Kathleen Zahavi

May 9, 2015

The Trial of Oskar Groening  –  Statement of Kathleen Zahavi

I.              BACKGROUND

  1. I was born Kathleen Politzer on April 27, 1929 in Nyiregyhaza, a small city in Hungary, about 30 km from Budapest. It was a close-knit community.
  2. Our immediate family consisted of my father, Miksa Politzer, who owned a houseware store and worked on roofs, my mother, Rosa Politzer, (Neé Weinberger) and two older sisters, Ilona Klein (married) (14 years older than me) and my other sister (14 months older) named Magda. Between my mother and father there were 14 siblings. I had many cousins. We had wonderful times together and enjoyed many holidays with our extended family. In the summertime, I sometimes went to work with my father. I remember my uncle coming often to pick me up in a horse drawn carriage to take me to a farm to play with my cousins. There were five female cousins who I often played with. None of them survived the holocaust.
  3. There were about 10,000 Jews with an orthodox synagogue and a conservative synagogue in our city. My family belonged to the conservative synagogue. I also had many friends growing up, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
  4. My elementary school was in the same building as our synagogue. It was an all Jewish school. My high school was mixed, Jews and non-Jews. I continued to have a Jewish education in high school as once a week a rabbi would come into our school and teach us Hebrew and Jewish history. High school was where I first began to experience anti-Semitism. I had a math teacher who hated Jews and a physics teacher who always picked on us because we were Jewish. At that age, I simply could not understand what we would have done to make them hate us so much.
  5. Anti-Semitism was already rampant in Europe. Many people stopped shopping at Jewish stores, but they continued to shop at my father’s houseware store because he was a very respected man and he did not look very Jewish.

II.             GERMANS OCCUPY HUNGARY

  1. On March 19, 1944 the Germans occupied Hungary. At first we were not affected.
  2. Later the Jewish children could no longer attend school. I would always see the Gestapo around wearing their long coats.
  3. On April 5, 1944 every Jew had to wear a yellow star on their clothes. When I was just finishing high school and we were taking the graduation photo, I remember my teacher telling me to try and hide my yellow star for the picture. I told her I would not because if I was forced to wear it everywhere else, why should I hide it for a picture?
  4. Along with the Gestapo, there were also Hungarian Gendarmes, who were local police. They were horrible to everyone.
  5. My brother-in-law was taken away by the Hungarian government to be part of a Jewish army. My father was taken away also and I never saw him again.
  6. On April 28, 1944 the Gendarmes were told to round up the Jews. They came to our house and told us to pack only what we absolutely needed and that we were going to a ghetto where Jews already lived. We didn’t have time to collect much of our belongings. I only remember bringing my toothbrush and whatever clothes I was wearing. We walked to the ghetto. We never returned to our house.
  7. In the ghetto, my immediate family lived with my two uncles, one with 3 children, and one with 5 and my aunt who had 2 children. The ghetto was completely closed off and no one could come in or out.
  8. Around May 6, 1944 the Gendarmes came for us in horse carriages and took us out of the ghetto. The Gendarmes took orders from the SS. I stayed together with my mother, my two sisters, and my aunt. Our family was taken to places called Harangod, which was situated on the outskirts of my city. Many Jews were brought there. It was even worse there than in the ghetto. The Gendarmes told us nothing. They only gave us orders. We were in stables.
  9. We had no washrooms, no showers, and we slept on a concrete floor. One day on or about May 16 or May 17 the Gendarmes told us we had to take even fewer belongings with us and march to the train station. Everyone marched together, women, children, old people, and pregnant women with babies.
  10. When we arrived at the train station, we saw many cattle cars. We were shoved in, as many people as they could fit into each car. When one was full, they closed the doors and filled the next. We really had no idea where we were going and what was going on.
  11. I was 15 at the time so maybe my mother and aunt knew a little more than I did. The conditions on the train were so horrible that many old people and children could not survive. There was one pail in the middle of the cattle car and we were told to use it as our washroom. There was another pail with some water in it.
  12. We had very little water and no food. I remember being in that car for several days.
  13. It was horrifying. People were dying all around me and the train stopped a few times to empty the pail and the dead bodies were thrown out. The train kept moving. We felt like animals. Actually, we were treated worse than animals.

