and only something cataclysmic could throw him off this course. In 1939, the 21-year-old Benzion was called up to the Romanian Army. Little did he know that he would not be a free man until 1945.

During six long years, Benzion served in three further armies. He was forced into hard labor and was constantly abused because of his Jewishness by the Hungarian army. He was then made to serve the German army which simply needed disposable bodies to be targets for Soviet bullets. Finally, the Soviet army needed young men like Benzion to help with the effort to fight the Nazis.

None of these acts of service and servitude were easy. Benzion was in a continuous dance with death but clung to life through the goodness of strangers. When WWII was over, Benzion had to make the 2,600-kilometer walk home and narrowly escaped being poisoned to death by mushroom soup. At home he was confronted with the ruins of his family, community, and people. Yet, he was not defeated.

Lovingly written by his grandson, this book provides an account of a man's resilience to not give up on the world after extreme destruction, but instead to help rebuild a community and practice Tikkun Olam - Repairing of the World - by believing in cosmic justice and leaving an imprint on his family, friends, and strangers for generations.


The Jewish Link: Martin Bodek’s ‘Zaidy’s War’ Honors His Grandfather’s Memory

The Jewish Press: Zaidy’s Remarkable Survival Story

Jewish Book World: Honor, History, Holocaust; Thoughts on “Zaidy’s War” by Martin Bodek Book Review of: Zaidy's War

Jewish Inspiration at Your Fingertips: Book Review – Zaidy’ s War


Readers' Favorite: Zaidy's War Book Review

The Jewish Link: Martin Bodek Discusses ‘Zaidy’s War’ at Lev L’Daas

My articles:

Jew in the City: My Orthodox Grandfather’s Fight Against Cannibalism in WWII

Aish: My Grandfather’s Breathtaking Act of Kindness

Shepherd: The best Holocaust memoirs revealing the emotional & mental contours and development of the protagonist

Appearances, i.e. In-person talks, Podcasts, Zoom talks, Book Club drop-ins, Book Club Zoom sessions:

Temple Shalom, Succasunna, NJ

Temple Beth Abraham, Tarrytown, NY Religious School Yom HaShoah speaker April 16, 2023 

Yeshivat Noam, Paramus, NJ

JCC Buffalo, Buffalo, NY People of the Book Series - Author Martin Bodek

Congregation Beth Chaim, Princeton, NJ

Congregation Lev Le'Daas, Teaneck, NJ Congregation Lev L’Daas to Host Book Talk With Martin Bodek

Chavurat Shir Hayam, Bainbridge Island, WA Author Presentation: Zaidy’s War

Congregation B'nai Israel, Rumson, NJ

Jewish Community Project Downtown, New York, NY

Caldwell Public Library Author Martin Bodek to speak May 8 at Caldwell Library


Jewish Agnostics, FL: Book Review: Zaidy's War

Too Jewish Radio, AZ: Martin Bodek

Let Me Tell You a Story, ID: Pocast #142 with Steve and Becky Lyles

Jewish Small Communities Network, UK: JewishTALK: Zaidys War

The Jewish Link Pitch Meeting, NJ: Martin Bodek: On Storytelling and Breaking World Records


1. Finalist, International Book Awards, General History. Bodek’s ‘Zaidy’s War’ Up for International Book Award

2. Bronze medal, The BookFest Awards, Memoirs-Portrait.

3. Winner, International Impact Book Awards, Memoir. 2023 INTERNATIONAL IMPACT BOOK AWARDS WINNERS

4. Winner, Literary Global Book Awards, Non-fiction. Announces the Winners of the Inaugural 2023 Literary Global Book Awards

5. Winner, Outstanding Creator Awards, Jewish Literature. Outstanding Creator Award for Best Fiction Book of Clash of Champions 2023 

