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Thinking of My Dad on Memorial Day

29 May

A rose and a Snapple for my Dad. 2016.

My  Dad was the recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. During the Korean War, he was a forward observer, which meant he had the job of going in front of the front lines, laying the radio cable with which they communicated, and observed what the enemy was doing.   Sometimes he disappeared for a while, with no communications home to my Mom or to his Mother.

Before he left f or Korea, my Dad got engaged to my Mom, married he on his last leave, June 17, 1951, and spent time in California training. At first, I think because of his advanced age, he was almost 23, he taught map reading to new recruits. Dad loved to read maps. Honestly, I think GPS systems would have driven him crazy, as paper maps have almost vanished. For Dad a map was important.

His time as a instructor was limited. One day during exercises, an officer insulted my Dad, making anti-Semitic comments and making fun of the mezuzah he wore around his neck.   Dad was not a tall man, but he was a big man. He tackled the officer and broke his jaw.

Not a good thing to do at all. But Dad was from the Bronx. He learned at a young to defend himself. And perhaps going to an all boy high school, DeWitt Clinton, in NYC, made his sure of himself.  And he was not stupid.  He knew exactly what he was doing. But NO one was  going to make fun of him for being a Jew. (Okay, I will admit he dropped out of college, CCNY,  his biggest mistake,  he ended up in Korea instead of in a classroom.)

He was lucky, his commanding officer, a Captain, saw the incident. He and several others hustled Dad back to camp.   As far as anyone was concerned, Dad was not there when the Lieutenant had his jaw broken.   But Dad was demoted a grade and sent to Korea. He always said that the USA paid for his first cruise…to Japan and then to Korea.

Dad’s first Purple Heart came when they were going up a hill. His group was being bombarded.   The noise was horrendous. Years later when Dad saw “Saving Private Ryan,” he discussed that noise. The movie brought back his memories, as he was part of the amphibious landing in Lochi.  My Mom said he cried during the opening sequences. 

He told us, They got everything right, even the sounds of the bullets hitting the sand, but they could not get the horrendous smell.”

Dad was injured on the hill. Shrapnel entered his legs. He was bleeding. His friends cried out, “Rosie! Get Down! You are wounded! Medic Medic!. “ He said he did not even feel the pain in the rush to get up the hill.   It was Dad’s first visit to a MASH unit.   Needless to say, Dad loved the television comedy M.A.S.H. The MASH doctors fixed Dad up and he went back to war.   Years later the shrapnel began to exit his legs, causing him much pain.

Besides being a forward observer, Dad was a radio man. He laid wires and fixed faulty wiring. He received a citation for bravery for fixing wiring at the base during a bombardment. He was up on a pole fixing it, while bombs fell around him.

His Bronze Star was a unit award. Quotes from my sister: “His unit got in during the Inchon incursion when the South Korean army units on the flanks bugged out and left his division holding the line against North Korean army until relief units arrived.”

My brother disagrees. He says yes it was a unit award, but was not for Inchon. They were actually in the mountains and were abandoned by the South Koreans. The unit got the Bronze  Star for this mission, for fighting their way back to their encampment and surviving. 

His second Purple Heart got him the trip home. This time by plane to Hawaii and the big pink military hospital on the hill.   (I waved to it when I went to Hawaii 17 years ago.   Dad asked me to do that for him.) Then to California and one to Massachusetts, where Mom was able to meet up with him.

She always said that Dad was not the same person when he came home. She would say that he was not a human being. That it took a full year for the real Donald to come back.

Dad was the kindest, gentlest man. He loved people. He loved his family. But his time in the army changed him.   Certain noises would impact him.   Military movies made him cry.   He went to pay respects at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC, as well as the one here in Kansas. At both he cried for those who did not come home.

2017 Remembering my Dad and Mom. Two roses.


On Memorial Day, I always think of my Dad, and all the others who served our country.  I go to the Korean War Memorial near my home and put roses on the stone I put in for my Dad.   Roses for Rosie….and I drink a diet peach Snapple, his  and my favorite drink.

 

 

Another Blog about my Dad:  https://wordpress.com/posts/zicharonot.wordpress.com?s=My+Dad+was+a+Proud+Veteran

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/museums-help-me-honor-our-relatives-who-served-on-veterans-day/

 

Cruise Conversations That Linger In My Heart

6 Apr

When I travel I have learned to expect the unexpected.  You never know who you will meet or what will occur.  The best is to be flexible.  But occasionally you meet someone who makes an impression.

