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VOL. 45 | NO. 22 | Friday, May 28, 2021

Pandemic got you down? Give ‘Unstoppable’ a read

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Print | Front Page | Email this story

Nothing can hold you back. You’ve been through the storm and survived, and it’s made you stronger. Now you’ve seen the future, and that’s yours, too.

People can scoff. They’ll loudly express their doubts. You’ll have your detractors but as in the new biography, “Unstoppable” by Joshua M. Greene, once your mind’s made up, it’s full speed ahead.

“Do well in school and always keep kosher.”

Born in West Prussia, Germany, in 1926, Siegbert Wilzig kept those words from his mother in his mind for his entire life. Following her directions wasn’t hard when he was young, but when he was 16, it became almost impossible: Wilzig was arrested while at work by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Surviving by his wits, he learned to rely on his gut feelings and he lied quickly when needed. He was carefully audacious and endured many close brushes with death but following several moves to other camps and locales, Wilzig was finally liberated.

“Unstoppable: Siggi B. Wilzig’s Astonishing Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Penniless Immigrant to Wall Street Legend”

By Joshua M. Greene

Foreword by Deborah Lipstadt

c.2020, 2021, Insight Editions

$29.99

352 pages

In appreciation for two years of service with the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps, postwar, he was granted passage on a boat headed for America at the end of 1947. Within days of his arrival, a blizzard hit New York City, presenting Wilzig with his first business opportunity: Hired to shovel snow for two dollars a day, he found a couple children to do the job for 50 cents apiece and he pocketed the rest of the money.

Never one to miss a chance to better himself, Wilzig constantly looked for more responsibility, more breaks and more money. Always glib and “charming,” he started at a “sweat shop” and worked his way up before setting out on his own in various sales gigs. With his fortune on the rise, Wilzig purchased stocks, learned all he could about the market and he kept his eyes on Wilshire Oil Company.

When he was asked if he’d like to lead a takeover of the company, he leaped.

One can’t accuse author Joshua M. Greene of leaving anything out of “Unstoppable.” It’s exhaustive, but also can be exhausting.

For the first half of this book, readers are told a story that’s jaw-dropping, cringe-worthy and astounding. We’re given a firsthand look at life and death in a concentration camp and the resourcefulness it took to stay alive.

The second half of the book starts out well, with Wilzig’s continued ingenuity and his strategic rise in business. But perhaps because it’s about a much wider window of time, it eventually begins to feel abbreviated and not-so-subtly forced.

It’s also confusing: Greene underscores Wilzig’s charm, making him seem like everyone’s pal, but later shares anecdotes and notable examples that aren’t so charming.

Even so, this literal rags-to-riches story is readable despite the occasional hitch, and its inspirational quality is appealing. Readers looking for that kind of book will find “Unstoppable” to be unforgettable.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.

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