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2kNreeJ

2kNreeJ

All of us expected to

All of us expected to recover our treasures. . . . Until the end of the storm, they would be safe. HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN PEDAGOGY, HISTORY, AND PRACTICE 22 Yes, we were naïve. We could not foresee that the very same evening . . . an excited mob of wellinformed friendly neighbors would be rushing through the ghetto’s wide-open houses and courtyards, leaving not a stone or beam unturned, throwing themselves upon the loot. (pp. 220–221) We can learn a great deal about the Holocaust and its people, even from stories about artefacts we can no longer see, hold, and examine. Herz (2014) writes also about photographs that the Jews first took with them as keepsakes and then, once they were on the trains and feared for their fate, used as note paper for desperate words meant for those left behind. They threw the photo-notes through cracks in the cattle cars with the hope that Polish passers-by would find them and help before / they left / their lives / they left / their pictures / they left / scribbled / frantic / messages / on the back / in shaky / handwriting / asking / for help. O so many / Jewish / families — / the / smiling / faces / of the young / and old / scattered / along / the / tracks / to the / camps. (p. 65) Another Herz poem details one such artefact. As the poem’s title indicates, this note, written by a man named Otto Simmonds to his wife and thrown from a passing cattle car, was “Found in a Crumpled Torn Envelope on the Tracks to Auschwitz” by a Polish railway worker, who sent it to Mrs. Simmonds in a new envelope with these words: “Having found this letter on the rails after one of the Jews passed through . . . hope this letter will reach you.” My dears, / on the way to Poland!!! / Nothing helped. / Tried everything. / Allegedly it’s going / to Metz. / Fifty of us in one car!! / Stripped of everything / in Drancy. / Be brave and courageous. / I’ll be the same. / Kisses, Otto (p. 66) Even in the ghetto, Jews, even children, had treasured possessions. A survivor named Myra Genn (1995) remembers what she kept when she was forced into hiding: I was four years old. My mother woke me suddenly, in the middle of the night, from a deep sleep. It was

another “aksia,” a systematic round-up and deportation of the ghetto Jews by the Nazis. I could see the urgency reflected in my mother’s face and hear it in her voice as she told me we must run and hide. I knew there was no time for my usual “But why?” She helped me to dress quickly, and grabbed my hand to run—and I grabbed the flowers that lay in a bunch on the floor next to my bed. I hardly remember those flowers, or how I got them that day in a ghetto bereft of beauty. They were probably wildflowers, probably more weeds than anything else. But they were mine in a world where nothing was mine, and I remember my determination to hold onto them. Everything was being taken away from me—my home, my father, my toys—but I would hold on to these flowers no matter what. They, at least, were mine, and I would not leave them. They wouldn’t take up much space in the hiding place, a cellar underneath a neighboring house; they did not make any noise; they would not hurt anyone. I held my mother’s hand, silently following her every cue and running with her out into the street, into the safer place, down the stairs—all the while clutching my flowers. (pp. 32–33) Some artefacts even saved lives, as Sara Nomberg-Przytyk (2008) writes in her powerful short story “The Camp Blanket.” She recounts her deportation on a cattle car in such bitterly cold weather that she thought she would not survive. Another prisoner gives her her own thin blanket in a remarkable act of kindness. Nomberg-Przytyk writes, “I realized that I did not even know my savior’s name and that I would never be able to repay her for the gray blanket that, for me, meant the difference between life and death” (p. 209). Artefacts may follow a circuitous route until they find the proper home. In the short story “An Encounter in Linz,” Bernard Gotfryd, newly liberated, accepts the hospitality offered by a kindly Austrian couple until he realizes that their son is a member of the Waffen SS. As he quietly leaves their home, he sees 23 HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN PEDAGOGY, HISTORY, AND PRACTICE a silver candle holder—exactly the kind . . . I used to see every Friday night on our dining room table. There was no doubt in my mind that it had come from a Jewish home. . . . On top of the table was the other candle holder. Next to it stood a silver Passover wine cup with the Star of David engraved on it. I was incensed. Herr Gartner must have known that these were items of Jewish origin. (pp. 217–218) Two years later, Gotfryd, reflecting on their generosity to him, wrote to the Gartners, and he and Herr Gartner began a correspondence. “One day,” Gotfryd writes, “I received a letter from his nephew announcing that

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