The first time this happened was on a cruise over 25 years ago.    At lunch time, on a cruise, you get to sit with many different people.  You never know who you will meet or what you will talk about.  On the second day of this Caribbean cruise, we ate lunch with an older man, who when he reached across the table,  I saw numbers tattooed on his arm, numbers obviously from Nazi days.

I said nothing.  I remember as a child, in the early 1960s, I saw numbers on the arm of my parent’s friend.   I asked the question, “Why do you have numbers?”  The room grew silent, and I was taken from the room and told never to ask that question again.  It wasn’t until I was much older I understood that  in the early 60s people did not talk about the numbers.

But this was the early 1990s and I was no longer a child.  Since we were seated next to each other, I waited.   When most of the people left, I asked.  I had the most interesting conversation.  The man next to me was a retired priest.  He was on board to hold services.   He had been in the camps as a young man because he and his parents resisted the Nazis and were part of the intelligentsia and were ardent Catholics.  He and I had several conversations over the week-long cruise. We spoke about his experiences and the death of my grandfather’s family in the Shoah. Although I have forgotten his name,  I have never forgotten him.

But when we went on a cruise this past March, I did not think I would meet another survivor. So many years have passed, and among those survivors who are still alive, few still travel.   At lunch one day, I found my husband speaking to a much older couple.  The man was obviously elderly and perhaps recovering from an illness.  But he spoke strongly with a distinct British accent and he had a much different life experience.

His story touched my heart.  He and his brother were sent away from his home in Germany on a Kindertransport to England when he was 14.  He was one of the lucky ones.  His parents survived as well!   “We had a wonderful life in Germany,” he told us.  “We were more German than Jewish.”

But of course that did not help.  His parents were quite wealthy and aware enough to start the search for visas and relief early on.

When he turned 18, he enlisted in the US army and was sent to the United States.  His service helped him become an American citizen, because until then he was a man without a state.  While in the USA, just before he left for Germany, he became a US citizen.  His commanding officer advised him to change his name from Adolf and the very Jewish last name to something less Jewish sounding.

“If they capture you in Germany with that name, they will not keep you as a prisoner, they will kill you,” his commander told him.  Since he was getting citizenship he should change his name now.  So while he traveled to court he kept thinking of a good name.  He decided on Ralph for his first name.  For his  privacy I will not relate his last name.  He did go to Germany and was a translator for the Army during the closing days of the war and afterwards.

I have read about the Kindertransports and heard speakers discuss these train rides to freedom,, but I never actually met someone and had an informal conversation with someone who survived through this path.

Although I have read many books about the Shoah and spoken to many survivors, these two men will remain in my memory. My conversations with them linger in my heart.

What Happened To Karola?

27 Feb

I am still finding clues about my grandmother’s family in the old photo album we found hidden in the attic. Many of the photos might remain mysteries. As they have no caption or notations. But as I slowly go through them, I sometimes find a photo with a message on the back.

In February,  I was showing the album to a visiting cousin, when I flipped over the photo of a young woman. I was surprised to see it had a note on the back in Polish. I could understand a bit. It was to her cousin Thelma (my grandma). It had a date, June 6, 1946. And it had a place, Kielce.  I was glad that I had finally found a photo from after the war. I thought that finally I had found someone who survived. I had thought the book was hidden because it was filled with those who perished.

The back of the photo.

Karola in June 1946.

I posted the photo on the “Tracing the Tribe,” Facebook group to get a translation of the back. It was dedicated to my grandmother. “To my sincere/honest and devoted cousin Thelma from Karola. I knew they were related because Karola looks so much like my grandmother. I assume they are first cousins.

My Grandma Thelma summer 1942.

The rest of the inscription reads, “Kielce, June 6, 1946. “.  And that opened up a new issue. Someone wrote, “Do you realize that this is dated from Kielce less than ONE MONTH before the pogrom in which 42 Jews — pretty much all Holocaust survivors — were massacred in the local community center? Did your relative survive that horrible event.”

I Don’t know if she survived!

I started investigating Kielce.  On July 4, 1946, there was a pogrom against the approximately 200 Jewish survivors of the camps who had moved back to Kielce. They were a tiny percentage of what once was a thriving Jewish community.

