The Israeli summer, which dictates short-sleeved shirts, often exposed the blue tattoo on his arm, which was hugging me.
How is the life of a man different when he is the son of a man who was there, on that other planet, and without a comprehensible, logical reason survived the fire around him?
Different in almost every way.
The bread of such childhood is not taken for granted. The dinner table is packed with goodies, but above it constantly hover thoughts of hunger and the distress of the aching, empty stomach.
The slice of bread is never just a slice, because not too long ago it was the difference between death and another day of existence. Therefore, that slice is caressed, appreciated, and highly respected, as each one of its crumbs is collected with the due respect.
The tomorrow of such childhood is uncertain. The daily routine can also turn into a trap. That's the way it happened. All members of the family, who only left their names behind, were taken out of the everyday life. They loved, laughed, become ill and recovered, made a living and created, shared holidays and sad days. Later they were gone, and only their bitter surprise has not yet evaporated.
In this childhood, a death camp is not a demonic, distance, intangible notion. Instead, it is numerous accessible details. Bloc number 10. Morning roll calls. Physical punishments. Names and ranks in German. Transports of various languages arriving by train and departing in smoke. Liberating physical labor. Cold, disease, fear, and electric barbed wires that end the suffering.
All the details come together to form one tangible picture because of the eyes that come along with the tattooed number, which saw everything and now are looking at me.
First trip to Europe
The years of adolescence, which are supposed to be wild, are chained by restrictions. Youthful rebellion? Against who? Any such natural phase of development, human according to the experience of experts, cannot get under way.
The psychology of youthful energies did not take into account the fact that the other side of the fence in this case is the Nazi side. There's nowhere to run.
The first trip to Europe is never about tourism and vacation. Fear and attraction mix up, and the stomach turns. The train is not just a train. The forests are not just about trees. The views are foreign to the eye but so close to heart. And the people, what is the significance of the signs of aging etched on their faces? Were they there? Witnesses? Participants?
The years go by without dreams. The beginning of sleep until the moment of arousing is a mere one black moment, without memory. A natural defense against nightmares.
During the day new families are created, but parenthood is necessarily a type of constant, special observation, searching out with fear for familiar signs in the members of the third generation.
Do they carry on with their bodies the damages sustained by the fire? It appears so, but they are doing it in a very different way. They will be talking about it when the time comes.
Oped first appeared in Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth