Robert Wolf, M.D., grew up as the only child of Ervin and Judit Wolf. Their stories of their escape from communist Hungary, and his father’s tragic history of escaping the Nazis twice but having his own parents taken to Auschwitz, inspired Robert to document his parents’ tales and share those stories with Jewish groups and others throughout the United States. In “Not a Real Enemy” Robert shares his family saga-and the forgotten history of the nearly half million Hungarian Jews who were deported and killed during the Holocaust-through an epic and inspiring tale of daring escapes, terrifying oppression, tragedy, and triumph.
Robert Wolf is a national speaker and is featured in national media and TV including ABC TV, NBC TV, CW TV, FOX TV, CBS TV and more.
Stephen: today on Discovered Wordsmith, I want to welcome Rob Wolf. Rob, how are you doing
Robert: today? I’m doing well. Hi, how are you? Thank you for having me.
Thanks for inviting me.
Stephen: Yeah. It’s great to have you on. We’re gonna talk about your book not a Real Enemy, but before we do let’s find out a little bit about you. What are, where do you live and what are some of the things you like to do besides writing? I.
Robert: Hi, I’m Rob Wolf, and I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan the Detroit area.
I was raised kindergarten through 12th grade in a small town called Mount Clemens. Suburban Detroit. Famous for Thomas Alva Edison and Sulfur Baths back in the day. They those don’t, I don’t know even know if those exist anymore, but back in the day it was very popular resort for that.
Stephen: Yeah, I don’t think Edison still exists. No.
Robert: He was the Elon Musk of his day, I would say. Yeah. So yeah. And then I went to Tufts University for undergraduate. I was fortunate enough to get into Tufts University near Boston for undergraduate. And then I went to University of Michigan Medical School and I graduated in 1988. Loved Ann Arbor.
What a great place to go to school. Again, very privileged, very competitive. Always a, it was a great school to go attend and it was a great school to to be an alumnus as well. And then then I did residency. I, my residency, I’m a radiologist, so I did a year internship at Framing Framingham Union Hospital near Boston Boston University affiliate.
I did my radiology residency at Brown Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. And then I did a neuroradiology neuroradiology fellowship at Yale. University in New Haven, Connecticut. Now, by now I’m 30 years old. I’ve done half my life. I’m 60 now, so now I’m about 30, finally ready to make a living after all those years of indentured Ry.
And so I’ve lived half my life in New England and half my life in Michigan. So I’ve bounced back to forth. There were no jobs when I finished my fellowship back in the nineties. So I took what I could a place in Massachusetts that I was moonlighting as a senior resident and as a fellow.
I needed a radiologist, so I took a job there and I was there four years, and then back to Michigan for seven years, and then back to Massachusetts with my wife at the time. And worked a few jobs inpatient, outpatient hospital work tele radio, tele radiography work. I still do some teleradiology now.
I’m, I do two days a week, part-time, Wednesdays and Thursdays just to stay, stay in the loop. I can tell, we’ll talk a little bit more about that when we talk about the history of my book, but Besides medicine, which I’ve been doing. So now I’ve been doing that, let’s say 33 years in radiology, 34 years.
And it’s been a great it’s been a great run. I’ve been part-time since I was 43, so about half of my career I’ve been part-time and the other half pretty much full-time. And, night call and weekends and all that other stuff. Besides radiology, I love sports.
I love all sports. From Olympics to curling to everything. Pickle ball’s popular down here in Florida where I live now. I’ve been down here in Florida since 2019. I love baseball, football. So exciting that we have the Miami the Miami heat down here and the Florida Marlins both in the finals and both eight seeds, which I don’t ever remember that happening.
So that’s pretty exciting. That starts the night. And they beat the Celtics, who’s another favorite. I root for all the Boston teams, of course, that’s right after the Detroit team. And I root for Michigan State across the board, unless they’re playing University of Michigan. So that’s a, it’s a pretty simple algorithm for me.
But I do all the teams and I’m so excited for Florida Sports because it’s really been on a roll even before I got down there. Tampa Bay is a great sports city too down here as well. So I love music. I’ve been to maybe 350 professional concerts, not including local stuff. I name a band.
I a lot of rock, jazz, fusion blues, seen them all. The Rolling Stones, Clapton, Jeff Beck, rest in Peace. Ping Floyd on and on. I love music. I like a little bit of classical, not like my parents used to, but mostly jazz, rock and fusion and blues. I love nutrition. I’m a foodie, so I like preparing my own food.
I like fine dining when I can. Of course, food’s getting expensive more and more now as we all know, even at the grocery store. And I’m a gym rat. I’ve been going to the gym for 40 years. I like fitness. I like golf. Exercise, swimming. I was in multiple sports in high school, swimming, golf, tennis, soccer.
I love ’em all. I love to watch ’em. Still love to play when I can at 60. It’s a little tough. I wanna keep my knees for another 20, 30 years, hopefully. So I’ve really slowed down on participating in the sports, but still love it, still love trying to participate when I can. I like history. I like history.
I like travel. I try to be I try to be pretty well-rounded as much as I can and as much as the time gives you during the day it’s difficult sometimes to squeeze it all on a day. But I try to, and I like my hikes and walks and like I said, travel. I’m going to I’ve, I went to Israel last year, which was a real game changer.
I would recommend. I think they always say every Jewish person should go to Israel, but I think everyone should go to Israel. That’s what I say. And that’s not the only country. I Iceland a few years ago was a great trip. I wish I had more money and time to do more of those trips. Maybe someday as I slow down and not work so hard on this book.
But so I keep my mind open. I’m pretty game to just about anything. I’m not gonna do sky jumping now at this point, or bungee jumping or anything silly like that. I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna get in a speed a race car and drive around the Indy 500 the racetrack, things like that. But within reason, right?
