A board-certified internist, Dr. Allen Malnak served as chief of medicine at Fort Sill, OK, and was medical director of a number of organizations, including the Emergency Department of Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital. During his long medical career in the Chicago area, he was also a clinical investigator in liver disease as well as an assistant clinical professor at the Stritch School of Medicine, and a practicing internist. Following retirement, he and his wife Patricia moved to Bonita Springs, Florida. His interest in the Holocaust was sparked by the fact that all the men, women and children of his father’s large Lithuanian family were sent to a death camp by the Nazis and murdered.
Thanks for this interview and congratulations on the release of your suspense thriller, Hitler’s Silver Box. What compelled you to write this story?
When my father came to America in 1906 at age 16, he had only one distant relative in this country. He left behind in Kovno, Lithuania a large family, including his parents, eight brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. They ranged in age from the elderly to babies.
Dad died of natural causes during the Second World War and immediately following the war, my late brother Lewis and I began to try to track down our father’s European family. I was just 16 when the war ended. We wrote letters to everyone we could think of and after about a year received a detailed reply from the International Red Cross. Nazi records as well as witness reports indicated that all members of dad’s family had been murdered either in or near Kovno or after transfer to a death camp. Every man, woman and child!
So, one entire side of my family was destroyed by the Nazis. Of course, I became interested in the Holocaust and began reading articles about it even during my high school and college years. During my internship at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital, I read a short book, Doctors of Infamy, which covered many horrendous medical experiments performed on concentration camp prisoners by Nazi physicians. The book was so disturbing that after reading it, I tossed it into a garbage can. My next book on the subject was Elie Weisel’s NIGHT. I then became occupied with my professional career as well as with my growing family for many years. When I reached the age of forty, I decided I owed it to my dead family members to engage in a real study of that terrible time. I then spent perhaps two or three years of my limited free time reading every book I could find on the Holocaust.
Years later, I retired from the practice and teaching of internal medicine, and my wife and I moved to Bonita Springs Florida. I noticed in the Naples Daily News an article describing a course in writing fiction being held at the Naples Philharmonic. The teacher was Hollis Alpert a well known novelist, biographer, short story editor as well as a movie critic.
I took classes with Hollis for a couple of years. He would give us assignments, often listing several subjects that we should use as the basis of a short story. He would critique each story and at the next weekly session read some of them to the class.
One topic I picked was titled “A Silver Box.” For some reason, I decided to write it about a concentration camp prisoner at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp who was forced by a Nazi colonel to make a silver box which would be a present for Adolph Hitler.
After reading the story in class, afterwards, Hollis suggested that this story could be expanded into a novel, and that started the process that eventually lead to Hitler’s Silver Box-A Novel.
What parts of the novel are actual historical facts?
While Hitler’s Silver Box-A Novel is a work of fiction, it’s loosely based on the fact that during the Second World War, Nazi scientists worked up to the war’s end on a multitude of secret weapons on which Hitler pinned his hopes for a last ditch victory.
These weapon systems ranged from very long range rockets that could be fired from underground bases to alternative physics, robotic warriors, new energy sources, radical germ warfare and of course, nuclear weapons.
In the novel, the facts were modified to suggest that many objects which were later called UFOs were also developed by Nazi scientists in concealed locations, and various secret laboratories were set up around the world including in areas of both Arctic and Antarctic wastes where explorers had never trekked.
What was your writing process like while working on this novel? Did you have a disciplined schedule?
Because of various acute and chronic illnesses, I could not keep to a writing schedule. I followed the mantra of “write-rewrite-get it right.” Unlike many expert suggestions, I constantly re-edited my previous work, then edited it again and again.
From conception to typing ‘The End,’ how long did it take you?
About ten years.
The story takes the reader from Chicago to Paris to the Czech Republic. Did you travel to Europe as part of the research?
I have visited many countries in Europe and Paris is my favorite city in the world. I had many plans to visit the Czech Republic, but like Max in the book, health problems kept canceling the plans.
What was the hardest part of writing Hitler’s Silver Box?
Dialogue and careful descriptions were difficult crafts to understand and learn, but the hardest part was describing the conditions that Max went through in the concentration camp using the “particular” silver, the provenance of which nearly drove him and me mad. The dramatic ER scenes were easier because they were based on my personal experiences. Since like Bruce in the novel, I also have claustrophobia in tunnels, writing that scene caused me some discomfort.
What’s in the horizon for Allen Malnak?
If my health holds up, I just might write a sequel to Hitler’s Silver Box. If the Spielberg types come sniffin; around to make the novel into a movie, well I just might be forced to interview Charlize Theron to see if she’s “hot” enough to play Sari.
Any last words to my readers?
The incidents that pushed me to finish Hitler’s Silver Box were linked to the website of one of our local newspapers. Two anonymous neo-Nazis constantly spewed their racist, ant-Semitic slurs, bragging about their continued worship of Adolph Hitler and the murderous Waffen SS, while denying every aspect of the Holocaust.
I’ll close with a quote from a novelist, Jerry Ahern, who reviewed my book for “Gun World Magazine.”
“Future generations have serious responsibilities, chief among these not to repeat past mistakes. Sadly, these days, there are still those who, out of ignorance or foul intentions, somehow revere the scourge that was National Socialism. That’s why, it’s good for the rest of us to get reminded from time to time, at least, how truly despicable the Nazis were.”
Hitler’s Silver Box
by Allen Malnak
Release date: 2011-11-10
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
Available from online retailers