Never Forget

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This is one of the few pictures we have of my mom and her family before the war.  She was an adorable little girl who grew into a beautiful and haunted woman.  I think some of the relentless, unforgiving thoughts that defined so much of her persona were driven by memories such images evoked, further fueled by the unanswerable question, “what if?”.  “What if” there had been no Holocaust?  “What if” they could have remained in Vienna along with their sizeable extended family?  “What if” she had been able to grow up with frivolity?  “What if” her back story was so benign, so unremarkable that it didn’t inform her entire life?

Holocaust Remembrance Day – I wrote of it last year.  I honor it again.  Elie Wiesel once said, “To forget the Holocaust is to kill twice”.  With a bowed back, I realize that he is right – for this is a lesson the world has yet to embrace.  The irony of unanimous agreement that humanity is precious and the disparity that clearly exists in its definition.  And we bear witness over and over again – the self-righteous rationalization about the expendability of some people over others.  We’re not talking about Darwin.  After Kristalnacht, my grandfather went to schul with the conviction that the answer to this horror would be found in more devout prayer.  This is not about evolutionary theory.  This is a human tale.

My mother’s story lives now in my sister and I.  It has been with us since we were born, whispered to us as we were carried by our grandfather,  packed in our lunch boxes, tucked into our clothes.  We honored it because it was so big and inconceivable and intangible, yet as real and palpable as mom herself.  It was every nightmare that would wake us when she screamed.  It weighted every argument in mom’s favor when I fought my way through adolescence.  It remains as a part of every prayer I mouth to the sky in the morning – sending love to my parents, appreciation for  this life, my family and friends, and imploring that we all continue to be blessed with health and love.  It lives in me.  Perhaps it will remain in her grandchildren, and so on.  Time has a way of diluting even the starkest memories.  The ones you swear you’ll always remember.  Maybe the details will get lost, and what will survive within them is a more sophisticated palate – able to taste  the exquisite, indescribable sweetness to life.  The passionate advocacy for the value of humankind.

When mom passed away in 2005, her obituary ran in the New York Times.  It read in part, “Dee was born and spent her early childhood in Vienna, making her one of that shrinking cohort who experienced and survived the monstrous storm of Nazi violence.  Her father and mother…took the family out of Austria shortly after the Anschluss, making their way first to Belgium and then through occupied France.  The family made its way to Portugal, where on August 16, 1941, they found passage among 765 other refugees on the Spanish freighter Navemar – one of the last voyages of escapees from Europe.  Dee’s children and grandchildren bear in their hearts eternal, existential gratitude for her family’s valor and persistence.  Her intelligence, humor and immense energy were a gift to us all.  Our family’s particularly gladdened that Dee lived long enough to know of the safe return..of her eldest grandson, Matthew, from Iraq, where for the past year he has served in harm’s way the country that gave his grandmother safe haven.”

In acknowledging this day of Remembrance, I honor my family.  I honor the memories that once glared in every corner, and now have softened to shadows.  I will do my part to make sure that though they may dim and blur, they should never be forgotten.

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81 thoughts on “Never Forget

  1. Eloquent and moving. Your mom would be proud of you, your words and the feeling that you communicate so vividly. Well done!

  2. Oh, Mimi – my whole body shudders with tears in reponse to this beautiful, heartbreaking tribute. Nobody should ever forget, and everyone should know. My love to you. Julie

    • Hi Julie..and thank you. It really is a meager attempt at expressing what is in my heart, and a passionate wish that we would all share this planet with greater reverence for each other..xox

  3. What an amazing, beautiful tribute… Thank you. Such beautiful words, and that image is wonderful. May it help to put souls to these horrors so that the world never forgets, never repeats.

  4. “Remembrance and reflection how allied. What thin partitions divides sense from thought.”  Alexander Pope

    What a beautiful, sensitive memorial, honey. You’re remarkable and the finest testament to your mother, her family and what was clearly an indelible spirit. Love you so…. L

    • These moments evoke so much within me – including a fear that as these memories become increasingly diluted, so too does our collective value for humanity itself..love you..xoxo, m

    • Thank you Alex..when I first read this, my response was “this isn’t worship”. And yet, there is a reverence to memories so poignant; there is prayer in the intimation that we learn from our history – so yes, I suppose you’re right..

    • Thank you for stopping by and for your generous comments!! Perhaps personalizing this for the Internet generation will make it seem more real – and more connected to them (no pun intended)..

  5. I remember last years tribute as well. This year typing with twice the tears. How proud she is as she sits by Jack’s side; secure in the fact that at least for two subsequent generations “NEVER FORGET” still rings true. I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to share this one on my wall – for those who still hold the slimmest glimmer of doubt, for those who do not honor history with its many lessons and for those too young to remember. NEVER FORGET, ALWAYS REMEMBER. And, Mimi, the tribute and love in your words fills the heart and leaves no doubt. The burden of the chid of a survivor is a heavy one. You have always accepted this responsibility and duty with grace using your words as the medium to get out the message NEVER AGAIN. Beautifully done. Holding your hand in my heart today. Sending you love as always. To the moon and back. All there is. As a sidebar – your mom’s memory provoked this dormant memory of mine. The year was 1968 and the month was April. I was playing basketball in the schoolyard with a bunch of our friends when I was surrounded by a group of girls quite angry at the events of April 4, 1968. As I ran, as fast as my feel would allow, there was your building and safety loomed up ahead for me. It was the days long before one had to be buzzed in through double doors. If memory serves me correctly you lived on the 5th or 6th floor? I flew up the steps, pounded on the door and into your mom’s arms. Too young to know her comforting me came from two distinct places; the present and the past. Too young to know how safe I felt in her arms and, then, in yours. That’s how I remember your mom. For that day, and for the journey that was her young life that put her there that day – I will always remember. Because I agree with Elie Wiesel’s assessment that “to forget the Holocaust is to kill twice” I will never forget. Today’s piece must have been difficult to write. You did it so poignantly and beautifully as you do everything else. ❤

