Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

The Kindness of Strangers
Esther Haas
b. The Hague, Netherlands, 1919

M y cousin Rachel and her husband David, who lived in Holland, were given the name of a “righteous gentile farmer” who was willing to risk helping Jews. They hid at his flower farm in the country, between The Hague and Amsterdam. The flower farms were relatively safe because they were spread far apart, and with no close neighbors, the addition of two people to the household could easily go undetected.

The good people at the farm allowed David and Rachel to move into a small bedroom in their house. The room—a plain, tiny room with an iron bed and a small chest—was their world for three years. All day long they sat in this room—quiet, afraid.

They had to remain still during the day because in those times, even in sparsely populated areas, people stopped by to have coffee. The mailman, the milkman, the fishmonger all stopped for coffee on their routes and deliveries.

At night, however, David and Rachel were allowed to sit with the farmer's family in their living quarters. Then they talked about other days, other times, before the Nazis came. Life took on a slow, steady rhythm—silence during the day and conversation during the long evenings.

Unexpectedly, Rachel got pregnant a few months into their confinement. The farmer and his wife were forced to make a difficult decision. Even though they wanted to let Rachel and David stay with them, a baby would make noise—noise that might arouse the suspicion of the few but regular visitors. The farm couple were afraid for themselves and for their refugees, yet they could not turn the young people out, nor could they accept the baby.

When the time came to deliver, Rachel signed into the hospital under an assumed name and delivered a beautiful baby girl into a world that was not safe for Jewish babies. She and the baby were undetected in the hospital. Upon her release David took Rachel home to the farmhouse and then went out with the baby.

He followed a country road until he came to a glade of trees, the beginning of woods. He placed the little girl under a tree. David hid behind the next tree and waited. He waited for someone to come by and hear the baby cry.

After what seemed like hours, a middle-aged flower farmer, his wagon loaded with the wares of his trade, stopped. He had heard the baby cry and

-168-

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