I’m pretty adventurous. I like to try new things and I, and I, I’m not an old man yet. I’m getting there, but I try to still keep an open mind. Try not to get too set in my ways. Try to be open-minded. I like
Stephen: that. Okay, great. So with all of that going on multiple states, your radiology and all the activities that, sports and all that, why did you wanna start writing?
That’s a great question.
Robert: I don’t even know the answer to that, to myself. I always joke ’cause it’s so much more difficult when I first started this in 2018. So I guess it’s a good time to start with the history of the book. So my mom and dad wrote his autobiography in the 1970s. They went from penant pen and paper and pencil to a typewriter, to a computer, to a disc.
And I read the manuscript. It was written out as a manuscript, as autobiography. And I read it many years ago, but of course I was. Busy with my practice, busy with family. I didn’t really think much about it. Maybe I didn’t even finish the whole book ’cause I, most of the stories I didn’t remember going back, probably talking 25, 30 years ago.
And I was a little bit indifferent to what went on in my parents’ history and what went on in their lives. Flash forward to 1997, my dad passes away, unfortunately. Then flash forward to 2016, my mom passes away. I took a year to take care of her affairs. She had she wasn’t the Queen of England or anything, but she certainly had enough affairs to deal with that such as Hungarian and German restitution accounts to close out.
That took a long time. That was difficult. I needed translators. It was all just snail mail back and forth. Of course selling her house and her car and estate sales and closing out things like that. And then I took a year off. I actually retired for a year 2017 into 2018, and that’s when I traveled a bit more.
Much of it was domestic travel, but like I said, that Iceland trip was great. And then a friend a radiology friend who we are longstanding friends from the Flint, Michigan area, and we still are he’s also down here in Florida. He said can you help me with some part-time work reading x-rays and ultrasounds?
Out of a clinic in Michigan. And so since they were short and I figured I’d help him out. He is, helped me out many times over the years. So I picked up the work and between cases I actually, or, so when my mom died, my. The disc of my parents’ story now that my dad’s story was on a disc and a historian friend of the family in Michigan handed me the disc when my mom died in 2016.
I didn’t think much of it, but she said, you really need to read this and I wanna see what you think. So it was another two years before I actually got to it. So the point about me going back to work, it’s, it got me back into the office instead of the golf course and loaded up the disc in, in between cases when I was reading x-rays and ultrasounds, and I started reading my dad’s stories.
And I thought, wow, these are amazing. I can’t believe that I never really appreciated what my parents had been through all those years and all this time that I had the opportunity to review all his stories. And so I read the whole thing it’s tooth and nail, and I thought these, the miraculous stories, fantastic stories, Mira and I just, I had to share it with the world.
I couldn’t just keep it in my computer. And that’s where my my writing career started. So that was 2018. It was about five years ago. Became a labor of love. I converted my dad’s autobiography into a biography. That took a good year. And then I moved down to Florida, packed everything up. I was finished with the first round and then had the book copy edited and polished and edited again.
And then I sent the book to a few to some beta readers and other authors to see what their opinions were. And it was well received. But one of the authors of I don’t remember how I connected with her. Maybe it was on social media. But she hooked me up with my co-author Janice Harper.
And Janice is out in, she’s actually a Michigan person too. She got her PhD at Michigan State and anthropologist too. She’s a brilliant woman, very good writer, and that’s all she does. So she’s a book coach too. And she said, I can help you write this book and turn it from point A to point B, where dad was born on this and dad did this.
And that is to a real novel, a real story. About a year and a half. I accepted her offer and she became a, my co-author. And she did her history, she did her homework. She read about Hungarian culture and cuisine, the language and the wars. And she went above and beyond the Call of Duty in helping me make this book something special.
And she did just that and parallel stories, converging stories, conversations, letters to and from home. So she’s, she zipped it up. She kicked it up a few notches and. And then after that, another 20 edits later. And she, we vetted out some agents and publishers. She helped me with that as well.
The proposal package. Fantastic job. Just a plus primo work. And literally shoestring catch bottom of the ninth, we got Amsterdam publishers to take us on. So that was last January. They they made an offer to, to publish the book. ’cause we were that close to to self-publishing. That’s one piece of advice.
Don’t give up. That’s the first thing I’d say to, to new authors. We talk about that later. Don’t give up. And we were pretty selective. That’s another piece of advice. Be selective of who you query of. Make sure you pick the right agents. Make sure you pick the right publishers. Make sure you don’t waste time.
’cause there is a lot of wasted time in it. It gets better. Your time gets funneled into something more productive. But it’s all, it’s hit and miss in pick and choose as you get more experience. That said, so we got Amsterdam publishers. They did a great job. We published in October very pleased.
We had the, we hired a book cover, a guy that did a great job with a book cover, a Croatian man who sympathized with a story of being from Eastern European, being of Eastern European descent himself. Of course the book was about my dad and mom who were from Hungary.
Stephen: That’s where my family’s from.
Robert: Oh, really? So Hungarian you’re from the Midwest, you said. So there’s, so that’s funny because a lot of the Hungarians, Polish, Eastern European, the Czechs, that when they left, either after the Hungarian Revolution, my parents’ case, or even before that they like to go to the similar climate.
And so Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo, Michigan. It was the hot area too back then in the forties, fifties, sixties, with the auto industry and everything. Yeah, so same idea. A lot of Hungarians in the area. Of course a lot of Eastern Europeans, my, believe me, my parents made every effort to know all of ’em.
’cause they were very sociable people and they loved to entertain, they loved to teach. And so we ended up in the, yeah, the Detroit area and the book. And the book finally is out now in two. So last year the book was out in October. And rave reviews, great testimonials. Slowly digging and clawing to get people to know about the book.
It’s a process. It’s, we could talk about that for two. I could talk about that all day. I, I bore people to death with it because it’s a big part of a, you might have the world’s biggest book, the world’s greatest book, but if nobody knows about it nobody’s gonna get a chance to read the story.