III.           ARRIVAL IN AUSCHWITZ

  1. We arrived at the concentration camp before nightfall in “Auschwitz”, (“Lager”, in German). They opened the sliding door. Again, whoever survived, got off and they threw out the dead bodies with no respect for them. It was horrible. We were all very scared.
  2. As I got off the train, carrying my few remaining personal items, I saw 4 or 5 German SS soldiers in dark uniforms and boots standing at the gate. They were very aggressive. They were yelling at us to get in line. We were confused and had no idea where we were. One thing I distinctly remember was the 10 or 15 German shepherd dogs who were barking at us, held back on their leashes. I can still hear the barking even now. I can also recall seeing people in striped outfits.
  3. If anyone tried to run away, the German soldiers would either shoot them or let the dogs run after them as they were trained specially by the German army to be vicious.
  4. I was still together with my mother, aunt and two sisters when we got off the train. There was an SS man there who essentially was deciding who would live and who would die. We had to line up and then the SS man would send people either right or left. He kept yelling “MACHT SHNELL”, in German which meant “move fast”.
  5. They wanted to keep the younger and stronger people for work but they had no use for the weaker and older people.
  6. My mother and aunt were in their 50s or 60s so they were sent to the left and I never saw them again. We didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. Anyone pregnant or with a young infant went straight to the “left”. This line went straight to the gas chamber as we found out later.
  7.  I was small and skinny but my sister was holding me very tight so we were able to stay together and we were sent to the right.
  8. Then my two sisters and I were taken to a public washroom with female German soldiers. The barrels of the soldiers’ guns pushed us forward. The female soldiers stayed with us and told us to take our shoes off. The soldiers were all trying our shoes on but luckily mine did not fit any of them so I got them back.
  9. Afterwards, we were taken to another room where they shaved our heads. I was reunited with my sisters there and they made us strip down and we were given other clothes.
  10. There was A, B, and C camps with huge barracks numbered 1 – 11. I was put along with my sisters in camp C barrack 11. The barracks were like long warehouses with a concrete step in the middle. There were 30 or 40 women in our barrack.
  11. Along the sides, there were wooden bunk beds three levels high. Each bunk had a number. We were told to go in so we all found a place on the beds and we went in and lay down on the hard wood bunk.
  12. We had a “Block Eltezte” who was a Jewish woman in charge of the barrack. Her name was Alice and she was about 19 from Czechoslovakia. She had been in Auschwitz for 3-4 years so she resented us Hungarian Jews because we had only just arrived.
  13. One day, she was standing in the middle of the barrack and we asked her where our parents were. Her response has haunted me for my whole life. She called me over to a spot where we could see outside. She then pointed to the smoke coming from one of the buildings in the camp and said “there, that’s where your parents are.”
  14. It was so difficult for me to accept that my parents were murdered.
  15. We later found out that there were showers and those people who were sent left upon arrival went in but instead of water, gas came out of the showers. Some people died, some burned, and some pretended they were dead. Once in a while someone could survive by hiding among the dead bodies.
  16. There was a fence around the camp made of steel. Some people tried to go to the fence and they were electrocuted, as the fence was electric which we did not know in the beginning.
  17. In the mornings it was very cold out but every single morning around 3 or 4 o’clock we had to get up, go outside and stand in lines of 5. The Capos and the soldiers counted us.
  18. I would say there were around 300-400 people outside every morning. One thing I remember was that if someone was cold and decided to bring a blanket, they were taken and shot on the spot.
  19. Dr. Mengele was there with a few helpers from time to time. He would pick out all of the people that looked sick and send them away. I was very small so the other people from my barrack would hide me in the rows so I wasn’t chosen.
  20. One time, as I was walking back into the barrack Mengele put his arm on my shoulder and said, “You, out!” Across the street was Block 8, where I was taken. It was all children and I saw many friends of mine from before the war. When I got there, they began to count us right away. However, it started to rain so they decided to have us all go in and they would count us the following day. They hadn’t taken my number yet. I could not really imagine what I would do without my sisters so I just got up and ran back to Block 11 as fast as I possibly could.
  21. When I got to my block, Alice told me to go in immediately and hide in the beds. The next morning, Block 8 was empty. The kids had all been taken to the gas chambers 22. We were in Auschwitz for another few months and the conditions were just horrible.
  22. My sister Ilona always volunteered to help bring the food from the kitchen, which was 1km away, at 5 o’clock in the evening every day. By doing this, she was able to get us a little extra food.
  23. One day we were told that we were being taken to work. They took us, roughly 400 Hungarians, and put us on a train to Dachau. After that, we were taken to Bergen Belsen, where my sister Ilona died just after liberation.
  24. In all I lost over one hundred members of my family in the different camps.
  25. My sister Magda and I went back to Nyiregyhaza to stay with relatives.

IV.        CONCLUSIONS:

  1. I will never be able to erase from my mind the day my life was shattered and how I was deprived of my youth, family and friends.
  2. Mr. Groening. In the news, you admitted to being morally responsible and you say you regret what you did, but that is not enough. You volunteered to be a member of the SS in the Nazi party. Yes, you are 93 now, but you have to carry the burden that you created for yourself when you were a young man. You knew what was happening in Auschwitz and you were very much a part of the horrors that took place that my family and so many others were forced to suffer. I hope that you will continue to remember these horrifying images for the rest of your life.
  3. Why were you permitted to grow old a free man after the atrocities you saw happening and in which you participated? My parents never had a chance to grow old like you; they did not walk me down the aisle at my wedding nor were they even there. They never had a chance to experience the joy of being grandparents. My children also never had the privilege of having grandparents.
  4. After liberation, I was free but not the same way you were. I had lost my parents, my treasured sister Ilona, virtually all of my cousins, my aunts and uncles and all of my childhood friends. Over 100 of my family members perished.
  5. My one sister Magda survived and is living in Israel with her husband and her children and grandchildren. She is a sad person and has never recovered from her experiences in the death camps.
  6. Today, I live in Toronto, Canada. I have two children, my daughter Irrit Ilana who is a retired teacher is named after my sister Ilona. Irrit is married to Gary, a lawyer, and they have two wonderful children, Daniel and Eric. My son Michael is a doctor and he is here with me in the courtroom today, to support me as I face Mr. Groenig, a demon of my past. Michael is married to Cindy, who is also a lawyer. They also have two beautiful children, Shawn and Erin. So the Nazis did not take us all.
  7. I will never forget or forgive. There can never be justice for me. At 86 years of age, I have come all this way from Canada because it is the least I can do for the memory of my lost family and friends who perished in Auschwitz and the other inhumane death camps.
  8. In closing, I want to personally thank Judge Thomas Walther for all that he has done, not only for the survivors of the Holocaust and our families, but for all mankind in helping to bring the accused to justice. His years of persistence have paid off.
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Judith Kalman – July 8, 2015

Judith Kalman: Final statement for the Trial of Oskar Groening, July 8, 2015

I would like to thank this court for giving me the opportunity to address it once again.

It has been a truly valuable experience for me to tell the story of my six year-old half-sister Eva Edit Weinberger, who died in Auschwitz during the Hungarian Operation, and to say how her death and the deaths of my parents’ relatives in Auschwitz affected their lives and also mine. A court proceeding such as this is neither too late, nor too small an effort, if it can make a difference to survivors of the Holocaust and their children. I do not wish to suggest, however, that the wrongs perpetrated by the agents of the Final Solution can ever be put right, or that justice can ever be found, for the innocent people who lost their lives to that evil policy.

I think this trial is important in two ways. It puts faces to the numbers tattooed on arms, faces to the survivors who had the super human task of rebuilding their lives after losing everything and in many cases everybody. Part of this trial’s great value is to witness further the suffering of innocent people at the hands of the Nazi state. But perhaps more importantly, this trial puts a face to one of the perpetrators of the Final Solution. A policy is meaningless until it is enacted, and those who carry it out are individuals with names and faces as well. Too many perpetrators of the Final Solution have been allowed the privilege of anonymity. Putting a face such as Mr. Groening’s to even one of them demonstrates that a policy of murder can only be carried out by individuals.

Mr. Groening, by his admitted actions, helped to make a policy of genocide devastatingly effective. He facilitated the flow of confiscated monies and valuables, which helped to finance the German war effort and the enforcement of the Final Solution. He knew that the monies came from people who to quote his words, “would not need them anymore” because they would be put to death. He had witnessed the brutal murder of a baby and he understood that the purpose of Auschwitz-Birkenau was to implement the policy of exterminating Jews as well as many others, particularly during the Hungarian Operation when he had numerous occasions to stand guard on the ramp.