6. Winner, Outstanding Creator Awards, Quote ("The lives we live are so much bigger than the bodies we inhabit."). ibid

Praise for this book

There are jaw-dropping moments (no spoilers here) in Martin Bodek's multi-layered tribute to his grandfather, the kind of stories that become mythic. Zaidy's War begins with an easy-to-read, almost breezy account of a terrifying time, informed by the author's youthful admiration of his grandfather's WW2 experiences coupled with an adult understanding of what it actually meant. Included here are chilling details of a Nazi killing center gleaned from the first-hand accounts by other family members. When the narrative abruptly ends, about halfway through the book, I admit initial disappointment. What follows are transcripts of interviews with Zaidy that, surprisingly, I found fascinating. Hearing Zaidy (Benzion) in his own voice gave me a deeper understanding of his character, the nature of being a Hasidic Jew, and the work it takes to transform the wandering recollections of an elderly person into a cogent narrative. Later charts and lineages are easy to ignore, but don't. When you realize that the author's 10th great-grandfather is the Ba'al Shem Tov, a Jewish mystic and healer regarded as the founder of Hasidic Judaism, you recognize the heft of Bodek's heritage.
This is an amazing story of survival, determination and resilience!! A must read for everyone 💪🏻💪🏻 Kudos Martin on an amazing recall of your Zaidy's life.
Martin Bodek has written an unusual and heartwarming tribute to his beloved Zaidy, his maternal grandfather, Benzion Malik. This cleverly constructed account of Zaidy's unlikely survival during six long years of war is well structured and absorbing. The first part is a chronologically consistent biography of Zaidy's extraordinary journey from his call up in 1939 to the Romanian army, his subsequent pressed service into slave labour for the Hungarian and German forces and finally conscription into Soviet forces until the end of WWII. Chronicling the horrors of war and the many personal losses Zaidy suffered is just the first part of the story. The tale is leant authenticity in the next section detailing the transcripts of several interviews the author conducted with his grandfather in old age. The consistency of an old man's failing memory, prompted by his daughter and grandson serves to underscore the accuracy of Martin Bodek's account. Finally, the appendices bring to life the extended family and their tribulations in the notorious Nazi death camps. The book highlights triumph of the human spirit and the life of a remarkable man who survived to live an honorable life of decency and to raise a large, faithful and loving family. Absorbing and well worth reading.
I read Zaidy’s War in just a few hours one night because it was such a gripping story that I found hard to put down. Author Martin Bodek deftly tells the tale of his grandfather’s remarkable survival during World War II under the most dire of conditions, all the while maintaining his human decency and his religious certainty. The writing is excellent and brings the reader directly into the drama, differentiating it from many other survival stories. The first half of the book is the story itself and the second half is reserved for interesting background material. All in all, an important contribution to our understanding of this time in history, and a beautiful tribute to a remarkable man.
This is an incredible story. And the personal piece of it makes it that much more poignant. And the way Bodek ties in his Zaidy's story into his community and his family is really distinctive and powerful.
As I said to myself before, I refuse to lose sleep over some book by this Bodek guy again...Yet, that is exactly what happened. I wanted to just read a few pages before sleep and had to force myself to put down my tablet 2.5 hours later!...Exciting, sad, horrible, triumphant are all things that make this a compelling read...Go Read This Book! (Then read everything else by this Bodek guy)
Deeply personal story of survival and hope despite the unbearable conditions...'Zaidy's War: Four Armies, Three Continents, Two Brothers. One Man's Impossible Story of Endurance' by Martin Bodek can become an incredible plot for a Hollywood movie. It's a book about serving in Romanian, Hungarian, German, and Russian armies during WW2, staying alive through starvation and hard work, and, after the war, living with the knowledge that almost all your relatives were killed in Auschwitz. The book covers the lives of Benzion and Eliezer Malik, two Romanian Jews whose family perished during the Holocaust. By focusing on one family's perspective, the book describes Jewish everyday life, rooted in centuries-long traditions, before the war and how this life was disregarded during the war. WW2, like any other major conflict, brought everything dirty on the surface, resulting even in authorized cannibalism in a Russian military camp, as per Zaidy's words...However, the book's strength as an undeniable, raw testimonial to Holocaust and war atrocities is leavened by the material's presentation..."Let the world learn - and never forget - the name, the life, and the legacy of Benzion ben Reb Aharon Malik."
