I Shall Not Die
A Personal Memoir
By Hart N. Hasten
Gefen Publishing House, 2003, 364 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - November 22, 2010
When one combines several elements in a single man, the result is an interesting, informative, and instructive life; and if he writes it, as Hart N. Hasten did, an enjoyable book. Hasten had a remarkable life, and learnt to evaluate and use his experiences well. He knew Israeli Prime Ministers and other significant people, and they called him their friend. He had the intelligence and perseverance to make a phenomenal business success. He tells stories well and can write them clearly. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, a good writer, called him "a raconteur extraordinaire." The Noble Prize winner for literature Elie Wiesel described his book "amusing and dramatic." Rabbi Shlomo Riskin wrote that he "captured the heart and the soul of Jewish History in his very moving autobiography."
Hasten was born in Poland in 1931 to an observant Jewish family. He, his parents, and his brother were able to escape the Nazis in 1941, just days before the Nazis marched in and butchered the rest of his family and other Jews. Hasten tells the poignant story of how his grandfather stood up to the Nazis when they insisted that he cooperate with them, and how they made an example of him by shooting him and his grandson publically.
The family spent years in harsh conditions, but they retained their faith, as they still do today. Hasten, of course, received no formal school education, but he learnt from his life experiences, experiences that he outlines very clearly. When in the Displaced Persons encampments, for example, he learnt about the Zionist Revisionist philosophy of Ze'ev Jabotinsky: Jewish survival depends on physical, spiritual, and communal strength. This led him to become close friends with the Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who also drew his worldview from Jabotinsky. The family arrived in the US in 1951, penniless. Today, the family is prosperous. Hasten is the owner and operator of several successful businesses.
Hasten wrote a Business Mission Statement for his family, which is included in this book. Among other things, this successful religious man states that he is convinced that God played a major role in his parent's decision to leave Poland in 1941. He and his brother are leaving their descendants a significant inheritance: the need to constantly perform good deeds, especially giving charity, ten percent in money and ten percent of time.