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