b. Warsaw, Poland, 1927
The women in the gloomy large room were preparing for the night. Not that there were any real preparations possible; there was no water to wash with, no clothes to change. Only a mind which, though tired and numb, was not ready to rest. All the questions, unanswered and troubling, kept coming, persistently searching, probing….
I was fifteen then, one among hundreds imprisoned in a concentration camp. Once, long ago, I was a happy child. Now, after a horrid whirl of events in which I lost everything, I existed merely as a number. But my mind remained and it was not ready to sleep.
Slowly the room became silent. Here and there a groan, someone cried, somewhere a lost soul was muttering meaningless words; a voice was praying….
Suddenly I heard a child's cry! I was horrified—am I losing my mind? It can't be real! There were no children among us! Every child in the ghetto was killed! Yet here it came again, louder, angrier!
A hundred heads lifted. Deadly silence accompanied every step of a woman who walked toward the voice. Our hearts, our eyes followed her. Near the entrance she stopped, bent, and with trembling hands lifted a bundle. Slowly, silently the woman returned to her place, gently rocking the sobbing child. An unspoken agreement was reached through the language of hearts. The very well-known decree to deliver every child to the Nazis became meaningless; to hide, to protect this child in our midst was a command. Thus it was that little David, at two and one-half, came to barrack number 13 to stay.
If there is a ray of hope in a place where one waits for death, David was this ray; if there is laughter in a life that is reduced to mere existence, David brought it; if there were dreams where there was no past and no future, David was their cause.
I loved the child dearly. Again and again I told him stories I knew from that other life of mine. I sang songs to him, recited rhymes. We played together. David laughed and I was happy. Happy? In this camp? Yes! For those precious moments I was not in a cold, dirty barrack, hungry and sick, waiting for the end. We were together in a world full of dreams, warmth, love—and reality disappeared.
Days, months, years passed. David was a little over five years old. Tall, pale and very bright, he grew accustomed to our way of life. It was normal to stay