Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

The Sewing Basket
Marga Randall
b. Lemförde, Germany, 1930

We stood in the middle of the cobblestone street in front of my grandparents' house. The windows were not shiny glass any more, with those lovely lace curtains. They were all boarded up. It was getting dark. I clutched my doll and my sewing basket close to me.

We had survived Kristallnacht in this village of Schermbeck, in the Rhineland, North Germany. We stood there, my mother, my Aunt Paula, my grandparents, and I. We were about to walk away from our home, where generations of my family had lived.

As we were leaving, my Christian friend, Irmgard, leaned out of her second story window and asked, “Wo geht ihr hin?” (Where are you going?) I told her I was not sure, but we would go to a big city and stay with my aunt's family. I couldn't even tell her when I would return. She had been a loyal and sweet friend to me and now I had to leave her. Impulsively I tossed my sewing basket to her. She caught it and began to cry.

We walked toward the train station silently. It was a long sad journey. My grandmother was ill, my Aunt Paula weak from worry and stress. As for me, at eight and one-half, I just felt secure because I had my mother there to hold my hand.

At the train station we boarded the train to Berlin. Special documents in hand allowing us to travel, we found our seats and the train slowly pulled away.

I loved this place. The village, the church bells so crystal-clear with few street noises to interfere. Horses' hooves, clickety-clack on the cobblestone streets, accompanied by pots and pans rattling in the distance. How excited I would get! But when the horse-drawn wagon appeared around the corner, I would stay close to the front door. The gypsies were coming through Schermbeck on their way to the countryside where they would camp overnight. I loved the lake where the ducks chattered, the swans honked and the frogs made their unique sound.

Our family welcomed us in Berlin. Through air raids, food shortages, and curfews, we managed to stay together until my mother, sister, and I were permitted to leave Germany in 1941.

Meanwhile, in Schermbeck during the war, my friend Irmgard kept under her bed a wooden suitcase built by her father. She stored all of her precious

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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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