Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

The Skull with the Golden Braid
Rubin Udler* b. Braila, Romania, 1925

Once, toward evening, as I was returning to the ghetto in the Vine Garden, I came across a skull, and lying near it a wealth of golden curly hair, plaited in a thick braid. It was near a large rock on the high, right shore of the river Southern Bug, which divided the Romanian occupied territory of Transnistria in Southwestern Ukraine from the territory captured by the Germans. I was dumbstruck! The skull was white as if painted with slaked lime; had empty eyesockets and a hole where once there was a nose; with two rows of white, straight teeth. The skull lay slightly turned sideways, as if inquiringly looking at me.

I was overcome with a painful feeling of horror and fright. In that state, I became aware of a question within me: “Why only the skull and braid are here near this rock?” Mechanically, almost at a run, I searched the areas around that rock and the other rocks nearby. I looked into the ravines and bushes without finding any trace of human bones, nor a shred of clothing.

I returned to where the skull lay, sat down nearby and kept looking at it. “Who was this young girl?” I asked myself. “Who is crying after her and still hopes to find her? What tortures did this innocent girl go through, and what did she suffer before dying? Who will answer before God, before humanity, for the loss of this life?”

One could easily imagine that the girl escaped from convoy guards or from the nearest ghetto of Ahmetchetka or Bogdanovka. Far away from the village, in danger of being beaten and persecuted, she perished possibly from hunger, exhaustion or sickness. Possibly greedy, cold-blooded marauders pulled off the clothes from her corpse, or hungry dogs mouthful-by-mouthful tore apart her body. Maybe stray dogs brought the head of the girl to this rock from some other place. There was no end to such thoughts.

Deeply shaken by what I saw, that evening I told the others in the ghetto about the skull with the golden braid that I had discovered. I hoped that someone among them may have heard about a missing girl. No one could remember anything.

The next day I dug a shallow hole near the rock and buried the skull with the golden braid of the unknown martyr. On the rock I scratched a six-pointed star to mark the grave site. I thought that someone, sometime, would inquire about it.

However, during the time of my stay in the ghetto, no one searched for a girl with wavy golden hair.

____________________
*
Translated from Russian by Alexander Zwillich.

-95-

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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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