So it’s a, it’s another great lesson too for upstart authors or even experienced authors. Amsterdam publishers, all they do is the genre. It’s it’s Holocaust related. The book is, but it’s not just Holocaust and. I can tell you more details about the book in a little bit if you want as well.
But here we are, 20, edit later, a great co-author, great publisher. We also hired a historian who was a retired gentleman from the Holocaust Memorial Museum who who read the book and corrected any history that we may have missed or have mistakes in. And so we, we made the appropriate corrections.
Lot of work, lot of effort, lot of time, lot of help. Great team across the board, marketing and pr, et cetera, et cetera. We can talk more about that too. But I’m very pleased with the book. I think the book should do well give as, as long as enough people start to learn about it and know about it and realize how fantastic these stories are.
Stephen: So you mentioned these are stories, it’s a biography. What are some of the things in the book and why the title, not a real enemy.
Robert: So while the book is of course it’s a biography by my dad it, and it’s also a Hungary light. It’s a history light book about Hungary.
Little known hung that covers from World War I. Where my dad’s father was a captain on a ship on a Red Cross ship in the Black Sea during World War Iden. He was a dentist, but medical school and dental school were combined back then. It’s obviously now the subspecialties are, have really expanded over the years.
But yeah, he was a captain on the ship in World War I and they ended up in Hungary during During the, after the war, peaceful Hungary in the early twenties, although there were issues that Jews had to worry about too back then. But, so it’s a hist, it’s a history light book about Hungary. It’s my dad’s biography.
It covers the trials, the tribulations, the tragedies of my dad’s family, how they survived during, before and before the war, especially World War ii when antisemitism was on the rise. And it’s an adventure. There’s so many amazing stories there. 40 chapters, 40 stories. And we’ll start with, my dad was a multiple escape artist.
He escaped twice from forced labor camp. Wow. Twice with his friend Frank who’s Frank’s daughter. Reached out to me a few months ago, found me somehow on social media, and sent me some information that she had, including a very interesting map that I posted on social media and elsewhere of the trek that my, my dad and his friend Frank went through from their home, his hometown of Jira, all the way across Hungary.
The northern part is a, is like one large triangle over months and months. A lot of walking, a lot of hiking. And so we, that, we picked up that. And I don’t wanna lose my chain of thought here, so multiple escapes. So also, so finally the war’s done. My dad’s on the run. Even after a second escape he found a little safe sanctuary.
He found multiple sanctuaries, but he kept having to run and move and leave. He didn’t wanna put anybody at risk or danger for trying to hide him. Unfortunately that was part of it. But fortunately nobody got caught at his on his dime, while he was trying to hide or run.
So he, he found some sola, he found solace in some good places. And after the war, he had to wait a few months until everything was cleared in his hometown before he could go back to his hometown to find out. What had happened to his parents, and that took a few months. Even after the war, there was no cell phones or internet or local news, and Jewish people over all this time weren’t allowed to even own a radio or let alone read a newspaper or get any information about the outside world.
So there was that as well. Fast forward a little bit. My dad meets my mom. They get married. He finally gets to go to medical school, which is all he ever wanted to do in his lifetime. That was on a quota because you could only 10% of the medical students could be Jewish. With the help of the J D C in the us my dad was fortunate enough to get a spot in the medical, in a medical school.
He was very intelligent and and lucky to have that and appreciated it and worked hard at it. My mom was also a med student. She was quite a bit younger than my dad, but my dad was a resident or actually practicing by the time he had met my mom and they got married.
He was an ob, g y n, so mom was in medical school and we’ll get back to that in a minute too, because she had to leave, she had to quit early 13 months before her graduation during their final escape. Come the Russians, the great communist menace. So they, so the Russians saved Hungary, Russians, and Romanian renegades rather than United States.
Now, if the United States had occupied Hungary, I wouldn’t be an American citizen. I probably would’ve lived my whole life in Hungary. So that’s serendipity, but that’s something that, that’s something in the back of my head that I never would’ve really realized. As we know, communists the communists took over part of the Eastern European block in central Europe, and the United States helped out with.
Of course France and Italy and England, and we all know those stories a lot better Normandy than we do know what happened and where my parents came from. So the Czech Republic Poland Poland got hit really hard. The Polish Jews especially, really hard during world War ii, so I.
So a little known hungry. So now they’re under communist rule. My dad’s kind of plugging along. They still don’t like that communist menace hanging over their shoulders. And before he even met my mom, he escaped as a med student and made it all the way to the Austrian border. He got in an argument with a Russian soul, armed Russian soldier.
That’s a great story. And he made it. But he changed his mind. He got nervous about the fear of reprisal, the fear of getting arrested and getting sent back to Hungary. And and having to be in prison for many years and hurting his medical career. So he was conflicted between living under communism and and wanting to practice medicine in the free world.
Ultimately, he was able to do that, but it was a lot of sacrifice and a lot of time I. Then their last escape was at the end of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. So this was my dad’s fourth escape. And this was a real, it’s a harrowing escape too, but they made it they had to try several times to cross the border, a rapidly closing border.
That was a short war, that Hungarian revolution. And not a lot of people know about it. We all know about the Ukraine War now, and it’s been going on, and I think a lot of people assumed it was gonna be. As short as the Hungarian Revolution, and a lot of professionals have compared that war at first to the Hungarian Revolution.
But now I call it really it’s the Hungarian Revolution on steroids. It seems like it’s never ending. And I feel badly for the Ukrainian people because they got hit during the other wars as well and even now. And it just seems so nonsensical, needless to say, they finally escape. In between, there were cloak and dagger stories with the Russians and forged papers during World War II and afterwards, and.
