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If Only I Had Pictures

By Rae Goldfarb

By Rae Goldfarb

I lost my family in the Holocaust. I also lost the images of my past. Everything was destroyed: my home, my material possessions, including nearly every picture. Most importantly, none of my relatives survived. I was one of two children who survived the Holocaust from my town of Dokszyce in eastern Poland, now Belarus. The town’s Jewish population was about 3,000 before the Holocaust. Only a dozen or so survived.  

I cannot remember the house that was my home during my childhood. I only have a description shared with me by my mother.  

I do not remember the faces of my maternal grandparents, Aaron and Hinda Bela Mindel. I only have my mother’s description of what they looked like. My grandfather was a tall, distinguished man. They lived on a farm on the outskirts of town. They had five children; only my mother survived.

My mother’s sisters and brothers and their spouses were: Faye and her husband, Abraham Markman, who had four children; Tzipi and her husband, Chaim Dan Goz, and their two sons; Faivel and his wife, Faya Mindel, and their two children; and Rachmiel Mindel who was single.

They are blank faces to me, only names. I wish I had pictures of them.

I do not remember the faces or names of my friends. They are blank faces to me. I do not even remember their names. None of them survived.

I feel fortunate to have a picture of my father that was sent to my aunt, his sister, Shirley. She left Poland for Cuba in the late 1920s, eventually immigrating to the United States. My aunt gave me the picture after my mother and I established a home in Washington, DC, and I am so glad to be able to look at his face and know what he looked like.

My aunt also gave me a picture of my fraternal grandmother, and I look at the picture and remember her.

My aunt gave me a picture of my fraternal cousins. I can connect the faces with names to remember, Rivka; her husband, Bere Lipkin; and their daughter, Lea; and cousin, Etsa Dameskin.

I do not remember the faces of my fraternal aunt Sheyna Merke Dameskin, Uncle Abraham, his wife, Gitel, and their children. They are blank faces to me.

My aunt gave me a picture of me at the age of six months. It served in place of a birth certificate needed for my entry to school in the United States.

My most cherished possession is a picture of my mother, my brother, and me. A neighbor retrieved it from the trash at our house, left after the looters took and destroyed everything else.  She saved the picture to remember us. After we were liberated, my mother returned to our hometown to see who survived and had come back. Our neighbor gave the picture to my mother. It is the only picture of my brother I have to remember his face. Even though the war was over,  the neighbor told my mother that she was afraid that if she gave shelter to my mother for the night, neither of them would survive. Such was the hate for the Jews even after liberation by the Russians.

The Holocaust not only destroyed so many Jewish lives but also tried to erase any image of Jewish existence in eastern Europe. 

© 2020, Rae Goldfarb. 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.