Jan. 27 marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the liberation by the Allies in World War II of the Auschwitz extermination camp. This fictional story, which takes place in a bomb shelter in Israel, emphasizes that we have not yet eradicated evil from the world. The two characters of Jenny, the Holocaust survivor, and Nili, the young Israeli mother, are used to convey a message of hope and a message of warning that we have not yet reached the end of the road and we have to work hard to correct the injustice. As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, I feel the ongoing responsibility to talk about and write about the Holocaust constantly, lest we forget its lessons.
Nili quickly picked up Ofer, put her backpack on her back that was ready for an emergency and, as in an army exercise, ran with all her might toward the shelter.
The siren buzzed in her ears so loudly that it seemed to her that her ears were falling from her face. Ofer rocked from side to side and exploded with laughter. He craned his neck and raised his head high as she at once dropped him behind her back, lifted him high again, and knocked him backwards and on every level, his laughter rolled over the noise of the siren. “Have fun!” she laughed. “It’s not a war for you, it’s a game for you.”
She walked quickly down the stairs to the depth of the shelter and sat breathless on the lower bed between the two-story beds. Ofer began to shake his body so firmly that his feet touched the floor. Then he detached his hands from her body, finger after finger, and ran quickly to the center of the shelter. He stood with a smile wrapped around his face and his head began to turn like a hinge.
Jenny held out two bony hands with long, thin fingers and smiled at him with a mouthful. Her upper teeth swayed violently. She feared that she would scatter them on the floor of the shelter and the two lower teeth, which were yellow as a lemon.
“How old is he?” She asked in a slow, quivering voice with a heavy accent that betrayed her Polish origins.
“A year-and-a-half,” replied Nili. “He’s a big mischievous boy. His great-grandmother, who is my grandmother, tells me he’ll be a big mamzer.”
“Yes, yes,” replied Jenny, and her blue eyes, with long eyelashes curled up as if they had been designed by a makeup girl, looked up at the ceiling of the shelter and their gaze remained fixed on the ceiling for a long time.
“Oh,” Jenny suddenly jumped up, finding Ofer on her knees. She hugged him to her heart as her fingers walked through his fair curly hair and with her eyes closed she began to massage his little head. Ofer clung to her gaunt body and sent both his little hands, at the end of which plump fingers appeared, toward her furrowed face and began to walk on her face, his fingers sliding over every crease.
A loud explosion was heard outside and immediately afterward there were shouts of casualties and the terrible noise of sirens. “When will it be over?” Jenny whispered. “We did not have enough in life?” She went on, almost without a sound.
Ofer broke his hands from Jenny’s face and sat upright on her knees, his big green eyes staring at Nili.
Nili walked over to him quickly and took him by her hands. “Do not be afraid, Ofer,” she said confidently. “Dad is watching over us.” Ofer began to rock on Nili’s hands and scream.
“Father, Father,” and they both laughed.
“I also had a child like Ofer,” Jenny whispered suddenly, her eyes filled with a dampness that grew into large tears that slowly trickled down her face and split into every crease until they reached her mouth and disappeared, and Jenny began to cough.
“Oh, I did not know, Jenny, I’m so sorry to hear.” Nili hugged Jenny to her heart and with a piece of toilet paper that was in her pocket, for times of trouble, she wiped her tears.
“And what happened to your child?” Nili asked, as her hands hugged Jenny’s shoulders and Ofer, who was lying in the bottom bed between the two-story bed, began to roll his eyes and play with his pacifier that looked like a “war veteran,” and in a moment his eyes closed and only his soft breaths could be heard.
“My child was burned in front of my eyes in Auschwitz,” Jenny whispered, her eyes fixed on Ofer, who was lying on his back and his lips moved to the right and left, and the pacifier moved behind the lips.
“I managed to carry him with me for a long time, and in the end, almost before we were released, they murdered him, but the life of my child until the moment he was burned and my life, I owe to the woman whom I wish I would meet again.”
“Who is that woman and why did not you meet her?” Nili asked curiously.
“I forgot the woman’s name, do you believe?” Jenny looked up at the ceiling.
“And how did she save him?” Nili asked, her forehead shrinking and her eyes fixed on Jenny’s face.
“We met on the train that took us to Auschwitz. We sat next to each other on the floor of the car, which was full of Jews like us. There was no air to breath, and Srulik, who was 4 years old, started to scream and lost his breath until he lay on the floor of the car and I could not hear him anymore.”
She stopped, looked at Nili and then at Ofer and reached for Nili’s hands and held them tightly until Nili began to blink her eyes and shrink her face. “This wonderful woman,” she continued, “lifted Srulik’s legs, put his head on her knees and began to press him on the stomach until he coughed and opened his eyes, and a broad smile spread across her face. From that moment on, we stayed together and Srulik had two mothers.”
Nili closed her eyes and asked, “Does this woman happen to be called Frida?”
Jenny slowly rose from the white plastic chair, released Nili’s hands at once, and whispered, “Yes, yes, everything is coming back to me.”
Another powerful explosion was heard outside, Nili kissed Jenny on the cheek and said, “When it’s all over, Jenny, we’ll all meet Frida.”
This post has been contributed by a third party. The opinions, facts and any media content are presented solely by the author, and JewishBoston assumes no responsibility for them. Want to add your voice to the conversation? Publish your own post here.