Of those 200, 42 were killed and 40 were injured.  This event started when a young boy told his father he was late because Jews locked him in a basement. It was a lie. But started a blood libel event. Polish police and soldiers participated. On July 14 nine Poles were executed for their role in this horrible massacre. Because of this event,  Polish Jews who survived knew they had to leave Poland. It would never be a safe haven. And a mass exodus began.

But what about my cousin?  I tried finding her name on any lists. But I do not know her surname.  I do not remember ever meeting her in the US, although I met most of my grandparents’ relatives. There were so few.  I had not met her in Israel when I took my grandma there in 1976.  I met many relatives then. (See previous blog: Speaking Yiddish Always Brings Holocaust Memories).  I sent the photo to a cousin in Israel. Although we are just a month apart in age, she is a generation above me. My mothers first cousin. And her parents survived the war by fleeing to a Russia. She knew the family who survived and moved to Israel. She also has a picture of Karola, but knows nothing about her.  

So I am beginning to think she perished. Which breaks my heart. Did she send the photos to relatives in an effort to get out of Europe?  What was happening? Was she alone?  I need answers. 

I could not let my search end there. I have contacted a distant cousin who I met through Tracing the Tribe. He is a much more experienced researcher than I. I hope he will be able to bring me closure about cousin Karola.

In the meantime I also continue to search for her. But I also continue to learn about the political and social anti-Semitism that led to this horrendous event and its aftermath.

UPDATE:  Karola lived: From another cousin who read the blog I found out this information:  “Karola lived in Paris with her husband and beautiful daughter. They visited us for a few days when I was a teen. My mother kept in touch for many years, the daughter also came to NYC and stayed and then they seemed to lose contact.” Wrote my cousin. 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kielce_pogrom

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

Defacing a Cemetery and Bomb Threats Make Me Angry

20 Feb

I was not sad today when I found out more Jewish Community Centers had received bomb threats that forced evacuations.  I was not sad today when I found out Chessed Shel Emeth Cemetery was vandalized and over 100 stones were toppled.  I was not sad.

I was ANGRY! I am still angry. I am frustrated that people believe hatred wins. It does not win.

This wave of anti-Semitism has touched me on several occasions. My sister and nephew were exercising at the Tenafly, NJ, JCC when it had to be evacuated in bitter cold weather. Children and elderly had to walk or be taken to a safe place.

The Jewish Community Center in Kansas has been on high security for over two years now since a horrible instance of anti-Semitic violence led to three deaths. And twice bomb threats have been received this year. I am used to seeing armed guards at the JCC and at our synagogues.

But today was the final straw. Today the cemetery where my husband’s parents and grandparents, as well as his great aunt and uncle,  are buried was vandalized. Chessed shel Emeth in University City, Missouri, in St Louis.  I am so angry that someone thinks toppling graves is acceptable. I think my anger is intensified because so many of my family have no graves. Their remains are included in the ashes of the concentration camps and destroyed Jewish communities in Europe.

I think I am angry because by destroying graves, they– the haters– try to wipe out out memory. I am always searching in my family’s genealogy, always wondering about who came before and how are we related. So I say to the haters, “It will not happen. We carry each person’s name and memory as a blessing. ”

I contacted the cemetery as soon as I found out to discover the status of our family graves. I was surprised at how quickly I had a response. I was contacted within an hour that Our stones were not toppled.

I want to thank all those who reached out to us. I am glad that the community is coming together to help repair the damage.  Donations can be made to help pay for the damage,. (See link below.)

And I say to those making threats and trying to destroy cemeteries, You will be found. You will be punished. This is not Europe of 1939. This is the United States of America. And you are in the wrong. We stand united.

I am angry, but I believe in goodness.  And I will continue to work with and focus on those who want a better world. I think we need to spread kindness, but we also need to find those who are perpetuating these acts and hold them responsible for their actions. It is just wrong.
If you want to help the cemetery please go to this site: https://www.chesedshelemeth.org/how-to-donate.html

Vandals target historic Jewish cemetery in University City

Speak Out In Times of Great Moral Crisis

29 Jan

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” Dante


In March 2002, my husband and I took our two children to Washington, DC, for spring break. We decided that in order to show no fear in face of terrorism we would go to our nation’s capitol and visit all of the museums and sites.

