Who inspired the character Mihael Rosenthal? Mihael is a central character of the books 'Whispering Birches', 'Truth in Ash' and 'Blood Orange Blossom. The character has many parallels to a real person Walter Rosenberg aka Rudolf Vrba who played a prominent part in the Auschwitz story. It should be pointed out however that the character representation is fictional and no opinions expressed are actual opinions of this person.
In Tree of Faith, Mihael is a fiery character who refuses to forgive his jailer Franz Wolff. He plans and succeeds in escaping from Auschwitz and then pursues the punishment of the Nazis both by joining the resistance and giving evidence in the post-war trials. His crusade for justice colours his life and leaves him bitter and disllusioned. In real life, Rudolf Vrba was also a strong personality and did attend Franz Wunsch's trial and fight in the Czech resistance. He studied chemistry and defected first to Israel and then moved to Britain and eventualöly Canada. He is famous for his post-war books and most of for having written the Vrba-Wetzler report which was one of the first reports to expose the Holocaust and eventually led to a halt in the Hungarian transports.
What was the report that Mihael writes?
Mihael and Alfred write the Lanik-Pfizer report in the book. In real life, a similar report was written known as the Vrba-Wetzler report. This was written by two Jews who escaped Auschwitz Walter Rosenberg and Alfred Wetzler. The book is fictional and the opinions, actions and background of my characters are not those of the real persons. However, to add authenticity, I kept certain details similar to the real report. It is considered one of the only reliable sources of evidence of the Auschwitz atrocity and I could never do justice to the bravery and intelligence that these two men displayed. Please click here for more.
How would you describe his relationship with Franz and Elena?
Mihael grows up with Franz and sees him as an innocent child, developing into a Hitler youth and then later as a cynical SS guard. His story is a parallel with German society, for these acts were not performed by lunatics but rather by ordinary people indoctrinated with a lunatic ideology. However, Mihael cannot forgive and even when he sees that Franz has changed, he still pursues him with a ruthless vengeance.
What is Mihael's religious significance?
Like many characters, Mihael has a duplicitous role in that he is a proud Jew but has the Orthodox Christian within. He is obviously Archangel Michael the holy warrior who fights evil. Yet, we also see in him faults in that his intolerance and self centred ideology does not forgive. This ultimately isolates and excludes him even from his own people. His rejection of Elena as collaborator contrasts with her acceptance of her husband's past crimes. It is a message that wounds should be allowed to heal and religious hatred only breeds its own destruction.
In 'Truth in Ash' Mihael continues his crusade, but his efforts are frustrated one by one by the powerful influence of religion and the short term nature of the human character. He is also the character symbolising the rejection of religion as seen in his journey to identify his dead friend where he rejects the stench of the hanging man (symbolic of Odin and Paganism), the sun crosses of Orthodox, the broken and distorted mirrors (symbolic of Judaeism) and finally the scene of St Vitus on the Catholic cathedral. Mihael sees the corruption of both his own faith and the other religions and unlike his friend Janek who returns to faith, Mihael rejects the concept of faith, unable to accept man's inherent corruption of faith.