Hello. My name is Herman Neuman, and I would like to thank you in advance for listening to my bizarre, but true life story. I want to emphasize that as impossible as it may seem, all of what you will hear is really true to the best of my knowledge. I will read this introduction and Judd Harmon will narrate this audiobook.
The long painful and patient endurance of my little brother, Siggi, and me during our growing-up years, together with what we eventually achieved, has inspired many readers and audiences. Also, people cannot believe that we are still sane. Or even alive. It is only through the grace of God that we are still well and have great zest for life. Surely, there can be no other way.
Some episodes in my memoir, as well as my writing style, have made people laugh and cry and even at the same time. And a Writer’s Digest life story judge has said, “Heroes and Triumph indeed!" and called Heroes from the Attic a gripping and most memorable memoir.
While you are listening, many questions will probably come to your mind. Perhaps questions such as: “Why did they not take revenge on their tormentors and exploiters? How did they succeed, and alone, in spite of their unbelievable adversities?“ Or “How can such injustice continue for so many years?”
Fortunately I learned many lessons from my unusual experiences, as well as have received some amazing gifts. Well-known psychotherapist Belleruth Naparstek has studied trauma survivors and documented such blessings in her book “Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal.” Its concluding chapter is titled "Surprise Blessings: Gifts in the Rubble."
Siggi and I were born in the worst place, at the worst time, into the middle of the biggest war in history. In Nazi Germany. However, we will always be grateful to the uncountable heroes, who suffered and sacrificed so much to liberate us from its tyranny.
But our intense personal problems continued for many more years after World War II. In many ways, our lives worsened considerably. This was mostly so, because our parents were our worst enemies. There was not one person to mentor, support and console us. Our father abandoned us, and our mother was a packrat, who never cooked but one and very simple meal, which Siggi and I could not force ourselves to eat.
It took us almost two decades to claw ourselves to the starting line of life. And we had to do so almost single-handedly, while suffering in lonely silence. Maybe that is why my persona is a paradox in several different ways. For example, as a toddler I had serious illnesses, which brought me close to death. And I was not expected to be able to walk again. But when I was sixty years old, I ran to finish a hilly 10 km footrace within the top ten percent of all age groups. And I did so with only seasonal training.
During my long recovery from a severe ear infection as a baby, I was thought to have become mentally retarded. Then I flunked out of school during the fifth grade. When I was twenty years old, I was still so poor that I did not even have the use of an outhouse. That’s when I made the instantaneous decision, without much thought, to gain my freedom from involuntary servitude and to attend college. Six years later, I had earned a five-year engineering degree from Washington State University. And I did so without scholarships.
But perhaps the biggest paradox about brother Siggi and me is that we did not follow the commonly accepted premise that abused children will grow up to be big losers or criminals. Had we imitated our main role models, our parents, we would have become totally irresponsible hedonists, wife-beaters, and worst of all, obsessive child-spirit killers.
Instead of caving in to immense pressure, we became blessed. We both became independent world travelers. After my new wife and I graduated from college together, we worked for less than two years to be able to save enough to travel around the world. For six months. To enjoy many diverse cultures and God’s amazing creations. Being able to do this without outside help proved that America was indeed the “Land of unlimited Opportunities,” which I had heard so much about in Germany.
Naturally my soul was severely scrambled during my early years. But over time, while I was still clawing myself to the starting line of life during my mid-twenties, it began to heal. I will soon be sixty-seven years old and in some ways, I feel better than ever. I embrace life to its fullest. Miraculously I now have a pre-modern age, child-like spirit, which often soars to unbelievable heights. I often feel that I have a spiritual connection with God, who also gives me an extraordinary intuition to help me foresee, avoid or deal with big problems. My mind does not go into denial when faced with such. On the contrary, I actually zoom in on diverse personal and global problems to determine their causes and to find solutions.
Perhaps because of my early-life traumas and a strong sixth sense, I often make instantaneous connections with many strangers. People confide in me their own dreadful stories, even when I meet them for the first time. And after we visit they often say that I give them hope; that God has brought us together.
