This is the earliest photo I’ve seen of my mother, Edith Schumer nee Westerfeld. Taken in 1925 in Stockstadt am Rhein, Germany, Edith is pictured here when she was only months old. The second woman from the right is holding her, and that’s her older sister, Betty, standing in front of their mother.
Edith and Betty survived the Holocaust, as my grandparents had the foresight to send both of them to America separately as unaccompanied minors when they were only 12 and 14 years old. Tragically, my grandparents were murdered.
What strikes me about this image is my grandmother’s expression. As I posted this, I realized that this is the only photo I’ve ever seen where my grandmother is smiling. Most of the photos I have of her are from the traumatizing 1930s.
I remember reading a story at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center about a Holocaust survivor’s son. A teacher told the boy’s mother that there was something wrong with him because he never smiled. The mother immediately realized that the boy didn’t smile because she never did. She decided to train herself by staring into the mirror and forcing a grin, so she could address her son’s lack of emotion.
Sadly, not many photos of my mother as a young woman show her smiling either.