I am not trained in the law, but it is my understanding that the purpose of this court is not to determine relative guilt. The question is not whether Mr. Groening was more or less guilty than others of assisting murder during his years at Aushwitz-Birkenau. Nor is the question, has Mr. Groening changed his mind about whether or not his actions in those years were criminal, or whether or not he feels sorry about them. My understanding is that the purpose of this trial is to determine whether or not he was an accomplice to the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews. Did he knowingly participate in that process, and by his actions did he enable it? A verdict of guilty, in my opinion, is called for by Mr. Groening’s own admissions. He claims that although his actions are to be condemned by the values of today, at the time his actions conformed to the values of that period. The Nazi government took steps to keep their citizens in the dark about the Final Solution for the precise reason that even given the racist values of the time, they might have risen up against such a barbarous policy. Instead the Nazis entrusted the execution of this policy to a special organization, the SS, to which Mr. Groening belonged. He carried out his orders not only because of the racist values of the time, but also because he personally believed in the necessity of the Final Solution and willingly joined the organization that most exemplified the spirit of Naziism. He then participated in the administration of activities that helped further this cause.

The point of this trial I believe, is to show that having a hand in genocide at any level is a criminal act. Genocide, sanctioned by the state or not is always murder, and to take part in it, to enable its execution in any way, as Mr. Groening did, is to act as an accomplice to murder.

I hope the verdict of this court puts the face and name of a perpetrator of the Final Solution—Oskar Groening—into the national record.

Hedy Bohm

Hedy Bohm was born in 1928 in Oradea (Romania). She was deported with her parents from the local ghetto to Auschwitz-Birkenau. An only child, she saw her parents, many relatives and friends murdered by the Nazis.

Hedy Bohm: Final statement for the Trial of Oskar Gröning, July 8st, 2015:

I came here the first time because I thought it was an extraordinary opportunity. Something I never thought to experience in my life to be a witness in a German Court and testify at the trial of a nazi officer.

I came back the second time hoping to hear him say three little words: I am sorry. And to be here as the guilty verdict was pronounced. The sentence itself is not important for me personally, it is of no consequence. To late for that.

When his statement was read by his attorney, I heard the magic sentence. But, as he went on, He qualified it, explained why and when, until there was no meaning to the words anymore. Disappointed, I started to question myself, why was it important to hear “I am sorry”. Could my parents care if they could hear Him? Is it just for me? Or is it for the murdered multitudes……? I don’t know anymore.

Perhaps it is Gröning who would benefit the most. Simply stated, just those three little words. Nothing more!

We all carry scars mostly invisible, hurting nevertheless. An ever-present shadow over our lives.

When I leave Luneburg, I will make peace with whatever the outcome will be. And go on with my life as best as I can, as long as I can, as always.

I would like to extend my thanks to the judges and members of the court, to Thomas Walther and his team who worked tirelessly on the case for so long, my deepest respect. I feel fortunate to have known you.

God Bless

Elaine Kalman-Naves

Testimony of Elaine Kalman-Naves, May 5, 2015

I am overwhelmed to be present in this courtroom at this moment of historical reckoning. I am here to honour the memory of dozens of members of my family, who perished in Auschwitz. I never imagined that I would travel to Germany. From childhood, I have been familiar with the sound of German place names. Gelsenkirchen, Sömmerda, Glachau, Buchenwald, Flossenburg, Bergen Belsen – these names punctuated stories my parents and their friends told about the war. They were stories of almost unimaginable horror.

I want to thank the court and the German people for the opportunity you are giving me to speak to you about the loss of the many members of my family whom I never knew, because I was born into loss. Unlike most of the other co-plaintiffs, I am not a survivor, but the child of two survivors. I was born after the war in Hungary, to parents who met after the war, and who had each been married to other people before the war. My father Guszav or Guszti Weinberger had been married to a woman called Margit , or Mancika, Mandula, and they had a little girl together called Eva Edith, or Évike, Weinberger. I am here to speak primarily about Évike, who would have been my older half sister had she not perished along with her mother in Auschwitz on June 3, 1944.

How, you might ask, can I speak authentically about someone whom I never knew? It’s a good question. Évike somehow is both my sister and not my sister. She is my sister because she was my father’s daughter, but I clearly could not have a relationship with her of the kind that you have with a sibling with whom you grow up. And yet, Évike has been a singular presence in my life from the time that I came into the world in November 1947 to this day, here in Lueneburg charged with telling you about her short life.

I was about six years old when I first really understood who Évike was, and she was six years old when she was murdered. Over the years, I have become older, but she has stayed six years old. So even though today she would be seventy-seven, in my mind now, she is a child like my grandchildren, not like an older sister at all. I feel a great sense of responsibility towards her, a little girl like so many other children who perished – but also a little girl like nobody else in the world, a unique individual, a unique person.

Évike was born in the city of Debrecen on April 19, 1938, a much desired, much loved only child to Guszti, and Mancika. They were prosperous, hard-working, modern Orthodox, educated Jews who were completely integrated into Hungarian life. Guszti and his two brothers were third-generation farmers on an estate in northeastern Hungary, in a village called Vaja . Mancika was an accomplished, well educated young woman who had attended a finishing school in Switzerland. She was an adoring wife to my father and a devoted mother to Évike.

Évike’s childhood encompassed dark and menacing events in the world: anti-Jewish laws in Hungary, Kristallnacht in Germany and Austria, and the outbreak of war. Guszti was frequently away from home, serving in the special labour battalions into which Hungarian Jewish men were inducted, THE MUNKASZOLGALAT. Because of this, Évike and Mancika moved to the family estate in Vaja, where my father himself had grown up, and where there also lived my grandparents, and my uncle Pal, his wife, Mary, and their little girl, Marika. Despite the gravity of the situation, life remained relatively normal for them right up until a month before Évike’s sixth birthday: relatively normal until March 19, 1944.

The two little girls, Évike and Marika, were playmates, and they were doted upon by our grandparents and by the other many members of the large extended family, who visited the estate regularly. There are many pictures of the two little girls playing together, and also many photographs showing them with members of the extended family, everybody wearing big smiles.

I have known about Évike ever since I can remember. There were photographs of her on the walls of the apartment in which I grew up in Budapest, including many in the room in which I slept. There were albums, photo albums, of my father’s dead family, and of my mother’s dead family. I have memories of myself from a very young age leafing through the pages of their albums, and asking for the names of the people depicted in the photographs. I even remember my mother smiling and saying I had the same sticking out ears and same bow legs as Évike did, and that we had inherited both these features from our father.