Wow, after reading this book, I can only say that I'm sorry i didn't get to meet Mr. Ben Zion Malik...He sounds like a great man to sit down for a good conversation, and I'm sure we all could've learned a thing or two about life from him...I thank the author for sharing his Family history with all of us...Great book, highly recommend.
Excellent writing, a gripping story of survival and triumph over evil.
The Author brings the story to life. I started reading the book and found myself oblivious to my surrounding he totally took me back to the WWII era. This as one of the best books I ever read.
A great insight and history of world War 2 and the holocaust. I could not put the book down from start to finish.
This book is so good telling the story of survival of a young man during WWII and his endurance and resilience to keep living. But above all is a book of love and a tribute of a grandson to his grandfather, a love that comes thru the pages of the book...With interviews and first account stories the book is a history book of a terrible time to be a Jewish person and is very relatable to the times we are living in now, knowledge is power and learning about the past may prevent history repeating in the present or future, more people should read accounts of the tragedies that occurred during WWII to prevent it to happen again, especially right now.
Overall, I would say that Zaidy’s War was a very impactful piece of literature about a man’s journey through the perils and trials of WWII. I think it was well written, crafted finely, and definitely worth a read.
Martin Bodek writes a remarkable and true story about the tragic and yet, amazing life of Benzion Malik in Zaidy's War: Four Armies, Three Continents, Two Brothers. One Man's Impossible Story of Endurance. I haven't read anything from Martin Bodek before, but I have just become a fan. It's not easy telling someone else's story, especially when the tragedies seem to outweigh the triumphs. It's an embraceable story about Benzion Malik. He was young, and called to the Romanian army in 1939. His life was not just as a soldier, but his calling was really a force and form of slavery, as he was forced to serve three armies, and forced to do hard labor and suffer torture. Benzion was Jewish. His acts of bravery were just about him being able to survive, even when he had to serve the German army, and then, the Soviets needed him to help fight the Nazi regime. He wasn't free until 1945, and his story is harrowing, and not unlike many men like him. He could have lived with hate in his heart when it was all over, but he didn't, and he never gave up on the world. It’s definitely un-put-downable! This author is a great storyteller. The author brings the reader on a superb journey. This is a totally inspirational title. The title drew me in, but the story made me stay. The hardest part of reading this book was knowing that this wasn't a story, it was a life experience. Zaidy's War: Four Armies, Three Continents, Two Brothers. One Man's Impossible Story of Endurance is a definite recommendation by Amy's Bookshelf Reviews. I read this book to give my unbiased and honest review. Amy's Bookshelf Reviews recommends that anyone who reads this book, to also write a review.
You truly feel everything he describes as you read more and more about his life. His struggles increase, and his hardship escalates; however, his spirit never breaks...The memoir is written well, and you can see the author has tried to include every account, ensuring nothing is missed. I appreciated the honesty and how the author kept his principles intact. It is very hard to be this way when you have seen this much...I recommend this book to memoir readers.
The author gives an accurate picture of his grandfather and family—thereby educating the reader about the Holocaust.
This story of resilience, survival, and strength is incredibly well-written and gripping. It is a beautiful tribute to Bodek's grandfather, Zaidy, and speaks to the triumph of the human spirit over evil. I recommend it to all!
An incredible story of survival, made all the more poignant by the obvious love of a grandson for his remarkable Zaide.
As a Jewish person, I love hearing stories about others triumphing against the odds. This is such a beautiful memoir and a must read for anyone.
The unbelievable story of Zaidy. His unlikely birth, and childhood. Being taken to serve in the war, which he somehow lived through. Choosing to relocate to another country. Survive their only to follow his children to another country. Through hard work and not wasting money, he was able to provide for himself and his family.
I loved this account, not only for its historic aspect but for the obvious love the author has for his family heritage and the heartfelt way he ensures the legacy of his grandfather. Parts of it reminded me of things my own beloved, and dearly departed, grandfather would do or say.
This is a brilliant piece of writing, as Martin Bodek writes a highly engaging history, seamlessly combining the strengths of memoir, historical writing, and narrative non-fiction; he also manages to write realistically about a subject he reveres (his grandfather) making the man relatable even as he is uniquely admirable. There are passages that test ones own nerve, but also plenty of humor and sections that filled this reader with love and wonder. And for those of us who are not practicing or Orthodox, it adds to our understanding of the lives and commitment to G-d of those who are more religious, in a way that reminded me of Chaim Potok's first novels.
