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Monday, January 5, 2009

Introduction To Niam el Baz, part One

It turns out that the British knew about the death camps already in 1941. They knew from the German army transmissions that they were able to decipher. From these transmissions it was clear also that the German army cooperated with the SS and not as has been claimed all those years, that they had no part in the murder of the Jews.

Churchill knew.

Before and after 1941, the British Empire knew, and did not let my parents immigrate to Eretz Israel. With the knowledge that by doing so they were abandoning us to the hands of the murderers.

So I was born in Romania, Niam.
A small house, that my maternal grandfather and grandmother collected penny to penny to build. That we left behind, in December 1947, since the exit from Romania had to be done in secret.

Tile-roofs, spotted hens in the courtyard. A pleasure to discover an egg among the flowers, to punch a tiny hole and drink it on the spot, warm and fresh, and the egg-yolk soft.
A neighbor who had returned from a visit to see relatives in Eretz Israel said that there in the kibbutzim they had this piece of furniture, a play-pen, for infants, and they should build one just like it for the twins.

A year ago my aunt told me, "Even when you were babies, we used to take you out of the play-pen first. You were like that, quite a number."
They say it was a large piece of furniture, of heavy wood.

One evening, when I was four, four and a half, I collected the letters from a piece of newspaper and read a whole word, out loud. The room filled with silence like during the revelation of the Messiah.

Our uncles, twenty, twenty-five years old, would come in the evenings and dance ballroom dances with us, when we were three, four, five. Then they took them, and our father, all the Jewish men, to forced hard labor.

They put them to work by the railway tracks. The German soldiers would pass by on the trains and shoot for fun, at them and at the Romanian guards. My uncle says that one of the prisoners would always lie with his ear on the tracks to hear if a
train was approaching, so they could hide from the Germans in time, they and their guards.

One in the afternoon.
A call from Idit, who works at Yad va-Shem. She is sending me a list of the books they have in Arabic about the Holocaust.
There is only the one problem, how to send them to Niam.

Now, after having completed the deciphering of the conversation with her, again and again I see Niam's bold face as she says authoritatively what she'd been fed by Neo-Nazis in Germany,
"It's not true!".

The Jews weren't allowed to ride the trains, (except for those in which they were taken to the death camps) and father did, in order to send, each time from a different town, anonymous letters to the editor of the newspaper PORUNCA VREMEI -- The Order of the Day: "If you do not want us, why don't you let us go to Palestine, where Jesus bade almost two thousand years ago Love thy neighbor like yourself."

The Order of the Day answered:
'The leprous jidani, awaiting their Talmudic rule, are sending their leprous fingers across all the nations and taking dominance over them. This is the reason that rivers of blood have been shed, and not only Romanian blood.'

The neighbors to our right were Christians. Father, mother, daughter and a son a few years older than us. We would go over to them through a hole in the fence.
I saw them also on the sidewalk among the children, when they were throwing stones at us and shouting,
"Jidani, go away to Palestine!"

Afterwards, but after what? What should have come later, maturity, came too early. In my life, like in the life of that whole generation, times got mixed up. One day they confiscated our house, and we lived in the servants' room in the yard. And another day we came out of a shelter, and on the street we found a parade
of Russian tanks, people were applauding, and the town was full of loudspeakers, Red Army songs, announcements of daily victories, while children, skin and bones from hell, were arriving to town, forbidden for us to touch lest we catch what they had been struck with. They put them up in the Jewish school until they were adopted or driven to orphanages.

But it was impossible to disinfect the entire world in order to protect us because right after that, or before that, someone brought a bar of soap from the death camps and the whole town marched at the funeral.

Yesterday, over the phone, I said to a Israeli friend, "My childhood stories were the Nuremberg trials" and she said,
"What a terrible thing to say."

I would sit on my uncles' knees and give them the daily reports from the trials of the Nazis in Nuremberg after the war. I read from the newspaper and they were so pleased and proud of me, that yes, there was nothing to worry about, the memory-safe was in good hands.

So the world, which during the first years had behaved like a womb, was cut apart and healed again, cut apart and healed.
Outwardly there was still the appearance of paradise. In the spring, in the summer, and in the autumn, ornamental flowers blossomed. Large and warm raindrops fertilized the leaves of the trees and the bushes. In the winter the snow piled up as high as
the fence, and the frost painted Christmas tree decorations on the windowpanes.

There, amidst all this, for twelve winters and summers I was Corinna.

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