August 2013

This summer is the first one that my grandfather is no longer with us. The days go by and, as each year in the past 15 years or so, I see July 30 and August 20 staring at me from the calendar. There were times when I phoned my grandfather and "reminded" him the birthdays of his parents. I do not know how he experienced those talks, but I suppose it was my way of showing him they are not forgotten.


 

I've reached a decision yesterday to step into my role as a third generation to the holocaust and begin lecturing on my grandfather's family.

My grandfather himself did not talk much of his past during the holocaust. He was one of the first people in Israel to sit down and write down their experiences from the Second World War. His book was written in the mid-1950s and was awarded the Yad VaShem prize. That experience freed him from his past and he did not reminisce on any of it for decades.


Yes, there were known incidents over the years that brought it all back, such as when he had to host a German delegation visiting in Israel, or when he was asked himself to travel to Germany, but these did not send him back to relive his stories. It was only when I began showing an interest that he began to share. I still have with me the piece of paper on which I tried to write down the few anecdotes he shared with me earlier that day.

Third generation lectures: Initial thoughts

I had my grandfather's book, his few stories that he shared with me in person, and I felt quite freely asking and getting as much information as I could on the lives of his parents. In the past few years, internet resources have made it possible to recover and discover more.

My grandfather grew up solely with his immediate family – his parents and older brother. He knew the names of his uncles and aunts, but they lived miles away in another country. Prior to the war, he had only met in person his paternal grandmother who came for a visit and one of his paternal uncles who spent some time at his hometown before leaving for Palestine. And so, it was only after the war that this 18-year-old orphan met his family for the very first time. By using the term "his family" I of course mean those who had survived.


 

After many years of only knowing partial names and places of residence for my grandfather's war-struck family, I began exploring more and more. The findings were horrific and exciting at the same time.

Several family members were granted a face for the very first time. In one of these cases, oddly enough, the Nazi authorities who wished to wipe them off the face of the earth had kept records with a portrait attached to them. For the large part, I managed to learn the fate of them all. Some loose ends still remain, hopefully for the time being.


 

These stories, alongside that of my grandfather, will serve as the basis for my first experience on sharing my 'personal' testimonial of the holocaust.

שביט בן - אריה