    • Ah Jo..I remember when you came through the door that day..sobbing – so scared. I was proud of my mom that day – for holding you and not pushing you to speak until you were ready (which was definitely not typical of my mom :-))…These roads we travel together and how we appreciate their importance to this day. It is important to remember, to explain and mourn and ultimately celebrate these lives. For I guess if we don’t celebrate life, we will not value it beyond all measure. I love your comments sweetheart – as I always do. But today especially…to the moon and back..xox

  6. Thank you for sharing for sharing your family’s story and the beautiful photos. The stories must continued to be told. I have no words that can express how moved I was by your post but I thank you deeply. May your story inspire others to share, and keep telling as well. In Light-Julie

    • Hi Julie – thank you for visiting, and for your comments. I too feel that these stories should be told and remembered, shared and dispersed. Wishing you a wonderful day, m

  7. What an incredibly beautiful post. Time does seem to dilute things, maybe so that we can go on and not remain paralysed. So that we never do forget. Memories of our mothers always in our hearts.

    • I’m not sure that loss is ever diluted – though I think it find its place in one’s heart, so that we can go on, find joy, celebrate life. And then when we need to, we can take gently take it out and hold it against our cheek and feel it as powerfully as ever.. I’m so glad you stopped by Angeline – thank you.

  8. Well said. Unfortunately destruction, discrimination and killing of people who are thought to be different continues everywhere. As a child of war having brought up in the post war time in occupied territory with parents who tried to survive during that time, WWII is within me as well. The battle is not over so let’s apply it to our daily lives, remember those killed and those that survived everywhere. Johanna!

    • Thank you Johanna – I wish that we as a society learn the value of each life, the magnificence of our diversity and the richness of each spirit before we so carelessly dismiss any element of humanity.

  9. Your posts about your Mother and Father root to the soul of my being. “Time has a way of diluting even the starkest memories.” Yes. Yet there is no dilution of black. That remains stark and dark. Loved your post Mimi. Moved me.

  10. Your mother, and so many more, are honored by your tribute. Your writing is a great service. So often, it’s easy to read the news, or history, and just take away data. Data doesn’t move the will. Stories do. Thank you for sharing yours.

  11. Mimi…I simply do not have words, I sit here in silence, in remembrance, feeling each word, feeling the hauntedness you describe. Your writing is, as always, but even more so today, pure eloquence. Your tribute – to your mother, to all families, is moving and touches me at the core.

    This: “My mother’s story lives now in my sister and I. It has been with us since we were born, whispered to us as we were carried by our grandfather, packed in our lunch boxes, tucked into our clothes…”

    and so much more just delivers what your mom, and you and your sister carry in the wake of humanity gone all wrong. Thank you for reaching down for this and sharing. love you. xoxo me

  12. You feel my words, for you know me. And I am beyond grateful for that. We are the culmination of all that came before us, all that we have lived and all that is happening in this moment. It will heavily play into the next chapters we write. Certainly my mother – and so many like her – bore the brunt of the impact of “humanity gone all wrong” (what a gorgeous gorgeous phrase). My sister and I (and all children of survivors) bear witness – as painful as that may be. It is also our honor. Love you, m

  13. You did good Mimi !! Not an easy thing to write about, but you did it with such grace and dignity, that I would bet your Mama is smiling along with a whole lot of others as well!! I truly believe that the only way to pay tribute to those we lose, are to keep telling their stories. It’s what keeps them alive in our hearts for a lifetime!!
    God bless my friend and WELL DONE!!

    • Hi Kimmie – thank you so much. You’re right, not an easy post for me at all, and I’m so happy at the thought that I did her memory proud. I share your view that in keeping these stories alive, we are paying tribute to those who are gone – and connecting ourselves and our children to their history..xo

  14. Beautifully written tribute. Thank you for the reminder. I read recently a sentiment that sticks: We all die twice; first when our bodies are done and lastly when there is no one left to call our name. We should call these names.

  15. People say you should fear the devil, I fear people. For the holocaust, slavery, the mass genocide of Native Americans…. Where is the humanity? It’s frightening that people can be treated like this, I can’t comprehend the cruelty. I am so sorry for you yet so amazed with your strength. God Bless you!

    • I share your perspective..I don’t understand the cruelty in this world nor whatever argument that males it appear justifiable. Thank you so much for coming by..I appreciate you thoughts.

    • I hope we pass these stories down to our children, so that when it is their turn to wear the mantle, they wear it with greater sensitivity than the generations that preceded them..

  16. So beautiful Mimi, and a story of the astonishing power of the human will…faced with even the darkest of times. I will keep Dee in my heart where she’ll remind me…never forget.

    • Thank you for your comments..There are too many things like this which we should carry forward as we form the future. And I hope perhaps, we can change the repetitive aspects that should never ever bear repeating.

  17. Thank you for sharing your compelling family story. The strength they needed to escape and survive is incomprehensible but I was happy to read that they did. I too honor your mother and family today and all the victims of the holocaust . This was too much of a human travesty to ever, ever ignore and forget. Hopefully, it will continue to be part of our educational curriculum. Xoxo

    • Hi Fran..I too hope we continue to make these historical horrors part of the curriculum. And I hope that one day we place the sanctity of those lives we so cavalierly send off to war above the insanity of hate. xox

  18. Oh Twinky Thank-you for sharing such a heart felt story. “Never forget”. YOU write beautifully. There are smiles from heaven shining down at you. Have a fabulous day. big hugs, Twinkle.

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