'I retain all the pain of my grandmother'

  • February 11, 2010
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The lives of all the Germans I know have been defined by the Holocaust and its legacy. Some more than others.

I have another friend in her 60s whose family has lived in my mother’s town, Stockstadt, for generations. This friend feels terribly alienated because her mother made a choice after she had her only child: She decided she wouldn’t have any more children because she wouldn’t want to send a son to war.

“Now I have no family,” my friend explains. “No one is left.”

Her grandmother worked in a nearby hospital which housed disabled children during the 1930s. “My grandmother was forced (under threat to her life) to prepare the children for the trains. I am like a microchip. I retain all the pain of my grandmother.” (Interestingly, my friend works with learning disabled teenagers.)

Her grandfather hated Hitler and made a remark about it. “After that, he was put in a hospital for the mentally ill. He died there. Her grandmother, who also had been outspoken about Hitler, was very quiet after that and simply did her job.”

My friend’s mother once saw my grandmother Frieda in Darmstadt. At that time, (around 1940) she was living in the Jew house. “Whenever my mother told this story she would cry. She greeted Frieda and she wanted to hug her. But Frieda refused.

“‘You are safe,’ Frieda said. ‘Go away!'”

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