Terror was a permanent part of life under the Nazis, for everyone, all the time, but for Jews, it was even worse, as we were the targets of their murderous rage. Although my cousins and I were more or less safe in our orphanage, although definitely not living the lives of normal Jewish children, for the adults on the outside, they were prey, and most of them were caught and murdered. It was as simple as that.
The day after the raid on my aunt’s house, there was still the terror and the question of what to do about my mother. She still had no place to stay, and she just couldn’t be dumped in the street. So my Aunt Paula allowed her to stay for another night at her house. Notice, I don’t say anything about how my uncle felt about this arrangement, but he was a quiet man who generally went along with the decisions of his more forceful wife. There was also the thought that the Gestapo, having come the night before, were unlikely to return.
However, they were wrong. Again during the night came the banging on the downstairs door, and again my aunt went down to unlock it, and the Gestapo people marched into the small apartment were all were awake and frightened now. Again they asked questions as to the whereabouts of my mother, and again they were told that no one knew, that she hadn’t been seen.
As soon as the banging had started, my mother had again slithered under the bed, and was now hiding in its darkest corner, her heart beating so loud she was worried it would give her away. The room itself was quite dark and without electricity. The Nazis ransacked the apartment, looking for my mother. One of them again bent down and looked under the bed, this time using a heavy duty flashlight to see somewhat better, and again he missed seeing my mother. I wish I could say this little story had a happy ending. Before the Nazis left they arrested my Uncle Nuhim, a not very strong man already in his sixties. He was never seen again, and I doubt he survived the train ride to Auschwitz.
Amazingly, my Aunt Paula and Cousin Lily were left in the apartment, although I can imagine their feelings. I have no idea why the Germans left them. Possibly it would have been too much trouble to carry the wheelchair bound girl down the stairs, and leaving her mother behind can also not be accounted for, unless one assumes these Nazis weren’t complete animals, an assumption it is difficult to make, in view of what happened to my Uncle Nuhim. I just don’t know, but Aunt Paula and Lily survived the war, although Aunt Paula now had to find a way to make a living, which was difficult not only because the restrictions against employing Jews, but because Lily couldn’t be left alone. Somehow, my aunt became a Kosher butcher. Once a week she’d go to the country and came back with a slab of meat which she sold to her Jewish customers who came to her apartment to buy it. She also rendered the fat into soap. A remarkable woman, was my Aunt Paula.