Friday April 21, 2006

Interfaith relationships don’t diminish Holocaust memories

by amy elkes

“I knew one little girl who tried to hide herself after her parents were killed,â€? my grandfather told me. “She dug a hole in the ground and lay in there, but it was not big enough.â€?

“Did the Nazis find her?â€? I asked.

“Of course,â€? he answered, drawing out the words and crinkling his brow in sad and disgusted recollection. “They found her, they killed her, and they took all her blood to use for the soldiers.â€?

I can only assume that my grandfather meant that the Nazis took the child’s blood to use for transfusions in Nazi soldiers. But I never got to ask, because, as usual, my grandmother cut off his story, telling him in Yiddish it was “no talk for the grandchildren.â€? Often, I was relieved by her intervention. I wanted to know more, but the memories were obviously very painful, and I didn’t want to push.

And yet my grandfather seemed unable to let those memories lie quiet in his mind. They came to him at any time, for no apparent reason, and he had to get them out. My mother and her two siblings grew up hearing them, and so did all their children. Whether my grandfather intended it or not, his stories weaved their way into our consciousness from a very young age. Although we had not lived them, they were part of us.