The thing, the places my dad had to hide, you wouldn’t believe. And the clothes he had to wear and the places his friend Frank had to hide. So there’s all these little stories in and out. Not just the escapes. My dad even missed an escape. And I don’t wanna be spoil after spoiler, but my dad missed an escape, went to the wrong train station, and thank God he did, because everybody on that train, including his medical school roommate, got arrested.
Wow. And that messed up his roommate’s his career for, at least for the short term. I think he ultimately escaped with my parents as well in the dead of winter in harrowing. So world. So the Hungarian Revolution is covered in from my dad’s eyes, and my dad was a front liner in the Hungarian Revolution.
He had to double down, not only his ob, G y n, but also as a trauma surgeon for two weeks. So he was getting no sleep for. We’ve all seen MASH and all these crazy, so it’s a, it’s the same kind of thing except 24 7 for, he had to do his ob, G Y n deliver babies, his, see his female patients and also double down as a trauma surgeon and mean, so he was a front liner.
My mom was a front liner too because she ran the blood bank and Budapest 3000 people died in that war. And that was just two weeks. A lot of disabled tanks, a lot of destruct, property destruction, a lot of refugees, as you probably know. And and they were a part of it. And then after that war, they said two wars, pestilence, persecution, antisemitism.
My mom and dad said, enough is enough. She was 13 months away from graduating medical school and she never went back, unfortunately. But she could have, but it would’ve been quite a few years later. And so they finally left and got out of the country in 56, right after the Hungarian revolution.
So all those stories are, they’re all meshed into this great biography that people turn, it’s a page turner, and people say, wow, how did, and then people that knew my dad, he was so jovial and jolly and loved to loved his work, love delivering babies. He would walk into the hospital and I would go with him sometimes when he’d round and he would be like he’d say hi to everybody, the janitor, the secretary, the other doctors smiling whenever he answered the phone, when the phone rang.
He was never grumpy, never had P t s d, never had physician burnout would’ve worked till till the day he died. Literally if he could have. And redemption deeded. He delivered probably about 10,000 babies in the Detroit area. That doesn’t include what, who he delivered in Boston where he had to redo his residency at the prestigious Beth Israel.
Lucky him. And how many babies he delivered in Budapest, in Hungary, I don’t know. But about 10,000 babies in actually a shortened career. So redemption indeed that after everything he went through the herring life and being able to bring all those lives into the world and. It’s so pleasing when I share on social media about him and about the book, and especially those that remember him and especially people that say, yeah, he delivered my kids, and that kind of thing.
It’s so nice. It’s so heartwarming. And that’s part of my motivation. Going back to your question is why did I become a writer? Why did this it was it was like the dis called out to me, the dis summoned me and just said, you’ve gotta see this, like Superman’s kryptonite called out to me.
And and it just bit me, the bug bit me. And so here we are nice. And when people read this book, they’ll say they will not, most people will not have known my dad when they read this book, but after they read the book, they will know my dad, if that makes sense. They’ll actually know him.
People will sympathize with him, put them, put themselves in his place like I did, saying this could happen to me, it could happen to you, could happen to any one of us. So we’re not, none of us is exempt from this kind of brutal behavior, brutal activity. And I hope we’re not adding that way in this country.
I, my, my job here is to try to fight that. I’m trying to fight antisemitism. I’m trying to fight the perils of power and the perils of persecution and. The book states that quite clearly from the beginning. And
Stephen: you mentioned it’s got some good reviews. What have some people been saying about it those that may have known your dad or not known your dad?
Robert: Most people that do the reviews don’t know. My dad I have three great testimonials that was a process, getting test, the back cover testimonials. One was from Michael Berenbaum, who’s a big name. He was a consultant. He did the show, a movie, the famous show, a movie, Steven Spielberg. So he was one of ’em.
And that was a connection through a, a guy here, Avi Hoffman, a local comedian, also a big guy. He’s he’s a c e O of A. Why I love Jewish. He’s a big antisemitism anti antisemitism advocate. He does shows to raise money to educate about antisemitism. So he got me, Michael Berenbaum, the guy that got me Avi Hoffman was, is a good friend of mine, ed Schultz.
He’s my, I call him Sergeant Schultz, but that’s a misnomer because I call him schutze, but great guy. But he he’s my bicycle repairman, which brings me to. Monty Python’s, bicycle repairman. I dunno if you know this sketch, but yeah, my bicycle repairman gets me. This guy, Michael Berenbaum, who’s a famous he’s a professor and he gets me this great.
And so I can’t thank him enough. And then we had Monty Auer in Jerusalem, another professor who wrote the test, a testimonial. And and then the brave, the reviews just came in one by one. Most people not knowing my dad, not most people not knowing his stories they’ve called the book Riveting, compelling, intriguing people said, you can’t put it down.
I can’t even remember. There’s so many kind words, and I’ve posted as many as I could, but I’ve still have backlogged other great reviews that I haven’t even posted yet. When they say they can’t put it down or. And they say we, they, we don’t want history to repeat itself. And people say that they can relate to my dad, that they can put themselves in his shoes right away.
That’s exactly what we were trying to do with the, with this book.
Stephen: Nice. Nice. And so this is a biography about your dad. Do you have plans for another book after this? Great question.
Robert: Before I answer that question, I wanna I didn’t finish the, not a real enemy the title. Oh, yeah.
Original title was Hungarian, Papillon was my original title. The Hungarian Butterfly after the Great Escape Artist Papillon, if you Steve McQueen played the movie, but it was a prisoner falsely accused a murder and escaped from the Devil’s Island area many times. So maybe that my dad’s escapes weren’t quite as exciting, but they were exciting and yeah, he didn’t fall from a cliff for that was hundreds of feet above the water.
But there they were still harrowing. But my co-author, Janice, who was very pragmatic, widely wisely, said, too many people aren’t gonna know that reference the Hungary pepper, especially the younger crowd, the younger people so the not a real enemy, the true story of a Hungarian Jewish man’s fight for freedom.