When, many years later, I began to research Journey to Vaja my book about my father’s family, I learned about the unusual way Guszti and Mancika brought up their little girl. When I interviewed my father’s cousins, they commented on the fact that instead of hiring a nanny and leaving the upbringing of Évike to the nanny and Mancika, my father had wanted to be fully involved in her care. Unlike stereotypical fathers of the 1930s and 40s, Guszti had bathed the baby, and rocked her and played with her, in a way that was unusual for the time. I recognized the portrait of my father that his cousins painted for me, because he had been the same kind of father to me and my sister, very protective and very involved.

My father was a wonderful storyteller, who loved to talk about the family he had come from. Among my first memories is of him telling me stories about his family – and these were invariably happy stories. He evoked festive occasions on the estate and especially liked to talk about the adventures he and his brothers had growing up on a large farm. Still, even though these were positive stories, he would preface them with the words, “I feel sorry for you because you don’t know what it is to have grandparents. I feel sorry for you because your world starts only with me and with your mummy.” I didn’t understand at all what he was talking about. I didn’t want him to feel sorry for me. I didn’t feel I was missing anything. But of course he was right. I didn’t have any grandparents. My father’s parents and my mother’s parents had all perished in Auschwitz. And most of my aunts and uncles had also been murdered.

As I matured, I came to know more about Évike. She had been a sweet natured, rather shy and reserved little girl. She had also been exceptionally intelligent, and though she was too young to have started school, she had actually taught herself to read and write using her storybooks and the daily newspaper. This is important to Évike’s story as I will try to explain later, because since she had learned to read and write, we can actually know a little bit about her from her very own words.

My father was a member of a close and very loving family, who continued to support him and his two brothers while they were in slave labour service during the war MUNKASZOLGALAT. They sent him parcels with food and clothing, and many, many letters. In 1944 alone my father received more than 150 letters and postcards from his family. More than 150 letters. I know this because my father kept them all: he managed to keep them in his knapsack through his entire wartime ordeal. These letters came from his mother and his father and his wife, and yes from his little girl Évike. The little girl who had never gone to school. He kept them , not just during the war, but afterwards too.

And, many years later when he saw that I was very serious about writing a book about the family – this was back in 1982 – my father told me he still had these letters. I began reading them with him. They were all in Hungarian, so I began to translate them all into English. And while I was doing this, I had a kind of breakdown. Working with the letters prostrated me, almost literally. I couldn’t function for months, because of their impact on me. Because these letters were from the people that my father had been telling me about from the time that I was very young. And when I read them, I saw how right he had been, because indeed, it was a very sad thing that I never knew my grandparents. And here they were, in these letters. I could touch the paper that had been in my grandmother’s hand and in my grandfather’s. I could see what good people they were, how courageous, how very hopeful and determined to find each other again after the cataclysm. They kept on sending my father messages of encouragement that I could read for myself. And I knew what they didn’t know, what they couldn’t know. I knew, I knew that history was going to eat them up. I knew that they were all headed for Auschwitz.

Évike was one of my father’s correspondents. Her notes and letters were enclosed with the grown ups’ letters. She wrote on decorative children’s stationery, very similar to the flowered children’s note paper my own daughters wrote on when they were little. Miniature envelopes contained Évike’s first written communications to her favourite person in the world. She knew how a letter should look: she wrote my father’s address at his labour service company on the tiny envelopes in block capitals all running together: FOR WEINBERGER GUSZTAV,MAROS HEVIZ, MAROS TORDA COUNTY, and on the back she printed her name and return address: WEINBERGER ÉVA EDIT VAJA. Inside she wrote in the same large block capital letters messages that speak of her love and confidence in her daddy. She clearly adored him: she had named both her teddy bear and favourite doll for him. In her notes she shares jokes, and describes her latest achievements and activities. In one of them, she writes how she lost her first tooth. In another she says that she’s taking good care of her Mummy and that she has crocheted a hat for her Teddy bear. And in all of them, she signs off: I KISS YOU MANY TIMES YOUR ÉVIKE

There were three generations of the Weinberger family who were forced to leave their home for the ghetto in Kisvarda on April 25 1944. Évike had celebrated her sixth birthday six days earlier, on April 19. On April 19 her mother, Mancika, wrote to Guszti, that they were packing up their bags and that it was hard to know what to take along. She was particularly upset that she would have to give up her wedding ring, but she wrote, “you will buy me another one some day if God willing, we meet again once more. Today is the darling child’s birthday, we congratulated her in tears, and I wish that all her future birthdays, she will attain under happier circumstances, then today’s, until she’s 120 years old.” Until 120 years old, Évike’s mother wrote. That is the traditional Jewish greeting on someone’s birthday. Both Évike and Mancika would die 45 days later on June 3, 1944.

The family wrote again, a long farewell letter on April 23 to my father, in which Évike added her own greetings :MY DARLING APUKA HOW ARE YOU I AM THANK GOD WELL, I THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THE BIRTHDAY WISHES. I AM VERY SORRY THAT WE CANNOT BE TOGETHER KISSING YOU VERY MANY TIMES YOUR ÉVIKE

We know what she chose to take with her to the ghetto. In that same letter, her mother wrote that they were all packing their parcels for the big journey. “My poor little Évike has also packed up her Guszti teddy bear and a book, so that I should take it for her.”

There is a final vignette of Évike that I will share with you in a few minutes, but first now I would like to talk about The family I come from:

Évike was a child cherished not just by her parents, but also the whole extended family and especially by our grandparents. I would like to speak about my grandparents. They were very religious people with a great deal of faith in God, but they were also educated people, who could express themselves beautifully in writing. My grandmother Ilona, after whom I’m named, wrote in her farewell letter to my father: “if you could see me, you would say I am a veritable hero and I owe this to the fact that, thank God, I am perfectly healthy and also to my unshakable faith to which I cling… We all have to fortify ourselves so we can bear it all. Don’t worry, I will do everything for the two sweet children [Évike and Marika], after all, they have always been the light of my life, along with all of you.” She promised she would do everything for her two little granddaughters, not realizing that she would be powerless to do anything to help herself or anyone else.

There are many photographs of my grandparents with their two little granddaughters. And in all those photographs, Évike is always sitting on our grandfather’s lap and Marika is always in our grandmother’s lap. They all look very happy and contented together. My grandfather Kalman was the head of the family, a serious, well read man who by this time had retired from farming actively, and given over the management of the estate to his three sons. Kalman wrote long, detailed letters or postcards to them every day that they were away in labour service. He kept on urging them to be strong and he kept on assuring them that the family was well. On this last day in this farewell letter, I think he had no illusions about what was in store, even if he had never heard of Auschwitz. Here are his words: “Let the Almighty in His mercy watch over your precious wife and precious gifted Évike and help you so that you may delight in them for 120 years and that you may find only happiness with them. Thank you, my precious good son for the great joy which you have given us and let the precious Évike and your yet to be born Children also give great pleasure to you.”

