Holocaust Day, my children, & my mind’s eye.

Auschwitz_TrainOccasionally, on Holocaust Day or some other, random day, I will look at my children, and see them on a train.

See them starved. See their clothes in shreds. See them with blank eyes and sores on their faces, their hair matted, all joy, all light, gone.

My mind doesn’t allow me to go far down these paths (a fact for which I am eternally grateful), but it peeks down the path, toward the incomprehensible at the other end, and then I recoil in pain and tears.

If for no other reason that I know that I am not, really, seeing anything.

My mind providing me, unbidden, with an image it imagines to be something like Jewish children at the time of the Holocaust is simply me overlaying a hundred thousand photographs on top of my beautiful children’s faces. It’s nothing like actually seeing it. It’s not being a mother, probably even hungrier than the child, for having eschewed as much food as she could for as long as she could, in favor of her babies, her clothes also rags, an understanding (that the child can’t match) of the enormity of the darkness that surrounds them, has invaded their homes and their families and their very skin, looking at her 11 year old boy and seven year old daughter and knowing — knowing — that they will die.

Knowing that they will die horrific, meaningless deaths, deaths that she cannot in any way stop. The moment of wondering: Would it be better to find some way to kill them myself, to save them what awaits?

But who knew what awaited? And yet surely, many mothers and fathers found themselves hoping to find the inner strength to kill their own children, before the evil could overcome them.

I chose this faith, I chose this people. If I had been in Europe during those nightmare years, I may have been given a choice to walk away.

But my husband — whose four grandparents saw the writing on the wall in 1933 and left Germany to its devils, thus allowing the best man I’ve ever known to come into my life one night in December 1991, as we danced to loud music and laughed with friends, a week after I’d become a Jew — my husband would not have been given that choice.

My children would not have been given that choice.

I want to believe that I would not have left them, for any reason, but I know that the particular barbarism of the Nazis created circumstances in which people did things that were unimaginable, unspeakable, things for which they could never forgive themselves. I cling to the idea that I would have managed, at least, to stand with my chosen people, with my babies, and die with them.

Last night, we lit a yahrzeit candle together and made kaddish.

Today it burns on my stove, surrounded by pots and pans, in a kitchen with a freezer too full with shopping, at one end of a house that has never been cold. I scrub at the little bit of dried egg stuck on my burner, wash the dishes as a surprise for my husband, and when my son calls to say that he’s forgotten his folder, I get in the car and bring it to school, a note tucked inside to tell him I love him.

Because I can do these things, I do them, with gratitude and with a sort of stunned awe that I get to do them at all.

If my babies had been there, they would have died.

Yes, honey. I’ll bring you your folder.


Reupped from Holocaust Day 2011.


  1. It is too easy to whip a people into a frenzy that allows them to commit heinous acts of barbarism & brutality without an eye-blink. The Nazis became the universal bogeymen when they committed to a course of turning millions of people into ghosts in the most ghastly ways possible.

    On a day like this, it is good to remember that the reason we fight bigotry, hatred, and fear, the reason we must call them out when we see them, is that when we don’t, people die. For if it is one, one thousand, one million, or six million, the number does not ultimately matter; that we found it easier to stand tight-lipped as it happened bleeds our souls of their humanity. We must never allow it to be acceptable to let these agents of death hide in our midst.

    God grant the six million peace.

  2. Lee Barron

     /  April 28, 2014

    Ellaesther, this piece is so eloquent. I often do this sort of thing when my kids and now my grandkids become one of the children on a train. I remember my Mom telling me she would have killed my brother and me and then fought the Nazis till she died. Mind you, we aren’t Jewish, but she could and did identify with Jews of the Holocaust and so, I have as well, all my life.

  3. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, your writing inspires me to write. Thank you.


  4. This post caused me to tear up.

    My, it’s so easy for the majority of us to set aside the tragedies of the past, especially when those tragedies fall not only outside of our country, but outside of our faith. It is crucially important to remember the atrocities of times gone by. Thank you. I will hug my children and my husband especially tight tonight.

  5. A beautifully written reflection on a horrible reality. Thanks.

  6. That was beautifully written.

  7. I will be heading to Europe in a week to see some of the places where this great tragedy took place. Your post is a great reminder why we still need to learn about the Holocaust, and how it relates to us even nearly 70 years after it ended.

  8. Reblogged this on bentatenment.

  9. Astonishingly vivid, this post sent shivers down my spine. Thank you for these reflections :)

  10. God’s Peace to you, your family, your past, your future.

  11. Excellent article.

  12. I get those imagined overlaid images with my kids, too and it freaks me out. I even feel ashamed when I do that. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks that way. Beautiful piece.

  13. Reblogged this on Dream Across The World and commented:
    Powerful writing on a serious subject.

  14. What a beautiful post! I wish these events had never happened.


  15. Thank you for this touching blog entry. I am Jewish, but know little about our history. I was fortunate to be in Berlin at the Brandenburg on a recent anniversary of the Holocaust to witness a huge celebration of support for Jewish people everywhere. This quarter I’m taking a class in American Jewish history at the University of Washington in Seattle. Your writing helps bring clarity to what I’m studying. Thank you again for standing for humanity.