Part two is self-explanatory. Part one is not a real enemy. Before my dad’s last escape in, in, in 56 af after the Hungarian Revolution. And by now my dad’s risk tolerance was through the roof. And so he snuck into the medical center the night before their escape and he snuck into the medical school office of the medical staff office in between security guards and looked up his dossier to make sure there was no sort of damocles over his head that there was no bounty on his head in case they got caught.
He didn’t wanna end up in jail. And the Soviets in their own arrogance, in their own arrogance described him as not a real enemy thinking was he was communist neutral. All he did was practice medicine. He didn’t participate in their Morgan, the coken dagger stories many of his colleagues did.
They bought into the communist system. Some of ’em tried to betray them or double cross them. My mom and dad never bought into it. They never bought into being part of that political party. They loved Hungary. They were loyal to Hungary. They loved Jewish Hungary. They loved the Jewish people, they loved Israel, the United States, but they wouldn’t buy into Nazi Hungary.
They wouldn’t buy into Communist Hungary. So they described ’em as not a real enemy, even though leaving the country lost two good people. And who knows maybe more if they’d had more kids. Only because they despised them so much. They just didn’t wanna, it wasn’t worth speaking out or being so vocal after seeing what had happened both in World War II and in Hung Revolution where, It just got, squelched.
So in the end they were, my dad was a real enemy, but they just didn’t realize it. And that’s the twist and turn. But that saved his life too, the way he was very smart to, to not save more than he had to, to not buy into whatever people were trying to sell. And about the communist world, and I call it the dark world because for my mom and dad, it was 20 years of a dark world, maybe even more if you think about it.
Stephen: Plans for your next
Robert: book plans. Okay. I have three in the back of my head, whether they get on pencil and paper. I don’t know. By far this book will have been my most important book, and I’m still working so hard at it just to try to get the word out. So it would probably be at least a year or two before I would do that, and I would probably get help from my co-author and, that’s a lot more time and a lot more expense and but we’ll see.
That would be part two of my dad’s story. So look, his, this book only gets my, get my parents to Vienna, Austria, and they end up gonna the United States. And that story itself is harrowing and how they tried to survive in Providence, Rhode Island and Boston. And there’s funny story, New York Detroit.
So there’s enough material in there for, it’d be a much smaller book and certainly less harrowing, but still interesting. If you were into it, makes you, it would make you appreciate, like I do, how hard it is for foreign medical grads to succeed in a foreign country. Not only to do a medical school and do a residency, but to do it in a second language.
It makes you realize that. And they got through it. They spoke English as well as anybody. They had accents, but they were well as well, read and spoke English as well as anybody. So that would be one this is a spoiler, but the things they don’t teach in med school would be an autobiography, but it would be comedy, it would be some ama, my mo, my most amazing stories and experiences.
Every doctor probably has a book in them. And I’ve heard this from more than one person. And many doctors have written a lot of ’em about medicine, but they could write autobiographies or the things they’ve seen or but for me it would be more than just my stories. It would be pre-med, gross anatomy, the classes that the Wards, internship, residency partnership tracks, insurances, burnout.
Insurances would be actually probably more than one chapter. Legal issues. The things they don’t teach in med school and the classes that I probably blew off when I was in med school if it wasn’t gonna be on the boards, I was over at the basketball court playing with the U of M guys playing, whatever, get exercise I could in the middle of a busy day otherwise and get the notes from somebody.
I didn’t do with that a lot, but once in a while if you just would break out of a class Those things. A lot of it was about HMOs back then and PPOs and nobody cared because we had a normal system or what we thought was normal, the Medicare, Medicaid and Michigan Blue or whatever.
Florida blue it was pretty basic. And now it’s so complicated. Yeah. Not that I’m an expert at it, but it’s it would be part of it how that’s changed medicine burnout. So there’s a lot of material that I could do in a book the things they don’t teach you in med school.
And the thing about it is that every, everybody could write that same book. And it would, they’d all be so unique that but mine would be so it’d be dictatorial, autobiography teaching, make sure this is what you wanna do, make sure this is, you’re going into something you expect.
And also the gratification of it. So I. And then the fourth book would be, and I’m no expert, but I’m, I’m sort, I’m a, I know more about it than most people, I would say is how to invest in a bear market, because I’ve been in and out of a lot of bearer markets. I’ve saved and invested. I’m debt free. I read up about, I’m, I’ve been, I watch C N B C every day.
I I used to read Barons every day Investors Business Daily value line. So I’d say short of being a del running a mutual fund for Fidelity or Vanguard, which is a secondary career over the years that I thought would’ve been pretty cool. I know enough that I could write a book for beginners on how to invest in the bear market.
Start with Johnson and Campbell Soup. Worked with, dividends reinvested in taxes, and we can talk about day trading. I day traded for a year. I did pretty well, but it wasn’t this last year, which was horrible. But the year before, when the, we hit the covid bottom, I day traded for a year.
But I wouldn’t recommend that for most people. But again, health insurances disability insurances life insurance, that kind of thing. But just how to invest and stay with it and stay the course. Trust your country. Trust the system. Try not to get off the page. That’s a, so that would be a, that would be a short book.
And, the only way I could do that would be get credibility as an author and what kind of credibility you have. Probably a self-published book, that kind of thing. ’cause I’m not an M B A I always thought about getting in the M B A, but that would be, By far, like I said, the chances are I won’t do three books.
Maybe another one, if I did another one, it would probably be let’s see if this book’s re well received, if it is, probably do a part two of my dad’s story. But the things they don’t teach in med school, I think could be a funny, a Woody Allen with a humor in it and the comedy, but also a se serious component to it where, it’s actually useful to people, especially college kids that are interested in going to, to medical
Stephen: school, right?
