Here is an interview that a now-defunct local Tacoma, Washington paper did with my father about his experiences during the Holocaust.
Parenthetically, I am currently in the process of compiling Dad’s various notes and transcribing the tapes he had recorded before his passing. Familiar as I am with the material, it was nevertheless always easy to assume that there were things which he had never mentioned to anyone. And, to be sure…
One day, when my parents were visiting us in Virginia Beach, I was messing around with something in the garage. At one point, Dad came in, watched me awhile, then moved to the garage door. He turned toward one of the slit windows in the garage door and, while looking outside, he unexpectedly began to talk.
When they arrived at Auschwitz, he said, they were rushed off the train by the so-called Canada commando (per Tommy Mandl, so named because the boots they wore looked like ice hockey boots, and Canada at the time was undisputed master of the universe in ice hockey). The family, at the time, included the parents, Dad, two of his sisters and a baby in arms (Aniko). They stood in line, ultimately passing Dr. Mengele, who was making the selections. It was dark and there was confusion all around; as Dad went to the right (work) and everyone else to the left (death), he found himself wondering if he could sneak over to the line of people going to the left and bring his relatives over to the right side. He was sure, he said, that nobody was watching and that he could pull it off. But he never did it, and he had been feeling guilty ever since.
I am not sure that he had ever mentioned that to anyone else. What I do know that, at that moment, I felt closer to him than ever before, or since. But what could I do to alleviate his pain? Precious little, if anything at all. I had done a lot of translating of Holocaust-related documents and I was pretty familiar with the topography of Auschwitz and with the process, so I ventured to say that I was sure they were in fact watching and Dad would have gotten shot down the moment he stepped out of line. I don’t know if that helped – I suspect not. I can only hope.
Well, here goes, to another member of the Greatest Generation, who defeated the Nazis simply by surviving the impossible and making a good life of it afterwards, creating new life in the process.
Article posted with the kind permission of the author, Jeff Stoffer, and the photographer, Duncan Livingston.