My Mother’s Story, Part 2

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.

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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10 Responses to My Mother’s Story, Part 2

  1. Caryn says:

    Thank you for sharing these stories, I cannot imagine living these experiences. I know it must be difficult to recount the memories of your family, yet perhaps it is also a way to honor them.

    • AlexLevy says:

      Thanks for the comment, Caryn! Actually, it isn’t difficult to relive the experiences. I felt quite safe where I was, although it was grizzly elsewhere. What I’m trying to do in these early pieces is to remember all these people whose lives were cut short and who were part of my life as a child. Once I’m gone (I’m pushing 75, and I’m not morbid) they will all be forgotten. Yes, in a way, these early memories are a small memorial to them.

  2. Karell says:

    Alex, I’ve been recommending your blog to everyone I know. I especially wanted to share it with a friend of mine who teaches History to high school students. I thought that if his students could read a firsthand account of one person’s story, that it could mean something to them more than just facts on a page.

    I really want to thank you for sharing everything you’re writing. If these stories were wrapped up into a book, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

    Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

    • AlexLevy says:

      Thank you, Karell, for your kind words. High school students are especially close to my heart, as I was a high school English teacher for most of my working life, and I loved my students. There is a whole slew of survivor autobiographies out there, some I’m sure more interesting and dramatic than mine. If you want I can get you a list that might be of use to your friend.

  3. judih says:

    Thank you, Alex.
    I’m studying the Holocaust and at the moment, am working on a woman who survived the Warsaw Ghetto, Majdanek, Birkenau, Auschwitz and the Death March to make her way to Israel.

    With every story, comes the resolution to tell the story to others – keep the stories alive.
    And thanks to Caryn who twittered your blog! (thnx C)

    • AlexLevy says:

      Dear Judih
      That woman really had it rough! I don’t believe in miracles, but to survive some of the places that woman has been is as close to the miraculous as we can get.

      There is a new book out (actually it is a couple of months out) titled “Bloodlands” by Timothy Snyder that you might want to read. In it, the “Holocaust” is treated as one of a series of mass murders of14 million civilians carried out by both Stalin and Hitler in the region between Berlin and Moscow, 1932-1945. It is grim reading, but well researched and well written. I think it will become required reading for anyone interested in the Shoah.
      And thank you for reading my little effusions.

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