“Sweet Noise is two books in one, each different in tone and tenor, each offering an insight powerful and poignant, sad and sobering, yet full of love. One part is a book of letters, the other a narrative of a pilgrimage beautifully illustrated by a series of photographs taken by a man who so well understands the power of the visual. The letters between Max's parents are the intimate correspondence of a young, deeply passionate, and desperately in love man and woman."
—from The Breath of Death by Michael Berenbaum
For nearly twenty years, I searched for the right way to share my parents’ story of love and perseverance before, during, and after the Holocaust. I had a wealth of material—my own memories of growing up in a house under the shadow of the camps; photographs I took during my mother’s powrót (the Polish word for a spiritual return) to Poland and Auschwitz in 1993, and the wrenching stories she shared with me there; and a box of love letters that my parents had written to each other during their separation after the war.
My first imperative was to organize and then work out my relationship to all this material—how to select, how to report, how to disengage, how to cope, and, finally, how to move on. Each new version of the book I attempted provided a step on my way to a deeper sense of clarity, a new place where I could eliminate the unnecessary and find the path that held this story together.
I knew the basics: the anti-Semitism my father experienced when told that he would have to stand in the back of his medical school classroom; the obligatory marriage to the woman who asked her father to pay for her future husband’s education in France; my father’s forced incarceration in the Zawiercie ghetto where he fell deeply in love with another woman, my mother, Frania; their separate transports to Auschwitz and the deaths of my father’s first wife and daughter; the fundamental facts surrounding their reunion after the war; and the powerful effect of a feature in The Saturday Evening Post which finally brought them together permanently in America.
In the end, it was the story told through their letters—told with more accuracy and more depth than I could ever supply—that provided the true essence of the book, giving it shape, substance, and meaning. My parents had learned to love each other across an ocean, and those letters—written in the confines of their hearts—had survived time and distance and revealed an insatiable passion.
Over the many years and the circuitous paths that Sweet Noise took to come to fruition, the competing narratives in it actually nurtured one another. My perseverance was sustained by three things: the intensity of my parents’ story, my belief in the strength of my photographs, and, finally, the challenge of committing words to permanence. A friend who is a seasoned curator weighed in, and his suggestion that I streamline the material and flip the linear narrative helped me to bring my parents’ remarkable story to life.
"There have been hundreds of books on the Holocaust but Sweet Noise is special and compelling because it tells the larger history through the lives of Max's parents who had a secret romance while they waited to be deported to Auschwitz."
—from Imperfect Justice by Stuart E. Eizenstat
In addition to a signed copy of the book, I am offering a reward that includes signed, limited edition prints in four sizes, 8x10", 13x19", 20x24", and 40x60".
Also available are limited edition sets of five prints in 8x10", and 13x19".
Once the campaign ends — where there is a choice of a print— I will send you an email to get your shipping address and at that point you can confirm your choice of print image.
Max Hirshfeld is recognized as a master at spotting decisive moments while revealing the warmth and humanity of his subjects. He has undertaken several focused projects over the past decade. From 2002-2005, in a series titled One Shot, Hirshfeld captured individual pedestrians in a single frame of film amid the chaos and color of urban settings in major cities across the United States. For his 2008 Looking at Looking series, he spent over a year wandering through the National Gallery of Art, documenting the jazz-like dance movements of visitors as they viewed master works in the collection. In the spring of 2013, Hirshfeld commenced his Illuminaries series, which highlights key players in the Washington, DC arts and cultural scene. The project serves as an important record of the extraordinary figures contributing to the advancement of Washington arts.
Hirshfeld was born in North Carolina in 1951 and grew up in Decatur, Alabama. He moved to Washington DC to study photography at George Washington University, graduating in 1973. Hirshfeld’s editorial work has been published in GQ, The New York Times Magazine, People, Time, Vanity Fair, and other national publications. His advertising work has been showcased in campaigns for such companies as Amtrak, Canon, Ford, IBM, and KPMG, among others.
Risks and challenges
The final version of the book that I hope to publish is by far the best. In stepping aside to let the material speak for itself I was able to let the depth and power of this extraordinary story fully shine. Stories of love—especially in the face of global tragedies like the Holocaust—have universal appeal and resonate with readers everywhere.
I truly hope you will join the team that is partnering with me—a publisher, a producer, a designer, a translator, a copyeditor, a proofreader, and the good will of dozens of friends and colleagues—to show this effort to the world. By fully funding this endeavor, we are now at a critical juncture where gathering support from a wider circle means that the book can be completed.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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