My Mother Gets Work

My mother, top right, as part of the kitchen staff

My mother had had two very narrow escapes, and it was extremely dangerous for her to move about the city.  Nevertheless, every two weeks, right on schedule, she still came to visit me, feed me, and tell me about what was happening in the outside world.  I, on the other hand, had adapted to life at the Couvent St. Joseph, as had my cousins.  I don’t think they knew anything about their parents’ fate, as neither my mother nor I said anything about it.  But they must have guessed.  I also spent some time trying to make sense of it all, but being rather young for metaphysical musings, the results were meager.  Here we were, Jews, being hunted by one group of Christians (excuse me, but the term I actually thought was “Goyim,” answering to the basic division of the world between Jews and Goyim) while another group was sheltering us.  It didn’t make too much sense.  Furthermore, I was well aware of the special status of Jews as God’s chosen people.  The question even then for me was, chosen for what?  The answer was obvious, and by age seven I was convinced that the Deity was a moral idiot.  This was later confirmed for me by the biblical story of Job.  I also had some grandiose thoughts about my own status as a protector of my cousins and other Jews (about whom I couldn’t do anything in any case) and as representative Jew, and what that meant.  I was way too young for all this stuff.

In any case, on one of her visits my mother finally brought some good news, even great news.  She had obtained a job in an old age home for Jews, a job which would protect  her against deportation.  Cardinal Van Ruy, the man responsible for hiding Jewish children in the Catholic institutions had decided to try to save as many elderly Jews as possible.  To do so, he organized an old age home.  I have no idea why the Nazis allowed this, but they did.  Then he asked the Germans whether he could hire some cooks and other Jewish personnel, because his elderly Jews refused to eat anything but kosher food, and his own Christian staff was unable to provide it.  So, my mother became a cook, part of the staff of the institution, although she only had the vaguest idea about kosher cooking or kosher anything else, but the position entitled her to a card which protected her against deportation, as it for did all the other members of the staff.  She kept that job for the duration, and it may very well be what saved her life.   Now-a-days, it also gets you to start thinking about what Pope Pius XII could have done, had he been so inclined.

Men and women staff members at the old age home

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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2 Responses to My Mother Gets Work

  1. LT says:

    Mr. Levy,
    It is amazing to me that you have such a sunny personality. I feel silly now for my temporary teen blues and can’t believe you didn’t just tell me to suck it up and get over it!

    • AlexLevy says:

      Hi, LT!
      Good to hear from you. As to the miseries as teenagers, yours and mine, what would life be without them? And both you and I did get over them. 🙂
      Alex (Mr. Levy) 😉

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