My heart breaks every time I read these words, and think of the agony that my family went through at that time. The agony that my grandfather must have felt writing these words. It touches me profoundly that my grandfather even had a blessing for me and for my sister Judith, who testified here last week. Because we were the “yet to be born Children,” the children he would never know and who would never know him. Of course he could not imagine that the mother of these children— would not be Évike’s mother, my father’s first wife, Mancika.

I want to say a few words about Évike’s mother, Mancika Mandula Weinberger. She was a devoted daughter to her parents, an adoring wife to my father, and a completely dedicated mother to Évike. She was patient and thoughtful. She knew many languages because she had attended a finishing school in Switzerland where she had mingled with girls from many different nationalities. She was thirty-five years old in 1944, and she was strong and fit, and had she not been the mother of a six-year-old, she would’ve had a chance to live. I don’t think she would’ve wanted to live without her child, but in stark terms, the child whose hand she was holding condemned her to death in Auschwitz.

The cattle car that brought the Weinberger family from the ghetto town of Kisvarda in northeast Hungary contained thirty-four members of my family, of whom two survived the war. One of these survivors was my father’s cousin Susan Rochlitz Szoke. Cousin Susan was nineteen years old and completely traumatized by the horrors of the journey. But still she remembered clearly Mancika and Évike in the wagon. Évike was irritable and tired and thirsty and unable to understand what was happening. She asked over and over again where they were going. And Mancika repeated over and over again, with bottomless patience, “we’re going to a place where we’ll work until we will be together with Apu. Perhaps daddy is already waiting for us there . We’re going somewhere where you’re going to see Apu.”

We all know what happened next. It was not my father who met them on the ramp in Auschwitz. I cannot bear to put words to what I know happened next.

I have been asked to talk about the impact of the Holocaust on me, to talk about how it has damaged me. To try to answer that question places me on the horns of a dilemma. I have not come to Germany to elicit your pity. I don’t think of myself as a damaged person. I am a happy person and I have a full life. It would be ethically wrong to call myself a victim in a courtroom where you are hearing from survivors. I am not a survivor of the Holocaust; I was born three years after the events we are describing. Any pain that I have suffered cannot be compared to their suffering.

But if I’m going to be honest with myself and with you, I must face the fact that indeed the impact of the Holocaust on me has been foundational. The very circumstances of my birth are predicated on the death of others. If Évike and her mother had lived, I would not have been born as myself. If my mother and her first husband had not been separated, but if I had been born to them, I would also not have been born as myself. And yet I feel enormously fortunate to have been born, and to have been born to my parents. And I know I was a great source of happiness to them simply by token of my birth. When he learned that my mother was pregnant with me, my father said to her that he felt the kind of joy that God must’ve felt on the day of creation. And Despite their grief and the enormity of their losses, my parents went on to build a solid new life for themselves and their children in a new country. In the course of building this new life, they never forgot the family members from their former lives , nor what had happened to them. It was important to my parents to communicate to us a rich legacy of family memory.

For the formative years of my life, the Jewish holidays meant sitting at a table for four, my father, my mother, my sister Judy and myself. The table would be festively set and there would be a nice meal, during which my father and my mother reminisced about what the holiday had been like in the days before the war. They talked of All the many people who had congregated around the large dining room table back home, and the copious amounts of delicious traditional food. It was as if the Holocaust were a visitor sharing our meal with us.

Before my father died at the age of eighty-four, I had hardly ever attended a funeral. A friend of my parents came to pay a condolence visit during the week of mourning that we call Shiva. She had been a child survivor and had lost everybody in her family. When she came into the room where the mourners were sitting on low chairs as is the custom, with all the mirrors in the house covered as is the custom, this friend of my parents made a gesture with her hands to encompass the signs of mourning, and she said, “we don’t know how to do this. We’ve never done this before.” She didn’t have to explain what she meant, because We understood perfectly. Having lost virtually everybody, all at once, my parents’ generation – and by extension, us, their children – had never had a chance to express grief in a normal way, as one does when generations pass away in their natural order. We had never had experience with the normal rituals of mourning, because everybody was already dead.

Nowadays, when my family gathers together to celebrate the Jewish holidays and in particularly Passover, a holiday celebrating freedom from slavery, there are once more three generations grouped around a very long table. There is a passage in the Passover Haggadah in which it says that in every generation a Jew must feel as if he had personally been liberated from slavery. In the era when my father led the family seders, he always paused at this passage to remark that this was not some remote thing that happened thousands of years ago. He said that in our times he and my mother had suffered from a slavery that was incomparably crueler than anything in the time of the pharaohs, and he told us to never forget to guard our freedom and the freedom of others with our last breath.

I think this is what I have come to say to the court: that justice and freedom are our highest societal values. They must be regarded as precious as life itself.

Having the opportunity to tell my family’s story here – having the opportunity to speak to you of Évike, Mancika, and my grandparents – is an affirmation that that their lives, so cruelly cut short, mattered. They were not statistics, they were flesh and blood, individuals with personalities, temperaments, frailties and strengths. There is no way to go back to undo the catastrophe that befell them. There is no way to fix what happened to them. But acknowledging the enormity of what happened to them in this courtroom and before the world is a source of a certain consolation.

Judith Kalman – April 29, 2015

Judith Kalman: Victim Impact Statement Prepared for the Trial of Oskar Groening, April 29, 2015

judywithfamilyphoto-byperhinrichssepia-smallI’m a Canadian child of Holocaust survivors, and I’ll be speaking to you about the effect on my life of the death of my half-sister, Eva Edit Weinberger, age six, in Auschwitz in June of 1944.

The loss of my parents’ loved ones, in particular the six-year-old Eva Edit I never knew, left me with a burden of inherited survivor guilt that has been a defining feature of my life. It informed my choice of life partner and the trajectory of my professional endeavors. Still, to address this court in the form of a victim impact statement, feels uncomfortably disproportionate. If I am at all a victim, it is largely in a titular sense. The effects of the Holocaust on my life can’t be put on a par with how it changed my parents and all those who suffered its ravages. The loss to me of Eva Edit Weinberger is as nothing set against the devastation her death wrought on our father.

