All About My Father

A few weeks ago, on Facebook I posted a newspaper article featuring a picture of my father at a Kristallnacht remembrance along with this comment:

“If you know my dad, you know he is a smart, funny, interesting guy, an excellent Facebook friend and a wonderful grandfather. But did you know he escaped Berlin in his mother’s arms in 1938 on Kristallnacht? This story includes a nice picture of him looking very serious, commemorating the anniversary.”

Some 15 friends commented on or “liked” my item. But I was struck by the number of people — people who have known my dad for a long time, who didn’t know this story.

Today I got a preview of a story my dad wrote that is being published in a local Jewish newspaper.  In that story my dad mentions the photograph of himself that appeared in the Krystallnacht remembrance piece.  Upon seeing that picture of himself he wondered who that old man was.  But of course, it was him. At 74 years old, my father is among the youngest Holocaust survivors, and when his generation is gone, so will be gone the living memory of the people and events.

My dad and I have talked for years about writing down his story. But the fact is, it’s a hard story to write.  My father, who is perpetually cheerful, can turn pretty much anything into a joke.  (For example, today my mom gave me a stack of notes and half-written stories my dad has started and stopped over the years.  One starts, most powerfully, with him weeping in his dream last night; it is the first time he can remember crying in a long time, or possibly ever.  But a few pages later this becomes a story about little boys having a pissing contest in the schoolyard.)

As for me, I have a short attention span, limited time and a pretty loose writing style. My dad was a high school English teacher. There is nothing I can write that he won’t want to edit.

But we have agreed to a little experiment. I will write the bits and pieces that I know in this blog; my dad will edit. Feel free to join us in this experiment, comment and ask questions.  And give me a nudge if I go a few days without writing.

– Jennie Baird, December 2010

12 Responses to All About My Father

  1. Lisa Powers says:

    Jennie,
    Thank you for sharing these incredible stories. It’s a blessing that you have the opportunity to write and publish these memoirs.
    Lisa

  2. Man In Messy Room says:

    Jennie,
    This is the best story ever.
    Man in Messy Room

  3. Jennie says:

    Dear Man in Messy Room,
    You are the best reader this blog has ever had. And don’t forget to clean your room before you leave for the weekend.
    Love,
    Jennie

  4. I will be reading for sure. I remembered this about your dad – that he was a survivor. But I never knew the story. Can’t wait to read more.

  5. Kirsten says:

    Jennie and Alex
    Keep them coming. I’ve heard bits and pieces over the years but I want to hear more. Amazing and really important.
    love Kage

  6. susan says:

    i have heard some of this precious story in bits and pieces from alex when we used to walk the dogs almost every day. i am glad it is being preserved, keep up the good work!

  7. I remember Alex Levy from JHS 52. He was my English teacher in 7th grade ( 1968). I then found that we followed each other to GW in 1970 but I never had the pleasure of being in his classroom again. I remember him as tall, very distinguished and classy. I am glad that he and family are doing well.

  8. AlexLevy says:

    Having you remember me with pleasure after all these years is really flattering, Wendy. You were probably in the same class as Carl Herzog, with whom I am still in touch. If you’re interested, through this blog I’ve been contacted by several former students at both JHS 52 and at GWHS, and they are really wonderful people. They’ve grown up very nicely! There’s even a small group that gets together on alternate years in Ft. Tryon Park. I attended this year, and it was a lot of fun, although we all seem to have changed some.
    By-the-way, I’m still tall, but less classy and distinguished looking. Now I’ve acquired a huge gut, which my grandchildren for some mysterious reason seem to enjoy.
    Alex

  9. Alan Bergelson says:

    Alex,
    I thrilled to read the blog that Josh n and the family out together. Mike sent me the link to it and it got me fairly happy and jealous regarding the touching student responses; and the horror to which a man can overcome, and most significantly move on to educate generations of children with the gifts of intelligent expression. Can you imagine a 6’4? chess player, survivor , from one of the worlds worst tyrants, becoming the recipient of
    your students following and admiration. That’s a real wow amigo.

    Regards to family
    Alan Bergelson
    (Hey Mike B, thanks for sending me the Link, Alex is just the same old guy we enjoyed for many,many years……)

  10. Alan Bergelson says:

    Alex sorry for the typos regarding my note to you. I grew up in the Bronx and was lucky enough to have you as a friend.
    Aln

  11. Alex Levy says:

    Hi, Alan!
    Wonderful to hear from you!
    We really should get together sometime. I’m not doing much besides physical therapy (torn tendon), reading and playing chess. Don’t know what your schedule is like, but if you have the time. . .
    Alex

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