Saturday, May 12, 2007

Presenting my mother

In Yad Vashem, over the last couple of years I have spoken to a great number of smaller and larger groups of pupils, students and soldiers, to thousands of them.
Using a power point projection, I tell the story of a Jewish family, before during and after the Shoa, some who perished and some who survived, the story of my family, showing pictures, reading a letter and a poem.

More often than not they are awe stricken after I finish with the reading of one of my poems about the Connecting Path that connects Mt. Herzl with Yad Vashem, the past with the present, my world with the world of my mother who perished in Auschwitz.

It happens frequently that somebody comes up to me and asked for my address. Recently one of these soldiers came to visit me at my home together with his girlfriend. We had a long conversation and I gave the girlfriend a little booklet with the translation of my mother’s letters to me, which she promised to return after she had read it.

Yesterday there was a very gentle knock on the door.
The girlfriend, a student of history and theater, who lives in Ofrah came in, to return the booklet.
At first she was a bit shy , but then I asked her what she thought of the letters, what impression had she got of the person who wrote letters.

After a long moment of contemplating she said:

“Your mother’s ardent wish to succeed to come to Palestine shows that she was a very strong personality, determent to go ahead. She never gave in, tried and tried again.
She must have been a strong person.
When she found out that they could not get away from Germany as a whole family, she managed to send her children away, one after the other, so that they should be spared from what was to come.
Also her mother, who had always lived with her, left at the age of 75 to join her son in Portugal. That must have been very hard for her.

It is remarkable that in her letters to you she did not complain at all. She took an interest in what her children did, how they got on with life. She talks about living between hope and despair, coping with their daily working life, visiting friends, celebrating birthdays under these special circumstances far away from those they loved and about the very special loving and caring relationship with her husband.
Their love for each other comes through very strongly in the letter she wrote to you, when you were only seventeen and a half and about to get married.
That is a lovely letter.”

To hear these words spoken to me about my mother is very soothing.

For years I have tried to portray as to who my parents really were, to take them out of the anonymity, to give them a face of real people, with values and feelings, who cared for us children and for each other.

May be in a small way I succeeded to bring this across.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

”Transportation of the Jews by the Reichsbahn 1941-1945”

As often as possible I go to listen to lectures on many different subjects and considered but could not quiet make up my mind to go to the Goethe Institute in Jerusalem to hear a lecture about the ”Transportation of the Jews by the Reichsbahn 1941-1945” by Alfred Gottwaldt, Abteilungsleiter Landverkehr auf Schienen, Oberkustos, Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin,
Would he have something new to talk about? Or have I heard enough on the subject? In the end I went.
It was a well prepared lecture, presenting a difficult subject in an orderly manner, using power point presentation, showing various documents hitherto not talked about, and little known. He published his research in a book of many pages, which he passed around so that we could look at it.
In his talk he gave a few examples, showing photos, mentioning names and the fate of the person. I recognized one of the women who survived, having been in the women orchestra playing the cello and was liberated in Bergen Belsen.
Each transport of Jews is recorded, how many persons, when and from where it left to what destination, what wagons where used.
I tried to talk to him after the lecture, wanting to let him know how much I appreciated listening to his well- prepared lecture.
Unfortunately and elderly man was talking to him none stop and another man standing in line.
I gave up and went home. Instead I wrote an e.mail to him, telling him how much I appreciated his lecture and mentioned the fact that my parents were on a transport from Berlin to Theresienstadt, on the 5.of November 1942 asking him what was known about that.
He promptly answered giving me the following detail:
This transport being a small one, people were sent in two old third class carriages, hooked up onto the regular train from Berlin to Prague via Dresden stopping in Theresienstadt. The train left Berlin early in the morning and arrived at the Ghetto in the afternoon of the same day.
For years I have been wondering about my parents fate, imagining all sorts of scenes like those that I read about in books and reports.
Until their deportation I had received many long handwritten letters from Berlin via Portugal to England, telling me how they fared, my father doing forced labor, my mother in an old age home. My mother described whom they met and who had been sent away address unknown. She wrote that they had celebrated Purim or Chanuka, prepared birthday tables for each other, received guests and visited people.
All the time worrying about us children dispersed all over the world, hoping one day to be united with us. And then there were only a few more Red Cross letters of 25 words and that too stopped one day.
Now, after 60 years I received this firsthand information.
In my sleep and in my waking hours I try to visualize two prematurely old looking people huddled together in this train, worried as to where they were going, loving and caring for each other, helping others in need, as was their custom.
Did they know the truth how it all would end? Could I have helped, had I been with them? I will never know the answer.
Grateful for the relevant information, I thanked Alfred Gottwaldt for his speedy reply.

However many years may have passed, for me there might always be some more detail gleaned form listening to a lecture or reading an article or book.