Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lessons learned

Although the Holocaust (Shoah) is a Jewish tragedy, the themes and lessons learned transcend religion and ethnicity. The fallout from that period in our history is overwhelming when one realizes how many families are yet to be reunited, how many graves are yet to be found, how many children are yet to be named?

I recently found my Uncle Leo Chimowicz's grave in Prague from a simple statement made by a child survivor named Eva, "Maybe your Uncles hitched a ride from concentration camp Theresienstadt to Prague with my family?" I had searched cemeteries worldwide, had zoomed in the Czech ones, but did not find his grave until I was given this potential clue! I had searched the worldwide cemetery databases, I had searched cemeteries in the Czech Republic, I had searched cemeteries in Prague, but when I heard Eva's words, I zoomed in on one city, and one city only.

Since my Uncle Alfred Chimowicz had seen his youngest brother, Leo Chimowicz, who was alive on release from Theresienstadt, in a hospital, I figured this youngest brother must have been buried, but the question was what hospital, in what city? As a child, I saw my father and uncle light memorial candles for their youngest brother. We knew that this youngest brother wanted to go back to the East to search for his wife and three sons, just as my father went to the West to search for his wife and young daughter.

The Holocaust cut short the lives of 11.5 million persons of all faiths. What can we do to tell the true stories as we know them and what can we do to "fix" those stories that are false about such an unbelievable event in the history of the world?

If you have a story to tell, do not hesitate to publish it on a blog, in comments on a blog, on a website, on Facebook, or whatever media you feel comfortable with. If you are searching for answers, for the truth, for the fate of lost family members, better to get it out in the media sooner rather than later.

Do not wait until you have a "perfect" book, write up what you have and get it out there.
There will be negative reviews no matter how "perfect" or how well-edited your book might be, but any closure, any new information that you might find, will most certainly be worth the effort.

If you are a member of the 2nd or 3rd generation, search the word "Holocaust" or "Shoah" in FB groups and join one that would welcome your family's stories.

When you connect with someone who may have information on the fate of one of your ancestors, do not let go, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity might never come again!

I am grateful to have found someone who was close to my sister's age and on the journey with my lost sister. Although I had older cousins that were with my sister, having found a child close to her age and seeing the world from the child's eyes is incredible and truly beyond what I expected.

I was fortunate to get a glimpse of my sister's world, literally "Through Eva's Eyes."

Eva's journey was documented in a children's book written by her granddaughter, Phoebe:

If it is time to explain what happened in that horrible period of our world's history to a child, Phoebe Unterman's book, which is most beautifully illustrated, "Through Eva's Eyes," is a wonderful place to start the journey and begin to "Walk Forward."

Eva's story is my lost sister's story, a story about the group now called "The Last 500."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Man's Search for Meaning

On my recent trip to Texas, my nephew suggested I read Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning."

I knew this book was on my reading list from years gone by. I remember shelving it in our hospital library, but hearing my nephew suggest reading it, I could not wait to borrow Frankl's books from the library.

A quote by Nietzsche, cited in the book, is as follows:

             "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how."

I have been thinking much about these words in relation to my father who lost his first wife and beautiful 9 year-old, blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter --- or more specifically, neither wife or child are documented on any reliable list after September 3, 1944, after arriving in concentration camp Stutthof  from Auschwitz.

My "lost" sister was a member of a group now called "The Last 500."

Frankl, a psychiatrist survivor of the Shoah (Holocaust), presents much information which sounds familiar, things my father told me or I somehow assimilated? Frankl understands survival, what survival involves, and has first-hand knowledge of being a slave laborer and concentration camp inmate.

My father told me he survived as wanted to tell the world what had happened, but after the war he felt that no one would believe what had happened, no one would believe our family's story, no one would believe the horrors of the Holocaust.

I am rereading Frankl's book which is reminding me of the many things buried deep in my own mind, things my father had told me which I did not document. Frankl verifies what I knew, but expresses it much better in words than I can. He gives me the gift of understanding what was needed to survive, in addition to physical strength and luck.

If you are interested in the mindset of survivors and those who did not, you might wish to read Frankl's

A big  Texas "Thank You," to our dear nephew, our niece made an incredible choice in choosing him as her soul mate!