A New Baby Has Been Born Into Our Holocaust Family

Yesterday, a new baby was born into our Holocaust family. A new baby in the family is a momentous event but to a Holocaust family, the emotions that it unleashes bring bittersweet memories of what a new life means to the family.

Our family is small due the murders of most of the members of our family by the Nazis. My mother was the only survivor of her entire village so there were no grandparents, no aunts or uncles, no cousins, no family at all on my mother’s side. My father was much luckier, as he would say survival in the Holocaust had a lot to do with luck. He had a younger sister and brother who survived the Holocaust. His sister, my aunt Faye, was a survivor of the infamous Auschwitz death camp. Yes, she had a number tattooed on her arm. She was sterilized by the Nazis, and when she finally married, she was deemed too old to adopt a baby in the United States. My Aunt Faye worked her entire life to save to travel around the world when she retired. When she was 65, she got lymphoma, and died before she could carry out her wishes.  I have always followed her advice to travel as much as I could before I was 65. It took me until 70 to see all the wonders of the world on my bucket list. I do not have any cousins that are descendants from my Aunt Faye.

My Uncle Eddie was movie star handsome. He was my father‘s younger brother, younger than Aunt Faye. They had another sister, who was the youngest in the family, who did not survive. No one else in their extended family in Poland survived. My uncle Eddie fled to Russia from Warsaw and participated in the Nazi resistance movement.  He survived but the trauma of his experiences were always with him and always visible. He married my Aunt Berta, who, at age eighteen, escaped from a concentration camp where she had been imprisoned for two years, and was hidden by a couple, the Schmidts, in a distant farm in the Polish woods.  One day, a Nazi came by the farm looking for escapees from a concentration camp.  He told Mrs. Schmidt that there had been an escape by four girls a few months ago, they had captured two of girls, another was found dead, and they thought the fourth girl had disappeared into the forest.  The Nazi was told there was no one there, but they searched the farm. My Aunt Berta was cleaning out the stable and saw the Nazi solder, hit under the horse’s hay in the barn, and was not found by the Nazi.  Aunt Berta survived the Holocaust, as did one brother.  The rest of her family, including two other brothers, was murdered by the Nazis. One of her grandsons, when still a child, wrote a children’s book about her experiences, for which he won the 1996 Publish-a Book contest and the 1996 Alexander Fischbein Young Writer’s Award.

This new baby is the great grandson of my Aunt Berta and Uncle Eddie. In addition to my brother, the only family in my generation of Holocaust survivors are the two cousins, descendants of my Aunt Berta and Uncle Eddie, and my youngest cousin’s two sons, and my children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, there are no great grandparents alive for this new baby in our family. Unfortunately, there are no great aunts or great uncles alive for this new baby in the family.

The new baby in the family has and will grow up with a grandmother and a grandfather; this baby’s grandmother is the daughter of Aunt Berta and Uncle Eddie. My baby cousin is a grandma for the first time. I am so overwhelmed with joy, I have tears in my eyes. Having two sons, she had to wait a little longer than I did when I became a grandma.

I spoke with her just as she was getting out of the taxi at the hospital to meet her new grandson. Holding the child of your child is an unbelievable experience. The emotions that you feel are greater than when you hold your own child and you wonder how so much joy is possible in this world.

You feel the weight of the generations that came before you and you have the joy of the generations to come. You can hold the new baby grandchild forever. You get more energy than you thought you could ever have when you take care of this new grandchild.  You will always love the first grandchild the longest.

This new baby grandchild in our family joins five cousins in his generation. So far. We are such a small family and our history molds our future. As my Father always said, when a grandchild is born, the Nazis did not win. They did not kill all the Jews in the world as they intended.

The new baby in the family is named for my Aunt Berta, who recently died well into her nineties. The baby’s name is so significant, which in Hebrew means son of strength. In our family, that is a deep meaning. He comes from stock that survived horrors that no one should experience. He is the descendent of those few that survived when six million were murdered. May he bring joy to his parents and grandparents and be a light unto the world.

 

With great joy,

 

Mema

 

 

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