I did not grow up during the Holocaust. I was not a prisoner in Dachau or Auschwitz. I was not freed after the war weighing eighty pounds with typhoid fever, but my father was. I did not have a ten year old child pulled from my arms and sent to Chelmno (one of the first extermination camps), and gassed, but my mother did.
I was born after the war in a displaced persons camp in Germany to these two people who were married about 12 yrs. before the war. My mother and father were separated at Auschwitz. They both miraculously survived horrors beyond belief, and then joyously re-met in the aftermath of the Holocaust and had me. I was a child of renewal, of new hopes, and new dreams, and so I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. It was not easy.
I was an only child and I was cherished and loved, yet the responsibility and fears that came with so much love were enormous. I had no brothers, or sisters, or cousins to share my thoughts or feelings. I was afraid to sleep by myself. I was so scared of losing my parents. I thought catastrophic events just happen to everyone. My parents seemed quite normal to me. They did not dwell on the Holocaust. They were rarely sick. They worked hard and had many friends who were also Holocaust Survivors. They seemed happy in their new life, yet, somehow I always felt their pain. I knew how they had suffered even though they did not talk about it. The only way I can describe it is that it was like DNA transfer; they did not have to talk about it,
I just knew, and so I tried so hard to be the perfect child. I wanted so much to take away their pain and make them happy.
I used to dream about buying them a mansion and beautiful things. I was a child, but I wanted to take care of them. When I got married and had two children of my own, I felt that somehow I was making it up to them for the children and family that they had lost. My parents were so much a part of their grandchildren’s lives, and my two daughters adored their grandparents, and I was happy.
Even though I was a good daughter, there was a part of me that was ashamed that I was an immigrant with a Holocaust background. I grew up watching “Father Knows Best” and longed for that pain free big family. I wanted to be all-American, cool, and sophisticated.
My mother-in-law was a high roller in Las Vegas, had season tickets to the opera and ballet, and did charity work, I longed for that fun care-free life. My husband’s family has Seders with thirty people and that was so different and special to me. I never asked questions about the Holocaust. I never asked about the little girl, my sister, who was taken from my mother’s arms. Perhaps I couldn’t, and perhaps a part of me just ran away.
My parents lived to their mid-eighties and saw their wonderful grandchildren grow up. I know wherever they are they would say I was a wonderful daughter and that gives me a great deal of happiness and peace.
My parents were mentally alert and sharp yet I couldn’t ask questions about the Holocaust. I never asked about my little sister, or how they felt in the days of the Lodz Ghetto when all the children ten and under were taken away. I never could really go there until this year when, with the loving support of my significant other, we decided to take a trip to Eastern Europe.
Part of our trip included Poland, so he and I decided to take a private tour to Lodz - and somehow I had a metamorphosis with connecting to my past. I found out where my parents lived in the Lodz Ghetto (with the help of the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C.) and we went there. My parents lived at 14 Podrzeczna Street and it is one of the very few remaining standing buildings from the time of the ghetto. I also went to the train station at the Lodz Ghetto and to the Lodz cemetery and lit a candle in memory of my family. Most importantly, I traveled to Chelmno where my little sister was taken and gassed, and I lit a candle for her. Somehow I had a feeling of coming home and that she would live in my heart forever.
To complete my journey, we also traveled to Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, and to Yad Vashem in Israel.
When I came home from my long journey I had this feeling of peace about connecting to my past and I was inspired to write this poem to my little sister, Razla. I wrote it in the spirit that all future generations will remember. We will never forget, and perhaps
we will bring peace, respect and tolerance to all people of every race and religion in our troubled world.