Correct. Yeah. Okay. Let me ask you, Rob you yourself, do you like to read and what are some of your favorite books and authors? I,
Robert: I do like to read. I wish I had more time to read. I’ve been so crazy busy with this book. Like I said, the first 30 years of my life, I have very little extra time.
I used to like Shakespeare. I read a lot of Shakespeare books over the years. I liked Isaac Asimov as a kid. You’re gonna laugh. No surprise, whoever wrote Exodus the second book. In the five books of Moses in the Old Testament obviously a lot of people wrote Exodus, and it’s been probably redefined and rewritten over many years.
But why wouldn’t it be Exodus? It’s a story of the Hebrews escaping Egypt. Or getting, leaving Egypt. Why wouldn’t that be my favorite? So that’s a favorite story of mine. I read a lot of newspapers. I love the Boston Globe. I love the New York Times. Currently, I would have to say Mitch Alba, a fellow Michigander I loved.
He used to do a radio show when I was in medical school in Ann Arbor. Loved his radio show. Loved his sports column in the Detroit Free Press. I still think he writes for them. And of course he’s a guest often on espn, but he’s also a book writer and an author, and he’s written four or five novels by now, if I’m not mistaken.
And like Tuesdays with more it comes to mind and Right, the five people you meet in heaven. I would have to say that that he’s a probably my favorite as far as contemporary. I know a lot of people love Stephen King. My, my wife included my ex-wife. She loved Stephen King. I liked his movies, but I never really had the patience to read.
But she, she loved him. So I’d say Mitch album right now, I would be one of the guys that I can relate to.
Stephen: Okay. Yeah. Good. Oh, go ahead. No, please
Robert: finish. Yeah, and and now I’m so I’m, I read like page 10 to page 20 to page 30 of fellow authors Holocaust books. Not that I’m a big Holocaust genre reader, but I do like to hear about other people’s stories.
It’s just hard to find time and, people do reviews from my book and you’re supposed to reciprocate a little bit. It’s hard ’cause, there’s certain rules. Amazon doesn’t really want you to reciprocate back and. I will get to that. And there are so many good books. I’ve got a pile in my house here that to read and it’s still on the list.
And the next time somebody asks me that, hopefully I’ll read one or more of those and say, this is a great one. And this one, I do have one here that a long walk, which I haven’t finished, but I’ve read part of it. It’s a really it’s another escape, an escape story and different set of circumstances.
Then reflections is Agie Rubin. She’s also written this with a co-author. She’s since passed away unfortunately. But she was a friend of the family back in Michigan over the years so she did, she used to do talks on the Holocaust and they’re both very good books in their own right.
And I haven’t quite finished ’em, but getting through ’em, there’s just so many. I, yeah, it’s just amazing.
Stephen: Yeah. We were gonna talk a little bit of author stuff some advice for authors. So writing this book, it wasn’t like a long-term plan, you just fell into it. What are some things that you’ve learned that if you do your other books that you’re going to do different and things you would tell new authors to watch out for?
Robert: Everybody wants a piece of, that’s for sure. Every day we’ll start backwards. Instagram, Facebook, so I’m on Instagram, I’m on Facebook. I’ve got a Facebook author page. I’m on Twitter, I’m on LinkedIn. I get trolls everywhere every day. We’ll help you pump the book, but we’ll help you do this and that.
Do you need graphic design? Do you need and no. So look out for, I see how many people are following you. How many people are you following? I look at the demographics. If they even have a typo, one typo in their proposal to me or in their pitch, you’re out. You’re, you lose your credibility.
Editing that kind of thing. And I make typos too, but I, my book’s already out so I don’t have to, if I make a typo, but I edit my own posts and because that you’re reflected as an author about how you post so the trolls, so that eliminates a lot of the people too. Working backwards, don’t pay anybody by the hour.
Pay them by the job. Don’t pay them. Don’t pay everybody all upfront. Pay them maybe half an hour or a third now, and then the rest on delivery. That’s another piece of advice. My graphic designer was amazing, but we did it all. There was a lot of trust there overseas. It was all done on the. On by email and Venmo or whatever.
And no phone calls, no, no snail mail addresses. All done electronically. A little strange guy did a great job. But I’ve, I worked with people that were a little more seedy and not, and I, there’s no way to avoid it. I can’t say that enough, especially if you don’t wanna spend a lot of money if you’re not gonna.
Spend money, then it’s gonna be harder. You’re gonna have to just accept doing things yourself. But advice, if you do have the money, if you do have the time, hire people to help you. Hire a good copy editor. Book polishing. If you have a good author. If you want a co-author, they should be able to help you polish the book.
If you’re lucky enough to, if you go to Amazon and you self-publish, they should edit the book at least one time around for you as well. And when we had a publisher the publishing company also had their own editor, it’s plenty of editing, but I was lucky enough to find a good copy editor in Massachusetts and she was meticulous, but even then, A lot of changes were made in the book so there’s that other advice,
Stephen: oh, go ahead. I was gonna interrupt. Amazon doesn’t do any editing,
Robert: At all. I don’t know. I, so I was told nothing. Yeah.
Stephen: If you self-publish with Amazon or any of the others, whatever you put up, that’s what gets put out. Amazon will run. Some checking through to see if they can find spelling errors or grammar errors, things like that.
Not extensively. Okay. It’s just an automated robot thing. And you could even say, no, these are all correct and skip it. And they’ll just say, okay, there you go. Yeah, Amazon’s just, you’re all on your own. You gotta find your own publisher or editor. Okay.
Robert: I would recommend doing that.
I wouldn’t just most writers, I. I was raised with science and math as my love biology and chemistry and anatomy. Those were my, this whole English and history, this is all new to me. I wasn’t that great a history or English student back in there were my, my, my worst grades high school.