The White House was still closed to the public. There were snipers on the roof. And new obstacles to block terrorist attacks were being put into place.

But we went to museums, to the Library of Congress, to the Ford Theater, to George Washington’s Home at Mount Vernon. We showed our children that these places will stand. And no matter what happens, we as citizens of the United States had freedoms.

My son was 11 and my daughter was 15. My husband had already been to the Holocaust Museum. We decided that I would take our daughter there, while my husband took our son back to the hotel. A good decision at the time, as it is a difficult museum to see.

My daughter and I walked the halls of the museum. We watched movies and videos. We listened to testimony. We looked at memorabilia. Then we went to the Hall of Remembrance. I wanted to light a candle in memory of my family who perished in the Shoah. For my great grandmother, Chava, for whom I am named; her husband, Gimple, and their children, in laws, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews who had all perished in the fires of hatred.

But there were no candles left. And I cried. My daughter searched throughout the room for one last candle for me to light.   And then she sat with me as I cried.   I cried for all those who perished without a name. I cried for all those families who had no one left to cry for them.

When I left I purchased a poster, this poster that I show on this blog. This poster, which I framed and hung in my home office; its words call out to me even louder now.   We cannot remain silent in times of great moral crisis.   We cannot be silent like those who said they were only following orders.

We in the United States are now in a great moral crisis. There is no legality in singling out one religion over others. Timothy McVeigh was not a Moslem, he killed 168 people in Oklahoma City. He was a white Christian.   Should we ban all white Christians?

I am so shocked by what is occurring. Those in Congress who say they have values and care about family and country. You are living in a lie. Your alternative truths are lies.

For those of us of faith, we know what the Torah, the Bible says.  It says: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native born.  Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.  (Leviticus 19:33-34).  We were strangers in a strange land.  And most of those who live in the United States now were also strangers in a strange land, the descendants of immigrants and refugees.

Anyone who really cares about our country and our people, you must not be silent. We must speak out in times of great moral crisis!  Call your Legislators and Senators; speak out.  Vote!  Support the ACLU! Do not remain silent.  If we do,  then we are condoning those who are the enemy of what the United States stands for: liberty and justice for all.

Fear Is Not The Right Response

11 Jan

I have heard the word, “fear,” way too often in the past few weeks. Really! Stop with the fear! You want to be angry. I can handle that. I am angry. I am angry that terrorism and politics are causing many to bend with fear. Do NOT!

White supremacist; ISIS; mentally ill young men with guns; shootings at an airport, at a school, a nightclub, at a mall; Nazi symbols defacing property and tombstones; tirades of racist and anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric during political events and elsewhere. Bomb threats phoned into Jewish Community Centers and schools.

Since 9/11 so many people seem to live in fear.  It seems  important decisions that impact many are based on that fear as well.  Yes, we must be careful. But we have to stop being so afraid!

People tell me and write on Facebook that they are afraid. Well I am not afraid. I am so darn ANGRY!  I believe what I have is righteous anger!

I am angry that in 2017 that people have not realized that this is one world, and we all live in it. That if a bomb goes off in one area, it impacts many areas.   We are all connected. And no matter what anyone believes, we really do have to work together to keep our world intact.

I am angry that guns are such a problem in the USA. That mentally unstable people can so easily obtain a gun and blast away, taking lives and destroying families.   I am angry that the sane gun owners do not stand up to the gun lobby and say, “Enough is enough.   We want the right to have guns, but we also do not want so many innocents killed. Let’s do away with semi automatic and automatic weapons.”  I am angry that this has not yet happened.

I am angry that instead of stopping gun violence with the only thing that would work, less guns. Some states, including my own, have legislators who voted to allow concealed carry for people who are not even trained to use guns. They are all insane in my mind. And they make me ANGRY!

I am angry that people are not kind to each other. They use words and actions that harm others and do not ask forgiveness. I am angry that some judges still allow convicted rapists off with a short sentence, and do not consider the victim of the rape. What is this? The judges should be impeached.

I am angry about what I perceive as a war against women’s health issues. I am tired of women being written out of history and their stories being hidden away, as men seem unable to deal with the competition of smart, intelligent women. I AM ANGRY!

