Jay Balter did not have an easy life growing up in mid-20th century Brooklyn. His father, known to his mother only as “that son of a bitch” was many things—a music publisher who gambled away the entire family fortune he made on Broadway, a philander, a gangster, a deadbeat dad—but mostly, he was absent. Jay comes of age in the Orthodox Jewish community of Crown Heights with his mentally ill twin sister, his angry older brother, and his beloved mother, an early feminist who will do anything to support her family. In 1958, at 18 years old, he enters the US Army. During his basic training in Georgia, Jay’s anger over both American racism and the European Holocaust comes to the surface, and he vows, “I was prepared to teach those rebels a lesson. I was not prepared to roll over and play dead like the Jews of Europe.” But after his medical training, he suddenly receives his deployment orders: to Nuremburg, Germany of all places. Not only that, but Jay finds himself living in the SS Kaserne, the former military barracks of Hitler’s elite Storm Troopers, sleeping in the very bed where Hitler was rumored to have slept. While there, he begins having dreams of revenging the Jews and assassinating all Nazis not convicted in the Nuremberg War Trials, and experiences an intense split between the healer and the hater within. Will Jay start WW 3, or will he keep the peace in Germany?
With equal parts humor and horror, this riveting memoir by a master storyteller explores the question, how can a young man alchemically transform war into peace, hatred into healing, and anger into acceptance, even love?
Jay Balter describes himself as an ordinary man who has had an extraordinary life. He has been a soldier, a social worker, a CEO, and a student of psychology. He spent the majority of his life working with the physically and emotionally disabled, primarily as a Rehabilitation Counselor, but also as a legal conservator for two family members.
He is presently retired with his wife of fifty-six years, and volunteers his time with the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) as an advocate, and with the Mental Health Helpline once a week.
This book covers the first twenty-one years of a larger manuscript, soon to be released—Memoirs of a Middle Class Man.
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