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< Echoes of Memory

How Can I Forget?


By Manya Friedman

“Forget what has happened over there. You are now in this golden country. Start a new life.” Those were the words uttered by my American cousins every time I mentioned the Holocaust.

I did start a new life. I got married and hoped to start a new family. Only one of my cousins who had survived the Holocaust and a few American cousins, whom I met on my arrival in the States, attended my wedding. There was no one from my immediate family with whom to share that happy occasion in my life.

When my first child, a son, was born, I was overjoyed with the new addition to our family. He was a new beginning. He would be the child to ease some of the pain from the loss of my entire family. My delivery happened during Hurricane Edna. My husband was informed by a neighbor that the shingles were being blown off our roof, and he had to leave the hospital to go home to mop up the water in the attic. No other family member was there to rejoice with me. I tried to picture how proud my parents would have been at becoming grandparents and my two brothers, David and Motele, at becoming uncles, had they been there. I even imagined my mother sitting on my bed, holding my hand or wiping my brow.

Years later, I overheard my three-year-old daughter ask my husband’s aunt, “Aunt Roma, would you please be my grandmother?” My heart ached when I heard this. How can I describe the pain I felt watching my children grow up without the love of grandparents, aunts, and uncles? We had just moved to a new development where the houses were large enough to accommodate grandparents who came to visit and stay over the weekend. Most of the neighbors’ children had their grandparents visiting. Hence my daughter’s plea to have at least an adopted grandmother.

In observance of the traditional Jewish holidays, I used to make the seder for about 20 people (my husband’s extended family). It was a joyous occasion, especially watching and marveling over the new additions to the family. Glancing around the table always reminded me of how, when I was a child, our entire family had gathered in our grandparents’ house for each holiday. There was my immediate family, along with aunts, uncles, and cousins. My mother and my two maiden aunts, Rachel and Miriam, were always busy with preparations, while my grandmother presided like a queen. The others came to join in the festivities. But none of those familiar faces were present at my seders.

Later, at our son’s wedding, another happy occasion in my life, it took the photographer quite some time to arrange the bride’s family to pose for a photo. Then, resting half his backside on the edge of the table, the photographer waited for the groom’s family to gather and line up for our photo. There was only my daughter, me, and my son, the groom. My husband had already passed away at the age of 51.

Then, when my son was to become a father, I was in ecstasy with the pride and joy of becoming a grandmother and the hope for the new baby to carry on the family name. The baby’s other grandparents, aunts, and uncles filled the waiting room, awaiting the new arrival. This became another joyous occasion where I was all alone, missing the family that was gone, with whom I wanted to share my happiness. 

It is now 60 years since I was liberated, and some people wonder why I still talk about the Holocaust.

©2005, Manya Friedman. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.

Tags:   manya friedmanechoes of memory, volume 3life after the holocaustfamilymemory

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