That was okay, but, came to college. It’s a whole other level, let alone trying to get your PhD in any of that. But you don’t have to do that. You can still be a good writer, but don’t just say it’s good enough. Or the book, I would say. Beta reads are good too. I recommend beta reads once the final product’s done.
If you know somebody who’s an avid reader or somebody who’s in the business, it’s always good to hand on that. That way you can get connections. ’cause beta readers tend to know other beta readers. They might know other editors, and even a publisher or too. So that’s that would be some advice to give.
And then, like I said earlier, vet, vet out your agents that would re, that would really show. Don’t have high expectations is another thing. Have, have reasonable expectations. But and I like when I applied to medical school, not so much medical school, but residency, I applied to tons and tons of residencies.
So it’s okay to apply to to tons and tons of people, but do it one at a time, kind of space it out. I think that if people find out you’re, I. Your bulk or your spam a querying a lot of agents and publishers at one time. I think that’s they lose interest that way because and not only
Stephen: that, they, a lot of times when you do that, you send it to people, agents or publishers that very clearly say, we’re only accepting science fiction at the moment.
And you’re sending them a romance or,
Robert: exactly. And I’m good that’s a little homework. That’s, and that’s my coauthor really helped. The original version of the book I did with the help of somebody else. We did query the original version of the book and it was about, 15, 20 agents and most of ’em actually got back to me, said, we’re not interested in, thank you for the thing.
It’s, thank you for the, the submission. We’re just not interested in it right now. At least they got back to me. But when I queried with the final product with Janice. Somebody said, we’ll get back to you next week. Never heard back from ’em. Most ghosted. And then the one, we got Amsterdam publishers, she said we’re full now in January but query again in May.
I. I remembered it and then my co-author didn’t even remember. And that literally we had exhausted our possibilities, at least the short-term possibilities ’cause we hadn’t heard from, and we were lit, literally ready to to self-publish. And that’s okay too. Most people are self-publishing. I’m not, I would’ve been happy to do that.
Maybe have a little more of a, handle, more of a control of what you do. Your marketing. You plan on doing most of the marketing yourself, even if a publisher says they’re gonna help you market. They they’re busy too. My own publisher, she’s, they’re putting out three books a month and she’s a small publisher and in the city of Amsterdam.
And it’s a, it’s the biggest publisher in the Netherlands, but that’s busy for for very small staff. That’s it. Plan on doing some of the marketing yourself and what else? And be weary of boutique publishers is another thing. You might wanna pick up a boutique publisher. I’m not sure there’s much of an advantage to that, except you’re gonna spend a little bit of money and you’ll still end up having to market your book yourself.
Either self-publish or if you’re lucky you get a traditional publisher. If you’re real lucky, you would get a random house or a, a hot and Mifflin or something, but I’m sure they’re getting thousands of queries a day I’m trying to think what else. There’s, ask me a specific question I can probably answer.
And everybody’s gonna have their own, everybody’s gonna have their own unique story, mine’s different. I didn’t even when I wrote the book, so being a radiologist on the left of two screens on the left is The patient work list, the queue, and on the right are the images. So when I did my dad’s autobiography, on the left screen was his autobiography, and on the right screen I was dictating the biography through word.
So instead of, writing or typing, so it’s not really, but I’ve been dictating for 30 years. That’s what I do for a living is I dictate cases. So that made it a little more natural for me.
Stephen: Oh, that’s in. Oh so lemme ask you about that real quick. ’cause I know dictation is something a lot of authors have said, help them get more words in and that, and I never thought about that, that in the medical field there’s a lot of dictation.
So you dictated the book. So it did text or did speech to text, and then did you go back and read it to edit and add to it? Yeah,
Robert: I had to, yeah. Then and then copy edited and then polished and then redone and then, yeah. But that was how I started doing it. When I actually, when I was, when Janice mailed me back her version of it, and I edited, yeah, I edited on the computer screen.
It was just so much. You’ve got word pro, you’ve got the Word document. It’s easy to scroll. The letters are bigger. You’re comfortable, you’re in a good position. You’re not cuddled in your bed or huddled in the sofa. You’re you’re working, you’re in a working, I walk away from the office, I walk away from the desk.
I’m not doing it. But when I’m here, I’m doing it, and Patience is another thing. And also if you write a emotional book about mine, some people procrastinate and I’m a procrastinator too, but I gave myself a sort of time limit. I gave myself a year to do this book and stuck with it.
I it wasn’t, once I got rolling the momentum the momentum continued, but it was hard just getting rolling, getting that. But what, but be patient with the work and don’t fight yourself about procrastination. If you need a day off or two. So for me it was the emotional part of the book.
So what happened to my dad’s parents and some of these other sad stories, I had to just take some time off and don’t fight that. I think go to the, take a walk. Clear your. Be patient about querying. Don’t be discouraged if if you don’t get accepted by a publisher or an agent. It still could be a good book.
And the same with sales. Sales are tough to come by. It’s very competitive business. It’s a very fickle business. Escape artists right now, or Holocaust related stories. Some I’ve heard about Holocaust fatigue. I’ve heard about physicians trying to do side hustles just to make extra bucks.
I’m not into any of that. I’m just trying to spread the message about antisemitism and how perilous and how to let’s avoid it here. And the stories are entertaining. They’re amazing. And but yeah you gotta be patient and you can’t be too hard on yourself. And it’s a bonus.
People that write a book they’re thinking outside of the box. They’re doing something different than just going to work every day or going to the grocery store or raising children or that kind of thing there. There’s more to life. There’s more to life than food and water And everybody has a book in them.
And Stephen ca I’m so impressed, like John Grisham and Stephen and Shakespeare even maybe the greatest of all time. How did they write and write and just have and do it, just do it so well. It’s admirable, but, so for me to do this, if I can do it anyway, can do it. I’ll just say that too.
