Chantal, France, Claudie, and Pierre Juliard with their aunt, Andrée Juliard, as refugees in southern France.
After more than four decades at the helm of his family’s food services business, Lynmar Brock Jr. is drafting a new career as an author. His most recent work is a saga that’s close to home.
“I know my own family history upside and downside,” says Brock, a descendant of John Alden, said to be the first Pilgrim to set foot on Plymouth Rock. But Brock found himself drawn to the background of his wife, Claudie. “I wanted our sons, Christopher and Andrew, to know their mother’s family history” – one that is filled with tales of narrow escapes from the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II.
The result is In This Hospitable Land (published by AmazonEncore as a print edition and for the Kindle e-reader), a fictionalized account of the survival of Claudie’s secular Jewish clan in Vichy France. The book follows her father, André Juliard; his brother, Alexandre; and their families – including two-year-old Claudie – after they flee Belgium and find refuge among Protestant farmers in southern France. Most members of Claudie’s extended family perished at Auschwitz.
“Brock manages to craft an inspiring tale of universal brotherhood,” Kirkus Reviews writes of the book by the longtime member of the Rotary Club of Philadelphia and 1992-94 RI director.
Early on, Brock knew he had the makings of a good story. He and Claudie had done extensive interviews of her family in 1969-70 using a handheld tape recorder. “Two brothers married two sisters, and they all lived together their entire lives. When the war came, my father-in-law was a professor of chemistry at the Free University of Brussels,” Brock says. Though the conversations in the book are re-imagined, one of André’s true-life encounters, with Albert Einstein on a train, is faithful to the incident. (André is awestruck, but Einstein is affable and approachable and treats him as an equal in science.)
Brock, Claudie, and other members of her family returned to southern France a number of times. “I would begin to fill in the blanks in the timeline and in the events, as they remembered them and as the documents came forward,” he says. “I am confident that the facts in this book are correct. The dialogue is my imagination.”
The book is rich in detail, the result of Brock’s journalistic insistence on corroborating documents, including those that tell of escapes by the narrowest of margins. “We have a photocopy of arrest orders from the Gestapo to the gendarme,” he says. “Orders were issued at 1:45 a.m. to go up to the farm and arrest the two brothers. The Germans knew the date they had come into France. They knew their ID card numbers, knew their country of birth. They had the names of the wives and the children. It was astounding.”
By dawn the police were at the farm, but the resistance had gotten wind of the planned arrest and spirited the brothers away to a hideout in the mountains, several kilometers away. “One month later, the orders came to arrest the women and children,” Brock says. Once again, the resistance found out about it in time.
André, a pacifist, later joined the Maquis resistance. Brock’s first book, Must Thee Fight (2006), has a similar protagonist: his Quaker great-great-great-grandfather who fought in the American Revolution. Brock, himself a Quaker, joined the U.S. Navy in 1956, a few months after graduating from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. “I didn’t know whether I would become a conscientious objector or join the military. I finally determined that if I believed we needed a military establishment, I would not ask somebody to go in my place.”
In 1959, Brock joined his father at Brock & Company, now a 600-employee business based in the Philadelphia area. (Andrew is the current CEO; Christopher, who helped transfer the family’s four-decade-old audiotapes to a digital format, works in the entertainment industry in California.)
Past RI President Charles C. Keller, a longtime friend, says Brock’s creative flurry took him by surprise. “I had known him primarily through Rotary, but all of a sudden he started writing. In This Hospitable Land was an exciting book.”
From 2001 to 2004, Brock helped lead Rotary’s Afghan Refugee Relief Effort, which raised $1.9 million to aid 50,000 displaced people. “Lyn Brock is a Rotarian of the first quality whom I have worked with for many, many years,” says Past RI President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson. “His efforts, both on the Board of Directors and as the leader of the Afghan project, were sensational, and I was proud to have served with him.”
Brock is now working on a sequel to Must Thee Fight. Another novel, Geneviève, about an American sailor who meets a French girl, was released in September. “Coming from Dartmouth, which was all men, then going into the navy,” Brock says, “you dream of this lovely girl. That book is what she became.”