I know I seem angry about many issues. But my biggest anger is for those who say they are afraid!   Franklin D. Roosevelt stated so wisely, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” And that is what I believe.

Do not let yourself be immobilized by fear. Words associated with fear include: “scared to death, “ “Frozen in fear,” “make your blood run cold,” “wild with fear,” panic, anxiety and terror.   These are not the words we need to use.

Be angry. This emotion promotes action. And we need action to combat what is happening in the world. My grandmother left Poland when she was 16 years old, alone, in 1922. She had lived through the First World War in Poland. And she had survived and was ready to move on. She did not let her fear make her inactive. NO, she lived. And she fought to get to the USA.   And then she helped members of her family escape Poland in 1936.   Her rightful anger gave her the energy to ACT. And her actions saved lives.

When you are angry, you might ‘bite someone’s head off’ but you will not be silenced!

I am not saying to be out of control angry. My mother would say, “When you lose your temper, you lose the war.” I do not advocate losing your temper, but I do advocate using your anger to bring to action to accomplish good.

No terrorist or terrorism or shootings or anti-Semitic acts will frighten me. But these actions will enrage me and move me to actions.

So stop being afraid! Fear is not the right response to evil. Work for good. Be angry and DO SOMETHING!

While In Israel, I Have Been Crying For Aleppo

17 Dec

It is relatively peaceful where I have been the past two weeks. In Jerusalem I walked the old city at night.  Yes we stayed in the Jewish Quarter. But we walked and talked and saw children walking or riding their bicycles without fear. 

While in Jerusalem, we took a tour to Herodium, the final resting place – the tomb of Herod the Great, master builder and king who died in 4 BCE. It is in the Gush, the part of the West Bank close to Jerusalem. We lunched at a winery and traveled by car along the trail of the patriarchs passing gated communities enclosed by barbed wire. But it was quiet and seemingly peaceful.  We passed Palestinian communities and saw farmers working their lands. 

We saw the news and read about the soon to be evacuated community of Amona.  And how the settlers don’t want to leave, but the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled they must leave by December 25 this year. A double holiday. Hanukkah and Christmas. 

We stayed in Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv for a week with our daughter and her husband. We visited with her in laws in Modi’in. From her home a tour guide took us around Tel Aviv and the old city of Jaffa. We visited the Peres Center for Peace, to hear about programs to bring people together. 

 In both Jerusalem and Jaffa, I was amazed to see the new and innovated ways that both Moslem and orthodox Jewish women were now using scarves to cover their hair. Slightly different ways, but in many ways the same.  They pass each other peacefully in the streets and shopping centers. In Mamilla, a outdoor shopping center near Jaffa Gate, they mingled together in a colorful picture of head coverings from my view in a second story restaurant. 

We traveled north to Ceaseria, the port city built by Herod. So much of it still buried beneath the sand, but amazing with its Herodian, Byzantine and crusader ruins. It is a must see! Then another winery in Zichron Yaacov, a Jewish city that sits across on a hill side from an Arab village, near Haifa where Jews and Moslems both live and attend the Technion University. 

And all the while Aleppo burns. And children, women and men perish in the fires of another genocide. And the UN is useless. Still condemning Israel, but staying silent on the true terror of the region: Syria.  I cry for the children of Aleppo. I cry for all children who sees destruction and feel the fear of war. 

The children of Gaza suffer. But each day 39-40 trucks of cement enter the Gaza from Israel to help rebuild. Where is the cement going?  I can’t answer that.  But Gaza could be rebuilt if its leaders turned away from violence and settled for peace. While in Aleppo, there is no choice. The government and the Russian military has decided for them. 

In Israel, the Peres Center has a program, Saving Children, to bring Palestinian children from Gaza and the West Bank into Israel for urgent and complicated medical issues. Each year about 1000 children are cared for in Israel. Another program brings doctors from the West Bank into Israel for their residencies and fellowships to learn and bring back to their homes. In Aleppo the Air Force targeted hospitals and killed the most needy. Destroying the places of healing and hope. 

I had hoped the world had changed in 80 years. But it seems not.  So while in Israel, I have been saddened and cried for the destruction of Aleppo and Syria. For years I have wondered how the world leaders could do nothing. I will head home to the US today, but those who survive Aleppo will not have that opportunity.  Power breeds contempt. An entire country destroyed. While in Israel I have been crying for Aleppo and all of Syria.