Shattered Crystals - Excerpts


Among Holocaust survivors, there are some who have no memory of their suffering. Survivors do not choose to remember or not to remember. This is beyond their control. In our family, the parents, Mia and Sal, and the oldest daughter, Ruth, remember. Lea and I, the two younger children, recall nothing. It is as if we began our lives as 10-year-olds.

Survivors who remember recall the horrors they endured in excruciating detail. They remember unimaginable deprivations, endless hunger and constant cold. They cannot forget the looting and loss of their homes and the disappearance and deaths of dear ones. They shudder at memories of assaults on their yiddishkeit, the desecration of siddurim, their prayer books, Sifrei Torah, and cemeteries.

Their memories haunt their dreams. But they do not talk readily about such experiences or even about being survivors. Thus, friends, neighbors and acquaintances, even the person who sits next to them in Shul, are surprised if it accidentally comes out.

For years and year, my sister Lea did not want to know. But I always felt some part of my life was missing. I hated the Nazis because they had robbed me of my childhood and then felt ashamed and guilty for being unhappy, because so many children I had known lost their lives, when all I lost was memory. I could not stop myself from mourning my lost childhood. All I knew is that I had been part of a small children's transport sent to America. Coming to New York, I left behind not only my parents and my little sister but hundreds of other Jewish children who also deserved life.

Many years asked before I went to my mother and asked her to help me. "Tell me what happened to me, to you, to all of us!" I pleaded. My father said, "It's over. Forget about it. Why do you want to rake it all up again?" But other answered, if she wants to know, I will tell her."

So the three of us sat in Mother's kitchen in Brooklyn, New York; I switched on the tape recorder, and she began.

Mother talked first about growing up in a warm, vibrant Jewish home in Leipzig, Germany, to make clear what the Nazis had destroyed. My grandparents, who until then had been just faces in black and white photographs, came to life. Then she described the rise of Nazism, Kristallnacht and the six terrible years that followed.

Every week, for one, two or three hours, as long as she could bear at one time, other talked. After the first week, Ruth came, listened, and sometimes added details, even though for her too, it meant reliving old traumas. Soon Lea joined us also.

The history that our mother, Mia, shared with us, her daughters, formed the basis for this book, Shattered Crystals. Later when we began to write this account, she added many details and produced family letters and photographs that had somehow been hidden from the Nazis.

We give thanks to G'd for the gift of our family's survival, continuation and growth. We thank Hashem that in December, 1995, on his 97th birthday on Shabat Chanukah, Sal was able to say, "I am happy Mia and I are here to welcome the birth of our great grandson, Jacob. Baruch Hashem and Mazal Tov." He lived a full life, well into his 98th year, until his passing on November 14, 1996, just a few weeks before this book went to press.

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