This father, hers and mine, was Gusztav Weinberger Kalman. His family came from the village of Vaja in northeastern Hungary. They ran a large agricultural operation based primarily on the production of tobacco and the distilling of grain alcohol for export. My father and his two younger brothers, Ferenc and Pal, grew up to take over this family business. The Weinbergers were looked to as natural leaders of their community by their wealth, piety, and, in my father’s generation, education. When my father was called up for forced labour service in December 1940, he was almost thirty-five years-old, in charge of the finances and many of the administrative duties, and living in the nearby town of Nyiregyhaza where he had moved his young family. He had married Mancika Mandula in 1937. Their daughter Eva Edit was born in April 1938.

My father escaped the sweep of Eichmann’s net when the Jews of northeastern Hungary were among the first to be deported to Auschwitz after the Germans occupied Hungary. He was away in forced labour, as was his brother Ferenc. Pal, home on leave,was deported with the rest of the family. Ferenc, having survived the death march out of ghastly conditions in the copper mines in Bor, Serbia, died in the Flossenburg concentration camp on November 9, 1944, one day before my father was to arrive home to the family estate near Vaja.

His war had ended early and dramatically. The company of forced labour servicemen was attached to what little was left of the Hungarian army which in turn was attached to the retreating German forces, blowing up bridges over rivers as they crossed westward in flight from the approaching Russians. My father had a dread of crossing the Tisza River. To his mind, once the river was crossed, they would be marched to the nearest train hub town and deported into Germany. After they were forced over a bridge earlier than expected, he sought out the Hungarian sergeant in charge of his division. He told him they had to cross back over the bridge, or they’d all end up in Germany. Perhaps the sergeant thought that allegiance to the Reich was no longer strategic. What should he say if they were stopped, he asked? Why, answered my father, that the filthy Jews were clogging up the works. Let them go the long way around on the other side. Two hundred Jewish labour servicemen followed my father back over the explosives-lined bridge. No one stopped them or blew them up. My father had liberated himself. Within days, he arrived at the family estate where he found locals had taken up residence. The explanation they gave him was that it made sense to move in since, quote, “it had pleased the Weinberger family to take off.”

My mother Anna Swarcz survived Auschwitz, slave labour in munitions factories in Germany, and the long forced march which led them through Buchenwald, which they again miraculously survived, and eventually towards Dresden. Finally lliberated by the Americans, she and her only surviving sister made a harrowing journey, mostly on foot, all the way back to Hungary. Since no other family member had returned to her town of Beregszasz, my mother left. She took with her nothing but the portrait of her favourite sister Magda, killed by Allied bombs at the munitions plant where the Jewish slaves had been turned out of the barracks so their guards could shelter within. Having nowhere else to go, she set out for Nyiregyhaza, home to her husband Marton. She too had been married before the war, but only a brief few weeks. Marton had been called to labour service and sent to the Russian front. He was not to reappear until after my sister Elaine was born, when our parents Anna and Gusztav already considered themselves husband and wife.

The annihilation of my parents’ families, in particular the deaths of the children, shaped me from even the point of conception. Today, we’re learning about environmental factors that may affect our genes, possibly within a single generation. The murders to which I allude were such an outrage to our sense of ourselves as creatures of compassion and social interdependency, I imagine their impact fast-tracking to the very genes that came to me from both father and mother. The imprint was in my name, forming my first vague notions of identity. I had been called after two dead children—Eva for my father’s daughter of a previous marriage, and Judit after my mother’s niece.

Both these children—Eva Edit Weinberger, aged six, and Judit Borenstein, aged twelve—met their ends in Auschwitz, not on the same day, but over the period of fifty- seven days during which 430,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to the camp. The two girls were among the 300,000 gassed, as were Eva’s mother Mancika Mandula Weinberger; and my paternal grandparents, Kalman Weinberger and Ilona Weinberger; their son Pal and his wife Meri, and their daughter Marika, aged six; as well as twenty- two other family members in that single transport. All told, my father lost close to eighty- four members of his one hundred and twenty relatives. My mother lost her parents, Samuel and Ilona Swarcz, her sisters Rozsa Swarcz Borenstein and Magda Swarcz, her niece Judit Borenstein, and her nephew Tibor Weisz, among numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws. My sister Elaine and I, both born after the war, did not inherit heirlooms, but rather a legacy of two murdered families, ever present in the narratives of our parents and the photographs and letters written in the hands of the dead. My father retrieved these letters and photos from the mud in the street in front of his home inNyiregyhaza. The house had been taken over, his personal belongings thrown out into the street. Mud-splattered letters and photographs were all that was left of mother, father, brothers, wife, child. He picked up as many as he could stuff into his pockets, and these artifacts became the family my sister Elaine and I grew up to love in absentia.

The child, Eva Edit Weinberger, is the one person among our legacy of dead about whom I’ve been asked to testify today. My life took its shape from her death, but it needs to be emphasized that she was just one of the crowd of family members who hung in the wings of my family life in Canada, a gallery of characters against whom my every experience was referenced and compared, who watched us with interest, tenderness, and sometimes dismay. They were alive to us beyond the realm of the imagination, in a way that was almost palpable.

How to know—or at least imagine—as you and I are asked to do today, Eva Edit Weinberger dead by gas at age six, without at least a glimpse of the family she was born into? And how to explain the affect of her passing on my life lived on a continent six thousand kilometers from her home, without telling you about our shared father, her Apuka, who led two hundred men to safety; and my Daddy, a man divided by the great cataclysm that cut his life and his very being in two?

My parents settled in Budapest after the war. My father changed his surname, which was too Jewish and German to fit in with the Soviet-aligned interests of post-war Hungary, and went by his late father’s given name Kalman which was typically Magyar. He held a position with the Ministry of Agriculture, supervising state-run farms in the countryside outside Budapest. In 1956, at the time of the Hungarian Uprising my father was fifty years-old, with a wife thirteen years his junior, and two young children, my sister Elaine, age eight, and me, Eva Judit, age two. He was already the patriarch of the remnants of his ruined family, supporting two mentally unstable elderly aunts, and representing for his other living relatives the role the Weinbergers had held in Szabolcs County. The 1956 Revolution persuaded my mother that we had to leave Hungary. She procured exit papers from her siblings in England and Canada. At fifty-one years of age, my father started life anew without language, occupation, friends, or familiar points of reference. We moved to Montreal where he lived and eventually died in 1990, leaving a wife, two daughters, and four grandchildren. My mother Anna, still with us at ninety-five years, continues to follow with interest the development of four great grandkids. All of us, my sister Elaine and I, our four children, and her four grandchildren, were born out of the ashes of the sacrificed Eva Edit.

