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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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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