Cover

The cover of “Love, Bill: Finding My Father Through Letters From World War II.”

Jan Krulick-Belin’s father was a Jewish World War II veteran. But she only recently began seeing that side of him.

“It wasn’t a part of my growing up. And I almost wonder if Dad would’ve even talked a lot about his experiences in the war at all,” she said.

Krulick-Belin’s dad, Isidore William Krulick, died in 1960 when Jan was 6 years old, of multiple myeloma. Most of her life, all she knew of her father was from her childhood memories and bits of knowledge she pieced together.

“Early on, I just really learned that my mom didn’t want to talk about it,” she said. In 2001, Jan’s mom gave her a box of nearly 100 love letters Bill had written to her during the war, before they were married.

“When she gave them to me in 2001, she made me promise not to read them until after she had passed,” Jan said. Her mom, Dorothy Schwartz Krulick, passed away a year later, but it wasn’t until 2007 that Jan read them.

“I guess there was a little part of me that didn’t want to destroy that image I had of my father, just in case,” she said.

The letters led her on a journey that took her from her home in Phoenix to Morocco, Paris, Germany, and Albany, New York. She retraced her father’s wartime steps through North Africa, where she learned about the fate of Moroccan Jews and met people who’d known her dad. Her newly rereleased book, “Love, Bill: Finding My Father Through Letters From World War II,” chronicles her pilgrimage to find the father she thought she’d lost forever.

Her adventures led to a deeper understanding of her father, and of herself.

“We all inherit a lot of things from our parents, and part of what I needed to find out was who I am vis-à-vis my father,” she said. “What was my legacy from him?”

She learned her father was a deep thinker, a straight shooter and a great writer, who dreamed of one day opening a bookstore.

In his letters, he wrote about the isolation he felt being older than the people he was surrounded by. He worked in administration during the war; he enlisted when he was 32 because of the moral conviction he felt.

“When there is no war, killing is murder, but now it’s salvation,” he wrote in one letter to Jan’s mom in 1942. “There are others who must be protected, and that is our only means to halt mass murder. For us who are Jewish, it is our only hope.”

He wrote about his Judaism. “In the middle of war, he felt more in touch with God,” Krulick-Belin said. “He didn’t need a synagogue to pray in. There was a lot of that kind of philosophizing about who he was as a Jew.”

Krulick-Belin was raised as a Conservative Jew in New York, but she thinks living a Jewish life was more important for her father than her mother. “I think we would have been a lot more observant, had my father been alive longer,” she said.

Learning about her dad’s connection to Judaism and the history of Moroccan Jews made Krulick-Belin more aware and appreciative of her roots and traditions, she said. It gave her “pride in my heritage, and my family.”

Krulick-Belin planned to spend Veteran’s Day Zooming into a few programs by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

“It’s only recently that I feel this attachment as a daughter of a WWII veteran,” she said. “I’ve sort of discovered that part of who I am — again, something the book helped me discover about me and my dad.” JN