Cover photo:  Actors Stephanie Brait and Kellen York in the world premier staged reading of In the Vise of Evils  (2007)



By Karl Tobien

Author of “Dancing Under the Red Star” 


What is to give light must endure the burning


These are not the words of a philosopher sitting in some cushy office constructing a theory on human existence.  Viktor E. Frankl, the Jewish doctor who survived the hell of Auschwitz, strung these words together from the fibers of his own tortured life.  They are words that both contradict the reigning philosophy of Western culture seeking to define its life in pleasure and comfort; while defining a present day generation that has, sadly, forgotten the pain and suffering that laid the foundations for our society.

In this book, “In the Vise of Evils,” author and playwright, Kalman Kivkovich, pens a passionate and compelling yet heartbreaking portrayal of one such foundation.  One family’s painful Holocaust saga from the rarely recounted Russian perspective, this true story vividly depicts the agonizing tribulations of Kalman’s parents, innocents victimized among the masses, during the mindless malevolent brutality of the Nazi occupation of Poland.

As I experienced during the world premier staged reading of his play, In the Vise of Evils, this book takes a deeply intimate and revealing look into the lives, the loves, and the shattered hopes and dreams of one dear family—his family, my family, your family…during an era of absolutely unparalleled global wickedness the likes of which, let us pray, may we never again relive.  And may eternity kindly recall their smiles.  I highly recommend this book.


Karl Tobien

Author:  “Dancing Under the Red Star”





To my parents, Fryda and Natek Kiwkowicz, for the courage, perseverance and unconditional love - this is their story.


To my family and friends who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and to those who perished.


To my wife, Sandi Kivkovich, my eternal love, partner and friend, without whose encouragement, patience, guidance and dedication, this book would never have been completed or published.




"In the Vise of Evils" is the true story of my own family struggling to survive in the shadows of two merciless EVILS.   It is indeed a product of decades, listening to first-hand stories, interviews and research.   The dialogues, for the most part, have been re-created, constructed based on information gathered, and most importantly laid out in the true spirit.   I have taken the liberty of altering the names and identifying characteristics of a few individuals in order to protect their privacy.  In some situations I have also visualized details to realistically communicate the emotional drama of my family's saga.


1938.  A young Jewish couple, Fryda and Natek, meet at a popular resort in southern Poland.  “In the Vise of Evils” tells the harrowing and nearly miraculous story of how Natek, his fiancée, Fryda, his brothers, Berek and Reuven, and two friends, escape from the Nazis' malevolent claws straight into the Soviets’ vicious jaws.  The group is arrested, crammed into boxcars, and sent on their one-way voyage to hell.  Two years after the brutal arrest and death camp confinement, Stalin finally submits to amnesty of selected Polish subjects.  Natek and Berek, now free, embark on an unforgettable yearlong odyssey to find and to rescue Fryda....