How I wish I could find someone to hypnotize me and send me back in time to recall the first two years of my life. How I wish I could tear out of the deep recesses of my brain images, pictures of grandparents who, so I have been told, adored me. How I wish to be able to remember these very special people from long gone.
I was their first and only grandchild, adored, fussed over, spoiled. According to my parents, they came by daily as long as it was safe, in order to hold me, to play with me. My paternal grandfather’s greatest joy, I am told, was to be given the opportunity to take me for a walk, to have me all to himself. He did not expect any other grandchildren. One of his two sons had died in his teens, his daughter could not conceive, and his other son had married quite late in life. So, I was “ IT,” the eagerly expected and yearned-for descendant, the one to carry on the family traditions, if not the family name. What would I not give were it possible see him and maybe even be able to talk to him for just a few minutes.
According to all accounts, the man was a tower of goodness, patience, tolerance and devotion to his children, to his wife, to his neighbors and to his God. His son, my father, as well as his daughter-in-law, my mother, could not sing his praises enough for the way he behaved in business, for the way he cared for his family, for his generosity to all in need, his gentleness, and the way he would be able to sooth the most heated argument.
I have only one picture of him, one that had been salvaged by a cousin who had fled burning Germany and settled in the New World. He stands there with his wife and daughter, erect, head high, the picture of a grand old gentleman. He has a short black beard, neatly trimmed, is wearing a black coat over a black suit, a black hat, and black tie, and is holding a black umbrella. However, there is nothing sinister about him; maybe I am just imagining it, but his face seems to radiate the gentleness of his soul.
How I wish I could hold him, hug him, see his soft smile. How I would love to feel his hand on my head, to look up into his eyes and tell him all about the wonderful grandson that would be born after the war and who would be named in his honor. I would tell him about his wonderful four great-grandchildren and his eight great-great grandchildren. How proud he would be of them, not only of their accomplishments, but also of the wonderful people they have become. He would radiate with joy at the business sense they inherited from him and at their straight, decent character, their commitment to the traditions he cherished so.
But he was not even granted a normal death or a grave to rest in peace, a place where we could visit and find some solace. He was brutally shot while being loaded like cattle onto a German army truck, shot because his rheumatism did not allow him to move fast enough to please his captors. His crime? He was a Jew, an “old” man of sixty who was useless as a productive slave and of no use to the occupiers.