Edith Rechter Levy
b. Vienna, Austria, 1930
How many Jewish lives for the price of a baby crib? This is unfortunately not as preposterous a question as it may seem. For we were denounced precisely for such a reason.
The year was late 1942. My mother, nine-month-old baby brother, my older brother, and I were living in semi-hiding in Brussels, in a house with two other Jewish families.
In the sous-sol, or half-basement, of a house across the street lived a young unmarried couple. In Catholic Belgium at the time this was a mortal sin. Therefore I must presume that they were poor, alone and ostracized. The woman was pregnant and probably in need of baby supplies. So she called the German authorities to come and collect some furniture stored on an upper floor in her building by a Jewish family which had either fled or was somewhere in hiding. The woman watched carefully as the Nazis carried out pieces of furniture. When she spied a crib she offered to tell, in exchange for the crib, where Jews could be found. She pointed to our building.
A truck was not an uncommon sight in this neighborhood. A truck full of Germans in uniform was, however, a different matter. One of the Jewish families in our building noticed the German uniforms and saw the girl point at our house. Worried, they slipped away as soon as the soldiers went inside to check the furniture, without alerting anyone else and before the Nazi leader stationed two soldiers in front of our entrance door to prevent anyone from leaving.
The husband of the second Jewish couple used to leave our building often, dressed in blue denim overalls. He was a husky young fellow who looked like one of the local workers. He was on his way home when he spotted the soldiers in front of the house.
Instead of running away, which would have drawn attention to him, he saluted the soldiers and entered the building. He went quietly upstairs, took his wife and daughter and locked them into a small loft, then left the building with the key, past the unsuspecting soldiers.
No one, however, alerted us. When the lieutenant barged into our room we were totally unprepared. My older brother and I were ill. My brother had eaten some contaminated food and had come down with a serious case of hepatitis, or jaundice, as it was called at the time. His skin, his fingernails, even the whites