Thursday, April 19, 2012

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is internationally recognized Holocaust Remembrance day. I don't think about the atrocities of that chapter in history too often but I was reading an article in our local paper the other day that triggered some thoughts. The article was talking about one of the original rail cars from Macedonia that had arrived locally to be displayed in the Holocaust and Tolerance Museum being built in Chandler. The story centered around the experiences of Helen Handler, a woman who had survived the camps after arriving there when she was fifteen. Seeing pictures of her today at eighty three reminded me of someone I knew.

When I was a young teen, I lived in a small town in Connecticut and used to babysit for several local families. One of those families happened to be a Jewish family that I babysat for over several years. Tom, the dad, was a gruff guy who scared the bejeebus out of me when I first met him until I eventually figured out that he was really just a big teddy bear. A highly intelligent, multi-multi-lingual, cranky teddy bear. But, I loved this family and was basically treated as a member of it. Suffice it to say that I know that matzo ball soup will kill you if you don't eat the stewed fruit.

Over the time that I was taking care of the kids and being a part of the family, I met quite a few of the extended family, included the grandparents. Tom's parents were this little (literally) old couple who spoke English with an accent. But I never made a connection until one day his dad reached for something and his shirt sleeve rode up. He quickly covered his arm back up but I had seen what he was hiding. A tattoo of a number. And I knew exactly what that meant. Even today, twenty five years later, I can still see that tattoo and the horror it signified. It broke my heart then and it does now, all these years later.

I'm glad this rail car is here and going to be displayed for people who are too young to have any connection to what it signifies. I will bring my son to the museum as soon as they open up. It won't be a "fun" trip, but it will be one worth doing.