  16. Reblogged this on abecedaire-made in France and commented:
    Beautiful article with a so hard subject

  17. Reblogged this on My Blog.

  18. Reblogged this on Uthmanx and commented:
    Your holocaust is no thing compared to Arab Countries Spring that have been published & docurmented via all social media for History.

  19. God bless

  20. Reblogged this on Welcome to my land of Misfits and commented:
    Hard read, but definitely worth every moment.

  21. Shalom Emily…
    Today I screamed at my son over the phone, because he’s left his lunch at home, and even though I had the time and willingness to drive it to his school, and I planned to do it, I lost my temper…
    Because the past nearly four years as an – again – immigrant, took a bitter toll from our lives…
    Because my “conservative – neolog” background, and our letters from our Rabbi, weren’t kosher enough for the orthodox Bet Din here, so we’re alone, with scattered bits of our short past, amongst foggy present tainted pebbles of an unmourned future…
    Because god is deaf and blind again, and feasting on what’s still ascending from the furnaces of our memory…
    Because my soul, my heart, my mind are free, but I can’t travel with them to where I belong, because the murderers of my past have burnt the bloody papers together with it, and Eretz is asking for “papieren bitte!”
    But you gave me hope today, not much, just a small grain, that one day, I may be able to imagine more than just Lennon’s empty heaven…
    All the best to you, and your loved ones…

  22. inthefuns

     /  April 30, 2014

    Thank you.

  23. We visited Auschwitz last year. My husband taught the history of those years for 40 years and, on retirement. Felt he had a need to find out more and pay our respects. It was a truly unforgettable experience. Words cannot convey the many emotions. It was encapsulated, for me by the Jewish youngsters, walking back from a service led by their teacher, waving their Star of David banners and singing sad songs. They were walking along the tracks that led from the gates to the ovens at Birkenau. It was an unforgettable moment. A defiance, mixed with a world of respect.
    I believe all bigots and racists should go there. It is a lesson not to be forgotten.

  24. My Deepest Sympathies for all those who died, and for their families. I Wish Peace, too. …But today, sadly, We live in a World that seemingly is Free, Fair and all that, but is keeping us in a stranglehold. Let us also Thank Goodness that Awakenings are there, as with the AAP of Arvind Kejriwal in India. …We have to Remain Eternally Vigilant that those dark times do not return.

  25. Reblogged this on caringheartfamilylifecare's Blog and commented:
    Children are our heritage

  26. God bless and protect you and your children. “He Who is in us is stronger than he who is in the world.” Lord, have mercy.

  27. My wife had a cousin, Moshe, who was a twin. He urged his family and his twin to leave Germany. They did not listen. He went to Mexico City. He lost his entire family including his twin. The scar will always be there.

  28. I am not Jewish, but the Holocaust, haunted me during my dissertation year. I also argued with my mentor that I, very probably, was not qualified to write about the monstrosities that occurred. Her answer was empathy and perspective would carry weight. You and your kin have my deepest respect for having to bear the load of so many ghosts.

  29. Today is the first time that I have come across your wonderful writing and it has quite literally taken my breath away! Your words dug deep into my heart and my soul and I thought about every word you had said and about my own children. I write because I want the world to be a better place for them and for their children and for children everywhere. We must never forget the lessons life has so cruelly taught us, as we must never forget the new horrors that people endure today. Your words, your story make a difference please keep sharing and reminding us all the truth’s that we must never forget. God bless your beautiful heart :)

  30. Reblogged this on caged.

  31. theperpetualoutsider

     /  May 2, 2014

    Every time the topic of Holocaust comes up, a strange, wrenched-like feeling surfaces in my stomach. For a moment, I just think how that time must have been, what those people must have gone through. Still cannot believe that people have somewhat forgotten this massacre and that Germans face no discrimination for what their recent forefathers did…

  32. My deepest sympathies to those who died and a wonderful, eloquent elegy to their memories. A really hard, emotionally draining read that hit me in far too many places to leave comment to but well done. We must always strive to ensure that those dark days never return to civilisation and be thankful for the gifts this world has given us.
    Phoenixflames12 x

  33. Reblogged this on Confessions of a fanfiction writer whose dreams are to reach the sky and commented:
    My deepest sympathies to those who died and a wonderful, eloquent elegy to their memories. A really hard, emotionally draining read that hit me in far too many places to leave comment to but well done. We must always strive to ensure that those dark days never return to civilisation and be thankful for the gifts this world has given us.
    Phoenixflames12 x

  34. Beautiful piece. absolutely beautiful.

  35. Reblogged this on Writing Galore! and commented:

  36. Beautifully written and such a mar on the history of the modern world.

  37. I just wanted to say how much this story touched me. I as well am Jewish and had family in the holocaust and this spoke to me on many levels. Thank you!

  38. wow! seriously very nice!

  39. Reblogged this on Apps Lotus's Blog.

  40. heart breaking and poignant. thank you for sharing this.

  41. This is remarkable and brave. I am Jewish, my children are Jewish. My husband is not. My great-grandparents left Europe in the early 20th century but not without abandoning lots of people. I am often haunted by thoughts like yours. My family split, my children torn from me. Unspeakable pain. Death. I have never had the courage to write it down. Thank you.

  42. Reblogged this on momomurder69.

  43. Reblogged this on Gems favourite things.

  1. Holocaust Day, my children, and my mind’s eye | Well, This Is What I Think
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