A day that I remember my mother is also a day to remember all those who perished in the Holocaust.
As I remember my own mother Betty today, there is another young mother I want to honor today on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day
On the wall in my home hangs a worn, creased sepia print of a young mother holding her baby. Her name is sadly lost along with her own brief life. She is my husband Hershel’s aunt, his mother Eva’s sister. The baby, his first cousin who he would never meet.
Their photograph survived, somehow, miraculously, even if they didn’t, and it is my obligation to keep them alive.
Like my mother, this young woman cherished her infant, watched over, and wanted the best for her baby. Just like my mother she had big dreams for her child.
But unlike my mother, this young Polish mother would never be able to teach her daughter the prayer to light Shabbat candles, to knead a challah, or any of the traditions a Jewish woman lovingly hands down.
In contrast to my mother, she was helpless to protect her child. The forces of unimaginable evil were too great.
Frozen for all eternity in 1940 as a hopeful young woman whose face resembles my mother-in-law, she could not have envisioned the fate she and her infant would suffer. Forced out of her comfortable home to the town square of her Polish village with the rest of her family, she was shot and killed by the Nazis. Her baby would suffer an even worse fate- thrown by the soldiers in front of a moving train
This photo somehow survived unthinkable hardships and tragedies.
Secreted away and held onto by her younger sister Eva an 18-year-old girl who in an instant became an orphan. My future mother-in-law hid and survived the horror even as she witnessed the slaughter. That this picture would travel across Europe, through forests and fields, and somehow arrive intact in America in 1949 is a miracle in itself. The photo was tucked away in an album in Hersh’s childhood home in New Jersey for safekeeping, the memories and stories were sealed away too.
But even without a name, this woman is not forgotten. Not today. Not tomorrow. She lives with Mishpocha, family she never knew but who keeps her alive.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Thanks for sharing this Sally. Any time the PBS show “Finding your roots” has a person of Jewish heritage, invariably only their part of the family survived the Holocaust because their forebears got out early. They learn every other wing of their family was killed by the Nazis for the crime of being Jewish. The other members of the family waited too long or could not believe the Nazi leadership could be so evil and that other Germans were gaslighted into acquiescence. Keith
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Sadly, there is likely not a single Jewish family that has not been touched by the horrors of the Holocaust. Even if one’s family got out early, there would always be some remaining cousin or second cousin who remained.
Sadly, so true.
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