My litmus test for a 5-star book rating is simple: Did I hate it to end? Zaidy's War? YES!! I finished reading the first section of the book with a loud, "Oh NO!" More please ... I got more, Zaidy's own voice coming in loud and clear - sometimes a little kvetch-y (understandable, I thought!) when Martin or his mother asked him for details he thought self-evident or already stated. It was analogous to looking in a distorting mirror at a fair as events I'd heard before were repeated, somewhat differently, but still recognizable. As other readers have said, above all, Bodek's is a ode of love and admiration for his Zaidy that sings throughout the telling - even those of horror as any tale spanning the life Bodek's Zaidy survived contains horror. But how much more, this life that Zaidy lived - one well-seasoned with humour, humanity, faith, resilience. While I know nothing of Hassidic Judaism, little about Judaism itself, I came away with a profound respect for the life described in this book. The author's detailing of his labyrinthic research adds a deeper appreciation to his work. A fine read!
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! I found myself almost right there with him! Thank you!!!
Great read, great writing and great story! Loved it! This was definitely a work of the heart and it came through with every word.
The thing which struck me most about this book, and which will stay with me the longest, is the evident love for his grandfather with which the author has imbued every page: love, pride and huge affection. It was worth reading for this alone...Whilst the author doesn't flinch from the horrors of the persecution of Jewish people by the Nazis and their allies in progressing the Final Solution policy of genocide, he does spare us from graphic descriptions, whilst providing references to where more detailed evidence of the atrocities can be found. This leaves space for the reader to connect with themes of resilience, trauma recovery of individuals, families and communities, and how experiences of deep despair and loss can be transformed into deep love and connection.
This is a story written based on the personal accounts of a grandfather, father, husband, brother, son, soldier, and conscientious soul who survived some of the worst humanity had to offer. While I am not Jewish, so many of the words and parts of his history I was unable to understand, the meaning and importance rang through. This account of events is not as fleshed out as one might find with other stories written about these events, but that only lends to the authenticity of the memories which, after all these generations, has stuck with a man who had to learn to live with them. It's almost heartening to realize how many of the specifics of his day-to-day struggles has been glossed over by his mind, allowing him to focus on his love of family and God...Everyone should be required to at least read the type of transcripts that are found at the end of this novella. Experience those first-hand experiences of some of the bravest, and strongest, that have ever lived.
"Zaidy's War ..." is a book that should be read by everyone, everywhere. We cannot let these stories disappear; we all can learn and benefit from the lessons of this and other survivors of the craziness of war...This is a story of the experiences of one Jewish man who survived the incredible, unspeakable horrors of World War II, when so many did not. He had an amazing strength of character, coming through such trials and leading a life in which he worked hard and achieved much. No wonder his grandson wanted to record this story. The dedication and effort Martin Bodek poured into researching and verifying the details is to be commended! At times it is difficult to read, however, it is a story which needs to be told and I hope we can all learn that it should never be allowed to happen again.
Truly inspirational. What a grandfather! The book is all-encompassing and gives good insight into aspects of WWII of which I was unaware.
I binge read this book. It's written well and is worth reading. I appreciate the remarkable resilience of Zaidy. This book teaches us to be resilient in life. The pictures, documents, letters, etc that the author has attached at the end made me feel more connected to the story.
A deeply personal and well written book. Good job!
Reading this book made me feel every moment described on the pages as it tells the powerful story of the author's grandfather, Zaidy, who was passionate about learning...This brilliant biography of resilience prompts us to reflect on the value of life in the face of bullets, bombs, and the constant presence of death. By immersing ourselves in the vivid details of Zaidy's story, we are reminded of the many aspects of life that we often take for granted. This book is an impactful and worthwhile read.
I was invested in this story from beginning to end, learning some things along the way...I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in reading about life.