Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

A Mother's Courage
Edith Rechter Levy
b. Vienna, Austria,1930

In the long, cold Vienna winter, it was often barely daylight when we got up for school. Nevertheless, I did not mind, for even as a first grader I was an avid learner and loved school. I was also an early riser, so I was always eager to start the day.

Yet this time when my mother came to wake me, I had difficulty opening my eyes. I remember rubbing them groggily and peering at the window. It was pitch-black outside, not a glimpse of dawn. I pointed this out to my mother:

“Mutti, ” I said, “are you sure it's already time to get up for school? It's still so dark outside!”

“Get dressed quickly, ” my mother replied in a soothing voice, and she started to help me dress. This was unusual and, sleepy or not, it caught my attention. Mom as a rule did not believe in pampering her children when it came to routine chores such as dressing for school. Becoming more alert, I noticed that Mom was somehow different, more subdued, less matter-of-fact than she usually was in the morning. I now saw some light filtering in from the side and base of the kitchen door, which was slightly ajar. My sleepy mind registered this as being normal. But then I heard voices, male voices, and this once more was out of the ordinary. I knew something was definitely amiss when I distinguished my father's voice for, as a rule, Father left for work long before we children were awakened.

I finished dressing as fast as I could. When I went into the kitchen, my older brother was already there, fully clad. My father and two Austrian policemen were engaged in what seemed a friendly conversation. The clock said 2:00A.M.

My mother helped me with my coat and hat, and we all left together. Outside a storm was raging. The wind howled, the rain came down in sheets, drenching my face in seconds. One policeman took me by the hand and helped me along, shielding me with his body when one of the heavier wind gusts nearly lifted me off the ground. I felt a sense of security under the protection of this strong officer of the law, and I bravely tried to keep pace and march into the howling wind. The officer, however, had a less cheerful attitude.

“How cruel!” Addressing my father, he attempted to overshout the wind: “I wouldn't even force a dog out into this weather, ” he proclaimed angrily, “much less women and children!”

-147-

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Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xiii
  • Timeline of the Holocaust xv
  • Map of Concentration Camps in Europe xxviii
  • Preface xxix
  • Introduction xxxiii
  • I - Snapshots: Jewish Life Before the Holocaust 1
  • Snapshots 2
  • War Arrives in Lithuania 3
  • A German Family 7
  • Betrayal 11
  • Parting 13
  • II - The Destruction of a Society 15
  • Herr B. 17
  • A Kristallnacht Journey 18
  • An Action Against the Jews 20
  • Leaving Germany, Leaving Home 24
  • Escape to England 26
  • The Best-Laid Plans 28
  • A Life-Defining Impression 30
  • The Harbinger of What? 32
  • The Beginning and the End 33
  • A Family Gone, One by One 34
  • The Abandonment of Mielec 36
  • A Shtetl's Life is Ended 37
  • What Ever Happened to the Jews of Skudvil? 40
  • III - Ruthlessness as a System 43
  • In the Dark 45
  • Theresienstadt 47
  • Dachau 50
  • Auschwitz, 1944 55
  • The Tenth Woman on Block Ten 56
  • The Means to Survive 58
  • The Gypsies 60
  • Nazi Murderers 61
  • How Many Made It? 63
  • The Law in Lithuania 64
  • Horrors of War 70
  • IV - The Lottery of Death and Life 81
  • German Roulette 83
  • My Sister Rieke 84
  • A Definition of Survival 86
  • An Unforgettable Passover Seder 89
  • Trying to Go Home 90
  • Bar Mitzvah Boy 93
  • The Skull with the Golden Braid 95
  • The Concentration Camp Lottery 96
  • The Girl with Wooden Shoes 101
  • The Wagon 102
  • The Child 103
  • V - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 105
  • In Constant Terror 107
  • Posing as a Christian 114
  • I Choose Life 116
  • Lost Families 119
  • Beyond Memory 121
  • A Hidden Child in Greece 123
  • VI - The Sustaining Power of Family Love 143
  • The Promise 144
  • A Mother's Courage 147
  • Miracles 151
  • A Dream of Milk 155
  • In Praise of Manual Labor 156
  • A Son in Deed 158
  • The Psychologist 162
  • VII - The Virtuous and the Vicious 163
  • A Narrow Escaper 165
  • The Kindness of Strangers 168
  • A Saintly Person 170
  • The Convent in Marseilles 173
  • Among the Righteous 176
  • The Killing Hunger 179
  • Captain Zimmer 180
  • The Volunteer Group 181
  • Mazel 182
  • The Farmer Kowarski 185
  • A Surprise Package 187
  • VIII - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 189
  • Lithuanian Friends 191
  • Unsung Heroes 199
  • Friend or Enemy? 202
  • Resist in Everything! 208
  • IX - Emergence into Light 225
  • The Golden Chain of Judaism 227
  • Flight to Freedom 236
  • The Last Hiding Place 243
  • One Day War, the Next Day Not 245
  • The Long Road After Liberation 247
  • On the Way to Health 249
  • An Ending and a Beginning 252
  • The Tiny Flame 254
  • X - The Aftermath: Remembering 257
  • The Aftermath 258
  • The Barber 260
  • Kaleidoscope: Salonika, Greece, 1945 261
  • The Sewing Basket 263
  • Children from the Camps Going to England 265
  • The Chief of the Gestapo 268
  • Herr Schluemper 270
  • The Miracle 272
  • To Bear Witness About the Holocaust 274
  • It Shall Not Be Forgotten nor Forgiven! 276
  • Addendum - Seen with My Own Eyes: Stories by American Liberators 279
  • The Photograph 281
  • Germany, 1945: View from a Tank 283
  • Gusen: A Nurse's Tale 286
  • A Letter from Dachau 288
  • I Saw Buchenwald 291
  • Re-Entry 296
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Photographs of Liberator-Authors 336
  • Author Index 342
  • Story Index 343
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