As the Spring still seems far away and I am going on vacation anyway here are my Shabbat Ideas for April 13, 2007.
My grandfather on my mother’s side lived through the Holocaust and came to the US to make a life for himself. This Yom Hashoah I want to dedicate this post to him, his family, and his legacy.
Opa was a small man; standing no taller than 5’4”. His energy and ingenuity however was limitless. He was a business owner, father, husband, and contraption-maker. He also had stories; ones he told and ones about him.
The One He Told
After the Nazis burned his synagogue to the ground and forced him to clean up the mess (and after he saved the breast plate of the Torah to take to America that now adorns the Torah of my parent’s congregation) he was sent to a small work camp with his brother. He left behind his family to run the only dry goods store in the small town of Meppen.
Time passed and the Nazis came to take this store. They couldn’t ransack and leave, but needed to run the store and insure that the people of Meppen would continue to get great prices and high quality goods; just without the Jews. When the SS came to speak with my great grandfather, he told them he was no use to the store. He said “you took my sons and they run the business, one in the supplies and the other runs the books. Get them out of the camp and they can show you how to run the store.”
So with in a few days, my grandfather and his brother were on a bus back to Meppen. They handed over the store to the Nazis and were give a few dollar and few days to get out of Germany forever.
When my grandfather and his brother were driven back from the camp, the driver of the bus did not say anything for a few miles. After the camp was out of site, he then told to of them to look under their chairs where they found two sandwiches and a thermos of water. I believe he told this story to the Shoa Project.
The One About Him
In his later years, my grandfather lived in an assisted living facility and then in a nursing home. His first apartment in this facility had a beautiful screened in patio overlooking a beautiful wooded area and the parking lot. When he was expecting our family to visit, he would wait on this patio.
To his eternal shame (but really his pride) we would beep our horn over and over again when we entered the parking lot. He would shush us, but we would continue to wail on the horn.
One day we visited him and as tradition mandates we blasted the horn and he was “embarrassed.” We yelled up to him “we are going to the room.” We would often rent a guest room in this facility when we came to visit. He returned with “WHAT?” Clearly he had no problem being loud for the neighbors.
We replied “WE. ARE. GOING. TO. THE. ROOM.”
“We are going to the R O O M.”
“WHAT DO YOU WANT WITH THE BROOM?”
Needless to say there was much laughing that followed. We enjoyed the visit and this story has become part of the lore of the POLJ family.
Stories about people are the most important way to remember those who did not make it. On this Yom Hashoa please tell a story about someone you know who has survived. Make this Remembrance Day one that you can smile about and remember the positive out comes of this horrible event in history.