Remembering the victims and survivors
Grandpa had a number
Number on Dov Schwartz's arm symbolized humanity's nadir, darkness of chaos

In his view, he only lived to see them finished off, to see them dead. Beyond that, he didn't think of anything, and all those wonderful things that happened to him after that were a "bonus," or "extra," as he called it.


The war was over; they opened the gates for them and told them "go." But they didn't move. Some of them failed to understand, others

didn't believe, and some more were scared to walk. When the German soldiers would get drunk they would open the Ghetto gates and tell them "go" – and then proceed to shoot those who went. It was a sort of hoax that made the soldiers laugh.


He had only one reason to survive: To see them defeated. To make it through one day, and then another, and another, only to see them dead, humiliated, and as crushed and defeated as possible. He had no other horizon, and he didn't need one. He didn't intend to let them see him die, and was sorry about the friends who ran to the electric fence – to their death. He was also sorry for those shot in the back.


Later, when they were told to go, and at the side of the road he saw their bodies lying, riddled with bullets, he kicked them. He kicked and kicked, with what was left of his strength, which suddenly grew. He and those who walked with him were walking and kicking, and then walking again, and still, he had no goal. They murdered his parents and they murdered his five siblings. He was left to kick them alone.


Several days ago, Dov Schwartz passed away. A 91-year-old man. Not a broken man, not a weak man, neither persecuted nor sad, not crazy, and not detached. He was clear-minded to his last day, stronger than anyone and for everyone, proud of his children, proud of his grandchildren, proud of his great grandchildren, proud, loving and loved. May his memory be blessed.


Number had life of its own

Dov had a number on his arm. A number that once upon a time constituted the person he was; everything he was. A number that marked the most extreme nadir of the inhumane limit, the darkness of chaos, the kingdom of "human" inferno.


This number, which was burned into his small, thin arm – was never subjected to numerological analysis and hidden meaning was never discovered in it. Its digits were not debated or formed a basis for a legend. But a whole history was built upon it, here in the Land of Israel. A history with names and dates, photographs and weddings, birthdays, holidays, Saturdays, and happy occasions.


"Holocaust survivors undermine Jewish morale," Ben Gurion once said, and his words served as a guideline for society as a whole and for individual Israelis – and nobody wanted to undermine anyone else's morale. Dov Schwartz didn't want to either. But that number had a life of its own, and it violated the decree and posed questions and made Dov talk.


The Arab nurse at the hospital approached Dov's body and copied the tattooed number to a piece of paper. Dov's granddaughter asked him to do so. He was lying for four days until he yielded and died on the eve of her wedding, and she didn't have the time ask him, and was so sorry, because she knew he wanted to tell. Now, she was left with the number, and too late. The Arab copied the number. He understood.


First published: 04.16.07, 09:00
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