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Author case study: telling Joe's story of World War II.

In late 1945, just months after being rescued from his German captors by Allied forces, Joseph Moser, who grew up in Ferndale, spoke to his hometown Lions Club about his experience in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. After being shot down just 25 miles outside of Paris, Moser was captured by the Germans and spent nine months enduring the horrors of Hitler's SS. The club members were among the first to hear Moser's story, but as he walked out of the building he heard something that made him keep his story to himself for nearly four decades.

"I was walking out behind several men who didn't know I was there," Moser said. "There was one that said, 'I don't believe a word he said.' So I decided that if people wouldn't believe me, I wouldn't talk about it."

Moser said he had gained 50 pounds while recuperating on a military ship for two months after his rescue, so even his own mother had a hard time believing his 5-foot-6 frame had been reduced to nothing

but skin and bones from starvation. Not even his wife knew the details of his captivity until 1981 when an article was written about him in The Lynden Tribune. After that he was willing to speak to a few groups, including elementary and high schools, about his experience. But it wasn't until January 2009 the whole story was finally printed for all to read.

"This is a story that needs to be told," said Gerald Baron, ghost-writer of "A Fighter Pilot in Buchenwald."

In September 2006 Moser's cousin, a friend of Baron's, convinced them to write the book. From then until December 2008, Baron, owner of Baron and Company and founder and CEO of PIER Systems Inc. in Bellingham, would get together with Moser whenever he could to interview him about his experience. The result was a 205-page book published in January by Edens Veil Media, which has been difficult to keep on the shelves of Village Books. Since its release, 226 copies have been sold, including 69 in the first half of March alone.

Baron said he wrote the book mostly for Moser and his family, but also to keep the story alive so future generations don't forget the atrocities that were committed under Hitler's rule. The process lasted longer than Baron expected, due to other business projects he was involved in. It hit some rough spots, too, he said.

"The challenge was that he wouldn't initiate much so I had to pull things from him," Baron said.

Other tough points during the process involved dealing with the sheer weight of Moser's experience. In researching Buchenwald and listening to Moser's stories of the inhumanity he witnessed and experienced, Baron said it was difficult for him to stomach some of the things he learned. When he read "The Buchenwald Report," a book which provided first-hand accounts of the camp, he said he literally became sick. There were points when he had to choose what details to put in the story and which to leave out for the sake of the reader.

Baron sees the final product as more than just another World War II story. It's a testimony to the cost of freedom and a way for him and others to express their appreciation, he said. But mostly, the importance is that Moser is finally able to share his story.

"This is very meaningful to him," Baron said. "Joe is worth it."

Amanda Winters
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Author:Winters, Amanda
Publication:Bellingham Business Journal
Date:Apr 1, 2009
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