There is no understanding Auschwitz and Birkenau—that is the point of coming here. That is what drives us along the corridors so we can get out in time. That is what saves us, as we push inside the taxi. If you could contain Auschwitz, if you could grasp it, perhaps you would become a part of it. It is permissible, essential even, to leave portions unread, moments uncontemplated.
We never looked directly at the people who sat down next to us. I thought all these girls must have that same core of loneliness I did, buried under the layers of wool and nylon. I could see it in the smudges of black liner gathered in on that little bulge beneath the outer corner of each eye on the ride home.
That is certainly not something I expected when I wondered what the future would bring on the boat coming to New York. And it’s not what I imagined when Carole asked me if I wanted to move to Texas.
I couldn’t afford the way memory ransacked my heart and left an airless cell pushing against my windpipe and the corners of my eyes.
So my memories turned to cold water, rushing in through the gash the iceberg left. An iceberg—there’s a devil. How wicked to hide, a towering city of thoughtless cold beneath the water’s surface–invisible and unknowable.
(Carole’s father, Rudy, musing in 1937, Germany) Is my country a part of my blood, my bones, is it the safe feeling under my feet? Or is it the place my family has lived for generations—even after it strips away our rights and treats us hatefully? What identifies me as German? Is it my culture, [...]
Carole was amazing. She was beautiful—curly jet black hair, a luscious little body and a fiery temper and wit. She was smart but she wasn’t all dried up like those college girls my buddies married. She was full of life and love—really sexy, not just dolled-up. She would talk to me about what was happening in her life. She needed someone to talk to and someone to appreciate her.
To think I must send my child away so she can live the life every father dreams of for his child–I am defeated. A Father should be able to give his family all the things they need. Not to be wealthy but to be a family together. Now, just when we should be talking about boys and school, we send her off to a strange place.
That’s what I learned: you always have to be ready and act fast. I guess I did that with everything that ever happened to me after that time. That’s how I married your father too.
He is ten years older than me with dark hair that is already thinning. His dark eyes make him look serious and kind at the same time. But he is quick to laugh at my Father’s jokes. That is a good sign. His laugh is a rich, warm sound. This is a man who can forgive and forget. Mamma says that is the most important and I think she is right.
I am glad they are girls. I would hate to send a boy to war. Already Germans are talking about troops and guns so much–they hate Versailles. I think they have war in their blood, no matter how bad it was such a short time ago.