Martin Fletcher returns to fiction

By Masada Siegel , Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

NBC’s Martin Fletcher with Masada Siegel in Herzliya, Israel
NBC’s Martin Fletcher with Masada Siegel in Herzliya, Israel

A couple of years ago at a Herzliya beachside café in Israel, I shared a coffee with NBC Correspondent Martin Fletcher. I had interviewed him via Skype earlier in the year for a story and when I said I was going to be in Israel, he suggested we meet.

During our conversation, he mentioned he was searching for a compelling story for a novel. He tossed around ideas but clearly had not found the one.

When I recently asked him how he chose the topic for his latest novel, Jacob’s Oath (St. Martin’s Press), Fletcher explained that a friend asked him: “Why would a German Jewish Holocaust survivor decide to stay in Germany?”

“I thought, what a great question,“ Fletcher said.

“It’s my first venture into pure fiction, but fiction based on a very authentic story, time and place, based on massive research,” Fletcher said of Jacob’s Oath.

An NBC News special correspondent, Fletcher has won five Emmy Awards, a Columbia University duPont Award, and five Overseas Press Club Awards. He also served as the former NBC News bureau chief in Tel Aviv for many years. His 2010 book, Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation, received the American National Jewish Book Award.

Fletcher returns to the DJCC’s Cultural Arts and Book Fest Nov. 19 to discuss his latest foray into historical fiction.

He is a masterful storyteller whether on the front lines of a war with a camera crew or sitting in front of his computer creating a cast of characters from his imagination.

Jacob’s Oath is set in Germany at the conclusion of World War II. The characters struggle to return to lives they lived prior to the war.

“Not much has been written about the aftermath of World War II,” Fletcher said. “Novels are usually about the more dramatic periods of the build-up to war, the war itself, and then the new world after the war. What fascinates me about the first few months after the end of the war in May 1945 is the period of anarchy, the transition, the bewilderment of 20 million refugees clogging the roads of Europe trying to go home, yet ultimately, there is no home.”

He said part of his interest in the post-World War II refugees comes from his career reporting on wars and disaster zones across the globe for 35 years.

Fletcher understands the emotions of people experiencing war and devastation as often in his news stories he focuses on human suffering.

He’s observed refugees’ powerful will to survive despite enormous tragedies. Fletcher said that often in life the human spirit survives tragedy not by great achievements but rather by taking one step at a time forward into the future.

“My family is from Austria although my mother was born in Germany and moved to Vienna when she was 9,” Fletcher said. “They were dominant as I wrote my last book, The List, about the experience of Jewish refugees in London. In this book, Jacob’s Oath, I researched the period and the place but my own family history was not part of it. But coming from the kind of background I come from, the Holocaust is always present and as I wrote in the acknowledgements, the story sort of wrote itself — it sprang from somewhere deep inside me — especially the development of the characters. I felt I had been there.”

Fletcher also brings to light the little-known but important actions of the Jewish Brigade’s unit known as the Tilhas Tizig Gesheften.

The TTG was formed immediately following World War II. Under the guise of British military activity, this group of the Jewish Brigade engaged in the assassination of Nazis and facilitated the illegal immigration of Holocaust survivors to Palestine. These assassination squads killed former SS and Nazi officers who had participated in atrocities against European Jews.


DJCC’s Cultural Arts & Book Fest presents NBC News Correspondent Martin Fletcher on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. at Temple Israel, 130 Riverside Dr. The program is sponsored by the Brandeis-Joffe Scholarship Fund of the Dayton Jewish Federation Foundation. Admission is free. R.S.V.P. to Karen Steiger at 853-0372 by Nov. 13.


To view the print version of the November 2013 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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