I can truly say that most people have, have had, or will face difficult times. And all too frequently, it is not the problems directly, which make them sick, keep them sick or torment them otherwise. It is their emotional reactions to them, which can keep them in prolonged despair. They may not even realize that their self-defeating mindsets, their inability to overcome their negative emotions prolong and even intensify their mental, spiritual and physical suffering. And that such emotions can become a permanent habit no matter in what situation they might find themselves.
I have observed that too often our society does not encourage dealing with the primary causes of problems realistically and directly. Instead, we tend to only treat their consequent symptoms superficially. Too often our depressive mood and too many distractions cause our thinking to malfunction. My own severe circumstances caused my depression, which caused me to fail in school no matter how hard I had studied. Many of us tend to escape into denial, fantasy, and drugs, thereby causing our problems to multiply and grow ever bigger. Then they grow out of control as exemplified by a riot, which I personally started in college, and from which I derived what I named “Ami’s Avalanche Axiom.”
Since as far back as I can remember, I have “turned the other cheek,” so to speak, thousands of times. And literally all four of them too many times. I simply suffered with passive endurance. During my years of continuous personal traumas, my mind must have dissociated itself from them, because I did not even try to run away or hide from anything. I did not rebel. I did not escape into alcohol, even when beer and wine were legally available to youngsters in Germany. And I cannot remember one of my schoolmates ever taking one pill or drink one beer, even after many of them had endured the biggest man-made calamity in history, World War II.
I did not talk much during my early years. And my mind seemed to be empty most of the time, but all along I was observing. Observing and enjoying even the smallest details in nature. Lying in grass and watching white clouds drift across a blue a sky. Diverting little streams of rainwater coursing through the sand and down windowpanes. Such almost daily closeness with nature seemed to have helped develop my creativity. The very creativity and curiosity, which are so important for a happy existence in today’s complicated and hectic world.
I often have felt, and still do, that I was driven by instinct, an intuition, to do what was right and not get myself into trouble. And in retrospect, I now realize that I have made many, even major life-changing decisions, almost without thinking or thinking very little about its consequences. Neither have I done much long-term planning in what I wanted to do with my future. I rarely planned for anything, because there had always been next to no hope in my early life. And letting my mind drift freely became my habit. Even so, I followed a path which lead me to successful happiness. Now I am happiest when I can inspire others by sharing my story in the hopes that they can learn from it.
Why are there such a big differences, generally speaking, in people’s thinking, reasoning and behavior between those of earlier years and the present?
Of course that is very complex subject to discuss here, but I would like you to think, to find the many questions we should be asking, so we can search for their answers. I would be very happy if you would share your ideas and problems with me, so we can together help build a better world for everyone. Please visit my Website at herobooks.com or contact me at hero.herobooks.com.
While I was composing my memoir, I became evermore astounded by what Siggi and I had endured for so many years. And what we subsequently achieved. Also, readers have asked me if I am still bitter about my early life, and I if I have forgiven my tormentors. At first I thought these to be odd questions, because I had never felt bitter or revengeful, only sad, and I had never thought about this until they began asking me. Only then did I slowly begin to realize that I am very blessed. I have known people, who have harbored anger for many years, and for me for very insignificant reasons.
Humbly I will say that I have triumphed over multitudes of traumatic episodes like few others. Especially considering they were so varied, intense, began so early in life and continued over almost two decades without moral support. Therefore I am sure that if I could overcome seemingly impossible problems and make most of my dreams come true , so can you. Because it seems to be as one doctor wrote me after reading Heroes from the Attic, “the human potential seems to be infinite!”
So if you do not mistreat your body and soul, have persistence, keep yourself informed and have patience and discipline, you too can achieve things which seem to be out of your reach, no matter what your present circumstances may be. These are some of my character qualities, which helped me to defy my own worries and everyone’s expectations about me. Therefore give it your best try to succeed in your life.
Enjoy, and learn from my story. I thank you very much for listening. May we meet someday, if only on my Website http://www.herobooks.com.