Kindergarten Days

The Jewish kindergarten my cousins and I attended (before they were all closed by “the authorities”) was within walking distance of my Aunt Paula’s house, and I loved the walk from her house to school, although I must confess to considerable dithering along the way.    I have a photograph, taken at the time, of the school’s children and their mothers (as well as some of the school staff), but I have no recollections of exactly what it was I did there.  Probably I did the same kind of things that children have always done in kindergarten such as singing, lots of running around and lots of character improving arts and crafts. I just don’t remember.

Whatever it was we, the other children and I, must have enjoyed it because when our nap time came, we hated taking the naps.  Possibly children have always hated naps.  However, my attitude to naps was somewhat different.  I thought that if the adults wanted us to take naps, the chances were that naps were good for us.  I also became aware of the fact that in the afternoon, after a nap, I was much better at whatever I did.   And so, I took naps willingly, whatever the other kids thought of them.

More daring than nap time was cod-liver oil time.  In those days, cod-liver oil was given to children because of the Vitamin D it provided, and because of its preventative qualities against rickets.  However, most of the kids hated it.  I couldn’t quite believe that the stuff tasted as bad as the kids made it out to be.  I sensed some kind of collusion between the kids to just say that the stuff tasted bad.  Nothing could taste quite as bad as they made cod-liver oil to be, especially if it was supposed to be good for you.  So I took my cod-liver oil as I was supposed to, and it didn’t taste great, but it didn’t taste as terrible as my school friends said it did.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already suspicious at this early age of “public opinion”.  I just had to try stuff for myself.

All of this ended when the school was closed.  As you are reading this stuff because you are still interested, I thought I would show you what the kids in my class looked like.  At the bottom left, seated and looking rather serious, am I.  More interesting is the young woman at the top left.  That is my cousin Rosa.  Rosa was the daughter-in-law of my Aunt Paula.  In the photo, she is holding her son, Robert, in her arms.  Robert spent the war years with me at the Couvent St. Joseph.  At the time, while it doesn’t show here, his mother was probably pregnant.  The daughter, to whom she gave birth, Irene, also survived.  Both she and her husband, Rudy, were murdered by the Nazis.  While I don’t remember most of the people in this photo, probably half of the adults were murdered.

Bottom left, seated, me. Top left, with boy in arms, Rosa

About AlexLevy

Dr. Alex Levy is a retired English teacher who survived World War II and the “Final Solution” by hiding in a Catholic orphanage for girls in Belgium for several years.

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