Visit the Museum

Exhibitions

Learn

Teach

Collections

Academic Research

Remember Survivors and Victims

Genocide Prevention

Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial

Outreach Programs

Other Museum Websites

Share

by Julie Keefer

It is 1946 in the Robert Taylor Displaced Persons camp (DP camp, later known also as Delayed Pilgrims camp). I am five years old. I share one room in a wooden barracks with my Dziadzio and Babcia. It is winter. Snowflakes float gently to land on icy-cold mud. Babcia has bundled me in every warm garment she can locate, whether it fits or not. I wear two pairs of Dziadzio’s socks on my hands. They cover my arms to the shoulders as well as my fingers. I sport a pair of someone’s leggings rolled up several times. My feet are bundled in rags. A knitted wool cap kept in place by a heavy babushka completes this outfit.

With my multiple layers of clothing, I resemble a matryoshka doll. Like the doll, I have one layer of clothing nestled into another layer of clothing and so on, until finally there is tiny me. I trudge along like a fat duck, barely keeping my balance. My destination is a huge hole in the ground, about 75 feet in diameter. This is where we kids go sledding in winter, usually without sleds.

For me, this vast expanse is where G-d is. I picture G-d as a huge, old man with a long beard. He cannot be seen, but one can talk to him at this site. To me, G-d is a puppeteer, and deaths happen because G-d accidentally tangles the strings of his marionettes. I often come to walk around this hole to talk with G-d and escape the fights between my grandparents. “Please, G-d, send me my Mommy and Daddy. I miss them. Other kids have a mommy and daddy. Where are mine?”

One day, while walking with Dziadzio—my small hand swallowed up in his huge, bear-like one— I stop, rise to my tippy-toes, and peer up into Dziadzio’s face.

“Dziadzio, where are my Mommy and Daddy?”

Dziadzio takes a deep breath, pauses, then finally replies, “Julitschka, they are away on a long trip.”

“They are never coming back, are they?” I murmur.

Tears glisten at the corners of Dziadzio’s eyes. I know not to bring up this subject again.

©2017, Julie Keefer. 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:   echoes of memory, volume 10julie keefer

PREVIOUS POST: Bosnia, 2016

NEXT POST: Money

View All Blog Posts