It’s just, it’s it’s just, it was fun at times. It’s fun now. It’s still work because talking to people and try, but I love doing this. I love sharing with people, meeting people getting people to say, when somebody says, I bought the book, or somebody says, I read the book and they send it in a personal message or something that makes my day that’s all I wanna one day, one person.
Sometimes it’s five people and sometimes I’ll go a week with the bad thing, a week of trolls or people that don’t agree with what I’m saying. I’ll get the haters. I get the haters and I, they slip through and I, hey, Bring it on. I’ll let’s talk about this. Let’s get you in a classroom.
Let’s talk. By the way, that’s my ultimate goal is to get this book obviously libraries, museums on people’s shelves and on bookshelves. It is actually on Barnes and Noble’s bookshelves, some of ’em so far. But you can, anybody can go into any Barnes and Noble store and we can talk about where else you can get the book.
But you can go to any Barnes and Noble store and order the book, and they’ll have it shipped to your home. So even if they don’t have it on the shelves at your Barnes and Noble it’s possible to buy. But yeah, it, it takes patience and it takes it, it’s a different, it’s a different ballgame.
It’s a completely different animal than practicing medicine. When I walked in, when I walk, look at my work queue, the work’s ready for me. If I go to the hospital, whoever was in the emergency room last night, whatever’s admitted their CT scans, their x-rays, it’s all there. The work’s waiting for you.
And it’s relatively finite. God forbid a plane crashes. There’s a lot of casualties. But your work is still finfin. I you still, you can still get your work done on a day. Marketing a book, writing a book. It’s seemingly infinite. It’s if I haven’t told everybody about the book, then I haven’t done my job.
And gotta be reasonable. I’m not gonna pitch my book in North Korea or Iran or China necessarily, although I’m sure a lot of Chinese people would be, if the book could get to China. I’m sure a lot of Chinese people be interested in this book, right? Yeah. Sub-Saharan Africa, they’re so farfetched.
Antarctica. It’s a farfetched. In those are India would be a long shot. A great place. South Africa, difficult to get the book in. It’s an English speaking country. But so right now I’m focused on the United States, England, Canada, Australia. It would be wonderful to have the book translated in Hungarian, sold in Hungary.
It’d be wonderful to have the book translated into Hebrew sold in Israel. I’m realistic. Those are long shots. We’re working on an audio book too. That’s another thing. It’s another set of it’s another set of chores. It’s not It’s it, and I’m still learning as I go. I’m learning something every day.
And that’s the other thing about doing a book. It’s stimulating if you’re, if you haven’t done it or if you’ve done it a lot, write a book, it’s cool. Or write a, an article to start, write an article to a newspaper or I was writing articles to Harrow, h a r o, help a reporter out. I didn’t get a lot of traction with that, but I met some people and I haven’t given up on that.
But my, my energies have been diverted elsewhere, obviously.
Stephen: Nice. Great. Rob it’s, it is been really fascinating listening to you about this story and your father’s journey and all that. I think it’s great. I appreciate you taking some time to chat with us and the advice today. So I do wish you luck on the book.
I hope it does well and I’d love to see something else the follow up to this. Oh,
Robert: I appreciate you saying that. So not a real enemy. The true story of Hungarian Jewish mans Fight for Freedom is available on Amazon. Of course. English speaking Amazon so far Barnes and Noble, online or at the stores?
Walmart I’m proud to say at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. C It’s on the shelves there, so that’s nice too. So nice. That’s pretty awesome. I’ve donated quite a few books too to other Holocaust museums, the one in South Africa, and to a couple here in Florida and more to come.
But and I do donate some books from time to these big organizations, and I’m working now to do Holocaust Museum talks. Maybe a few in Texas and Chicago so far. There’s so many places to query. There’s so many places to reach out to. I can’t say that enough to authors too with, without being obnoxious or, you, you have to swallow your humility pill, but there’s good narcissism and bad narcissism.
I learned this early on. You gotta go with the good narcissism. You have to have confidence, but you don’t wanna, you don’t wanna overdo it. And that, that’s part of it too. Somebody will say, stop sending me this, or stop telling me about it. It’s it’s like those commercials you hear again and again on, you have the same commercials.
Can’t you guys come up with something fresh?
Stephen: Rob, do you have a website that people could go to? And I
Robert: do. I’m at Robert J. Wolf md.com. Robert, J as in Joseph Wolf, no, e Robert J. Wolf md.com. There’s a link on every page to purchase the book. And there’s a little bit of the history of the book.
I’ve got, I’ve done 15 TV interviews, I’ve done multiple podcasts. A lot of the content is in there. Photographs of both wars. Reviews are on there. You get a lot more detail and there’s a good there’s a 20 minute video about the Hung revolution, if you wanna see that, if you’re into the history and that kind of thing you can reach out, you can send me an email, Robert at Robert J.
Wolfe md.com. If you wanna ask more about the book, I’m happy to do that. And like I said, I’m on social media. Just if you Google not a real enemy or if you Google Robert J. Wolf md you’ll find me somewhere at the top of the list. So easy to find. And And let’s fight antisemitism.
Let’s make our country, let’s make our country tolerant. Let’s love our neighbor. I don’t wanna sound corny. I don’t wanna sound like just some I’m just preaching to the choir. But it’s heartfelt. I mean it, and when people read the book, they say, damn this this could happen to me.
This, it could be a bad neighbor, it could be a bad government, local government, my own government, a foreign government. But I could global warming a natural disaster. We could end, any one of us could end up. On the run or homeless or starving or, and just in a completely different safe situation daily that most of us fortunately haven’t had to experience.
Stephen: Great. Alright Rob thank you for taking so much time talking to us today. I appreciate you. A pleasure. I appreciate Thank you.
Robert: Pleasure meeting you. Thank you so much. Hope you enjoy the book if you get
Stephen: to read it. Yes, that sounds great.