Couvent St. Joseph was a Roman Catholic religious institution, and so the subject of religion inevitably had to come up, particularly as I had been charged with keeping an eye on my cousins should there be any attempts at baptism or conversion. There were no baptisms, actual or attempted. But as to conversions. . . […]
Not all days in school were equally pleasant. As mentioned before, winter 1941 was one of the bitterest on record in Europe, made somewhat more unpleasant by the shortage of coal, the only heating fuel used at the time in that place. In our classroom we had a pot-bellied stove which worked only intermittently because […]
I wish I could say that I was truly miserable while living in hiding at the Couvent St. Joseph, but that wasn’t really the case. I was truly uncomfortable, yes; very uncomfortable. Always being ravenously hungry is not conducive to comfort, and neither is being lousy, dirty, itching from scabies, or being preternaturally cold, all of which were more or less natural and permanent states during those years. But there were also some very good things. I know this is inconsistent with the image of a poor, suffering child, but so it was. There were some very good things there also, and I wouldn’t want to forget or mention those in my rush to be consistent.
First among these good things was the realization that there was a school that could be attended within the convent, and Fela and I immediately rushed in to become students and finally learn to read and write. I took a desk way at the back, and waited
I don’t remember what it was I did on that first day in the orphanage. It is simply a blank. However, I do remember that at some point the children began lining up in their little black uniform aprons in front of some large wooden doors at the other end of the courtyard. This I […]
The day of departure arrived. I was told to remember my new name, and was again told never to tell anyone that I was Jewish. My mother took along a bag of my clothing, and off we went by tramway to the Couvent St. Joseph. From the tram stop it was still a considerable distance […]
One day Herr Ullendorf, dressed as usual in his black velvet-collared coat, his homburg on his head and carrying his usual cane, showed up at my Aunt Paula’s apartment and told her that he thought that the children, namely my cousins Wolfie and Robert and I might be hidden from the Nazis in a Catholic […]
At this point I should say a few words about my cousin Lily. She was the youngest of Aunt Paula and Uncle Nuhim’s three children, and might have been about eighteen, but I wasn’t sure of her age then, and I’m not sure of it now. As mentioned before she suffered from cerebral palsy and showed […]
My Aunt Paula did not attend services Friday evenings or Saturdays because, as mentioned earlier, she had to stay home with my cousin, Lily. She also had to get busy preparing the Shabbat or holiday food. This meant that she had to cook the things she had prepared earlier, among which were the noodles she […]
When I wasn’t in kindergarten or at home, I was at my Aunt Paula’s, who with her husband, my Uncle Nuhim, and their daughter, Lily, lived in an apartment over Emil and Nora’s coal store. The apartment consisted of three rooms, only one of which had electricity. Central heating might have come to the rest of the world, but in our part of the world, each apartment still had its own stove and needed coal for heating and cooking. Besides being the landlord, Nora and Emil sold coal. No one was quite sure whether they were Nazi sympathizers or not, and they probably weren’t, but still there was that whiff of suspicion. The store was on the first floor, and the apartment was on the second, and was accessible only from a usually locked front door and a flight of stairs. Only the main room, fronting the street had electricity. It also had
A few years ago on my 40th birthday, I had this conversation with my dad. I was so struck by my dad’s responses that I transcribed it word for word:
JB: Was your mother ever happy?
AL: Yes, she was very lively and happy, but she had a very hard life and that toughened her to the world.
JB: Do you remember a time when she was happy?