She looked different from us. Her cousin Marika was considered the prettier of the two with her wide round face similar to her father Pal’s and our grandmother’s, in keeping with the soft curves of the Hungarian ideal. I look more like the little cousin. Evike, as she was known by the family, would have more likely grown into the Western proportions of beauty. Her face was a small oval. In one photo she strikes me as a total stranger, looking like no one but herself, delicate in build, and with large eyes alight with quickness. Her hair is in two braids looped loosely and tied up in white ribbons on either side of a central part. A downy growth of new hair spills from beneath the upswept braids onto her generous forehead. In one photo with her mother, they both smile flirtatiously at the photographer. Our father perhaps? In another favourite of mine, I see in her image someone dear and totally unrelated, a psychotherapist who helped me through one of the darkest periods of my life. I realize I’ve had a lifetime habit of seeing Evike in women I admire. She would have been the same age as a teacher-mentor I met in college, a woman of Central European and half-Jewish extraction. Like my mentor, Evike had taught herself to read and write by the age of four. Her letters to my father during his labour service are charmingly printed, the words running together without spaces in between but almost all correctly spelled. She would have been so much brighter and more gifted than I, I concluded. I saw in the accomplished women I met, a potential that might have been hers had my half-sister been afforded her right to grow into adulthood. Although I soon overtook Evike in age, I saw her as sixteen years my senior, ever projected into the future to which she was entitled. The third picture on my desk is sobering. In it Evike looks deeply anxious. Her brows are puckered, and she clings to the teddy bear she holds in every photograph. Perhaps the sun is too harsh on her eyes, but it is hard not to imagine that she is gazing at the future.

As a child I formed a strange myth to explain the baffling circumstances of my existence. There must have been something wrong about the old, beautiful way of life that my father extolled in his stories of the past. The clan had been sophisticated and good. Yet, if so, asked the child-skeptic born to him for life in a different world, why were they all wiped out? A child raised to believe in a beneficent God, but above all, because of her father’s narratives, in a causality that gave shape and meaning to life. Surely, surely something must not have been right with that world for it to have been so brutally eclipsed. I came up with an answer that makes sense only to a child. For some reason, my sister Elaine and I had to be born. If we were meant to be, then it followed that Evike and her world were not. It was that simple.

Early on, through my father’s stories and my mother’s startling revelations of horror, I absorbed the knowledge that innocent children could be murdered and whole families and communities eradicated by forces beyond their control. As a young emigrant of three-and-a-half, I too was swept up in the migration of peoples.What could I carry with me as an emblem of the safety and faith I needed so as to flourish and grow? I suspect it was around this time that my personal creation myth emerged. I decided that the old, beautiful world had been a false start, and we had to start over from scratch. Everything bad that could happen to a family had already struck my father and mother. The horrors had come before and thus wouldn’t come again. Elaine and I by extension were inoculated against disaster.

My sister Elaine was born in 1947. Before she was six, my father had filled her head and heart with frequent narratives about his dead loved ones. She could identify his photographs, reciting like a catechism the names of the dead. I cannot imagine how he was able to start a second family so soon upon losing everyone. I think that the guilt of survival my father carried in him, threatening always to drag him under, could be measured by the flow of narration and remembrance that poured out of him almost uninterruptedly over the years.

The father of my childhood did not work as an agriculturalist. After two years in Canada, my mother took a college course to re-certify herself as a school teacher so that she might work for the public school system. My father could not bring himself to do the same in his field. He was too old, he said, by which he meant his real life was behind him. The father of my childhood always claimed to be old, and it’s true by comparison with the young, short-sleeved, cigarette-smelling fathers of my Canadian friends, he did look old. My father dressed for a different time and place. He was often mistaken for my grandfather. He was not the same father little Evike had flirted with in her photograph. He mistrusted his new environment, always alert to danger. He worried about snow storms and daughters walking home from the bus stop after dark. He didn’t really believe it was safe to be Jewish anywhere. We lived in a new suburb in the east end of Montreal, far from the neighbourhoods where Jews had settled, but close to my mother’s sister and her family. I was the only Jew in my elementary school, and the only Jew in high school. When we rode the buses together on Saturday mornings, he to put in his half day at work, and I to go to a Jewish school in the west end where my parents hoped I’d a acquire a taste for Jewish company, I felt an urge to protect him from the judgment of the French and English Canadians riding with us who might look down on him for speaking a foreign language. They could have no idea who he was, or how his unimaginable losses and suffering raised him far above the stature he had held even in his best of all possible worlds. It seemed poignantly ironic that he missed the homeland where he could be his natural self, that place that had cast his family as other in the extreme, an other that was hardly human, so other they didn’t deserve to live; yet here in a freer society where he could own property, educate his children, qualify to work in any field he chose, he felt so utterly unknown he sank deeper into the past.

Now, finally, I will speak about second generation survivor guilt. Evike’s death shaped my life so fundamentally, I wasn’t to understand it until I was well into middle age and had experienced tragedy first-hand. Her death was part of me as were the genes I’d inherited, and I was as unaware of its influence as we are of what resides in most of our genomes. What I was conscious of was that I had had a sister whom I’d supplanted, and who might have turned out to be more professionally successful than I; on the other hand a sister who had to be replaced because fate somehow had pre-ordained me. I felt I must amount to great things in order to justify the forfeiture of her life, even as I understood myself to be cramped by limitations.

All my life I planned to be a writer. My modest gift was recognized by various teachers through the years, notably my mentor in college. In that class, I met my future husband, a young man with a prodigious work ethic and a flare for writing. We were very young when we moved in together, had two children, lived together for twenty-five years.

As far back as I can remember realizing that I think most clearly with a pen in my hand, I intended to write the story of my father’s family. This at last would solve the riddle of my existence, why I was meant to be. Through my words, his dead loved ones would once again come to life. In fact, I’ve been able to write only the story of myself.

