Moving was made necessary by Kornberg’s deportation. He no longer owned anything, and the new owners, whoever they were (either the government or the Nazis, which was more or less the same thing), didn’t want us. So, my mother, clutching a suitcase, with me in tow, began searching the city, looking for a place to live.
It seems it was a common problem for Jews at that time, as we were soon joined by several other families in need of a home. We made a small group of about eight to ten people as we went from apartment to apartment large enough to provide shelter for us all, as money was also a problem.
It was illegal to rent to Jews, and we were easily identifiable as such by the yellow stars the adults wore on their coats. Because it was illegal to rent to Jews, most people were afraid to rent to us. There was also the problem of the group being so large and with at least three children. Another problem was that there was a bounty out for Jews, and the adults were never quite sure as to the motivation of the people who were willing to rent. Would they turn us in?
Eventually a suitable apartment was found, not too far from the Gare du Midi, the southern train station, a working class neighborhood which today is occupied by Moroccans. But the adults really worried as to whether the landlord could be trusted. It turned out he didn’t turn us in, and we lived there for quite a while, until it was time for me to move on to the Couvent St. Joseph, but more about that later.
The apartment became home, and it was there that I became conscious that my mother and I, as well as all the other unrelated adults who lived with us and with whom we lived, were prey, that there were people out there who wanted to kill us. While for the adults this was a strange and frightening situation, for me it was somehow natural. It was as if it had always been that way, and that it would always continue that way. That was simply the way the world was. Nevertheless, it was quite frightening, for me as well as for everyone else. Even the Belgian Catholics were frightened, but for the Jews it was simply a horror, an unrelieved, cold, clammy horror that lasted for years.
Your expressive prose communicates in a vivid and clear way these childhood experiences, especially those that time hasn’t made any clearer. Look forward to the future installments. Thank you.
I am also riveted by these tales, and grateful to read them.
Dad, as I went to bed last night I thought how bizarre it was that 70 years after these events, you’re having dinner in Greenwich, CT!
I’ve eaten in more “bizarre” places. The food was delicious, by-the-way. But what is really strange is having to get used to the idea that I’m an old person! Don’t know how that happened, but I don’t really mind because there are compensations in children and grandchildren.
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