Edith Rechter Levy
b. Vienna, Austria, 1930
Wide-eyed and innocent, a student once asked me what I considered to be the worst part of the Holocaust. I smiled. Is it possible to answer such a question? How to choose, to single out one horror greater than another?
That day, I had no answer for the student. But the question kept haunting me. I now believe that I know the answer.
I survived the war by hiding—a hidden child. The idea was to live with the cunning of a hunted animal, and with courage well beyond my years. But mixed among the terrors of this dark world lay the hope of the innocent. If I could escape the clutches of the hunter long enough, this horrible nightmare would eventually end, and things would return to normal, to the way they were. This hope, this faith kept me going.
Eventually liberation did come. Since my father had been deported in early 1942, my main concern now was for him. I lived for his return.
Though undernourished and sick, I walked miles, day after day, to check the lists of names of those who had been liberated from the camps.
The lists were posted at three synagogues in Brussels, each one situated at a different end of the city and at a great distance from the other ones. The most cumbersome to reach was the large Holländische Shul, near the Palais de Justice, which necessitated a considerable climb up steep streets. But this shul had the most complete lists, and I believed with absolute faith that it was only a matter of time until my father's name would appear among the returnees. I waited and walked, walked and waited, coming home more and more exhausted, but unwilling to give up my search and my hope.
I dreamed about my father's return. I knew that we would have to be very careful not to offer too much or too rich food, which could kill him, as had been the case with other released camp inmates.
Little by little, the lists began to dwindle, the names became more and more sparse, trickling down to a mere few. My visits became less frequent, first because of exhaustion, but also because not many new names appeared, and so the same names remained posted for a longer time.
Fear of the unthinkable slowly began to creep into my soul when suddenly one day, there was a post card in our mailbox.
Did hope play a cruel trick? It looked to me to be in my father's handwrit