In May 2000, two months ahead of his forty-fourth birthday, my husband took his life. He had battled depression as long as I had known him, but in the last five years, the illness became unmanageable. At this time I sought the services of a psychotherapist for guidance about how to manage with a very sick partner and two children. Following my husband’s suicide, I tried to understand my marriage. These explorations led me to my half-sister Evike, drawing connections to her role in my make-up that I had never before considered. I came to understand that this key life choice had been predicated on guilt. A child had died so that I might supplant her. How better to expiate such a debt than by saving someone who might otherwise not survive without me? My husband was hardly more than a seventeen year-old boy when we met; shortly after he ran away from his family. He was raw, alone in the world, hyper-sensitive, vulnerable. He stood by his convictions and his friends, worked harder than anyone else I knew, and wrote like a dream. This was one worthy soul, I saw at a glance, who deserved only the best life could offer, but instead he had been dealt a bad hand, as he used to say, in the form of an illness that made him doubt himself at every turn. I recognized him right away, one of the exceptional people, like the members of my father’s family, who had been dealt a hand that was terminal. Of course I couldn’t know that my husband’s hand would prove terminal as well. What I understood was that it was my fate to save him. This was a role I never questioned, however it hemmed me in, consumed my mental and physical energies, and drew on my creative strengths. I was indebted, after all. I owed my life literally to the deaths of all the fine souls who had been unjustifiably murdered. The least I could do was save this one who also deserved his chance at life.

When I was twenty-six, my sister Elaine, trained as a historian, came to me with a proposition. She planned to tape record our father telling the story of his life. She would do the historical research, if I agreed to take my father’s narratives and turn them into a book. In other words, she was giving me the opportunity to write the book I had always intended. For a couple of years we collaborated on translating my father’s recordings into English. My late husband said something then that stopped me in my tracks.“Why do you think anyone would be interested in the story of your family? After all, it’s not as if they accomplished anything special or that anyone’s ever heard of them.” He was saying what I had always felt riding the buses with my father under the suspicious eyes of our Canadian neighbours. We were little people of no count. The world had tried to get rid of us. Who would care about my father’s stories from another continent and era that held little relevance to Canadians? I persuaded Elaine to write the book herself which, wisely, she did. It was easier than attempting my grand design and failing, as I was bound to, to raise the dead. Evike had died for my right to live; in turn my other rights were of small consequence. Most of my dramas, in fact, were measured against the super-human challenges my parents had faced. Their struggles loomed so large, their world, my father’s pre-war world in particular, felt more real. Sometimes I had difficulty fully inhabiting my life, recognizing the richness of my sensations, perceptions, and experiences. Instead these came to me as dim reflections of my father’s Platonic ideal. Yet, I grew up into a strong individual who has never felt anything but gratitude for the stroke of tragic chance that had given me breath. I would never have written the book Elaine imagined and then wrote. Eventually I did write a collection of stories that drew on the narratives Elaine and I had translated. But this book turned out to be about me, Eva Judit, the child of Holocaust survivors.

Mine is not the voice of a victim. We were a family of loud voices, the deep, narrating voice of my father, my mother’s shrill voice trying to draw our attention away from him, and my sister’s and mine, clamoring to be known. Whenever I took up my pen, my insistent voice leapt to the fore, tattooing me onto each page. It came from a place of self-preservation, affirming the here and now. The last thing I would ever have imagined would be to use this voice to address a German court about the phantom child whose shadow preceded me through the years. I cannot fully express how liberating it feels to have her acknowledged so publicly, and to be heard on behalf of my father and mother, little people who bore the enormous weight of history without solace of recognition.

My psychotherapist left me an invaluable gift that helped me go forward after my husband took his life. I could no more have saved him than my father or any of the survivors of the Holocaust could have saved their dear ones. It’s easy to say they should all have left at the first signs of Nazi saber-rattling. Hindsight showed me too, some steps I might have taken that might have forestalled the outcome of my husband’s illness. But such thoughts are akin to blaming the victims. In the moment, the ever-flowing now, we’re too close to our situations to see them clearly or in their entirety. We use our best judgment given the information available within the parameters of the present. My therapist was a believer in a principle of learning how to look at traumatic experience in a new way, one that allows us to co-exist with the trauma, if not more comfortably, then at least without it impeding daily life. After my husband died, I suffered panic attacks that kept me from sleeping. My therapist and I debated the principle of looking at trauma from a different perspective. I insisted this was a type of lie like the re-writing of history for propaganda purposes. What happened happened, and could not be changed. How, for instance I demanded, could I ever contemplate the image of my half-sister Evike and her mother in the gas chamber without succumbing to despair?

My father’s cousin Zsuzsa Rochlitz was the sole survivor among my father’s thirty-four family members stuffed into the cattle car bound for Auschwitz. Like everyone else in it, family, friends, and strangers, she was terrified. Although she was comforted by her mother, Zsuzsa’s attention fixed upon another mother-daughter relationship. She has told us that throughout that journey she never once saw Mancika Mandula Weinberger falter in her reassurance of her six year-old daughter Evike. Over and over she consoled her calmly. Perhaps where they were going they would meet up with Evike’s Apuka. Her father would be waiting for them. They would all three be together again. Zsuzsa, I think, might have been so impressed with Gusztav’s wife’s reassuring composure and resolve, that she took some comfort in it herself. In her Canadian life, she orked in infant care at a government agency for new immigrants. She always told us, “I never met a woman who better epitomized sensitive, intelligent, and respectful mothering than your father’s wife Mancika as she calmed her darling child during that dreadful journey.”

I look again at Herr Walther’s enlargement of the photograph of Evike. She is trying to smile, even as her eyes and brows pull together anxiously. Her lovely high forehead is deeply furrowed. It’s hard for me to look into her face. Each fine new hair in the fringe spilling out of her gathered braids attests to a teeming abundance of the life within her. The silky promise of each strand is as painful to contemplate as the image of this little girl stripped naked, enfolded by the naked flesh that gave birth to her, as together they slide to the floor of the devil’s own bathhouse.

I glowered angrily at my therapist. It was a travesty and betrayal to consider re- formulating this excruciating image into something palatable to live with.

“But,” she said reaching for my two hands. She had taken the hands of my sixteen year-old son in this same way when she had offered him her condolences upon the death of his father. “You are like that woman, don’t you know? In the long year of your husband’s descent into madness, you never once wavered in your support of your boys.”

Since her words, I’ve learned to co-exist with this iconic image, as with the other memories transferred from my father and my mother. I couldn’t save my husband. Nor have I found any resemblance in me to my precocious, delicate, half-sister Eva Edit Weinberger, irrevocably lost. But one intrinsic part of one of the sacrificed innocents, a woman not even related to me by blood, I was able to salvage. This scrap of her life that emerged in me when the need arose—to be one’s best self in impossible circumstances— I hope will pass on to my children.

See also the Judith Kalman’s Blog.