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< Echoes of Memory

Summer of ‘42


By Esther Starobin

For many baby boomers out there, the movie was a defining moment of adolescence. This new musical version is funny, wistful, and entertaining from start to end. I hope you’ll join us to relive your youth, or to experience for the first time this portrait of a young man growing up just a bit too fast. 

—Round House Theatre advertisement

Fred and I ate a quick dinner after he returned from his regular Wednesday volunteering stint at the Smithsonian. The musical we were going to see that night had gotten a good review and we both looked forward to seeing it. Since we had changed our tickets, we had to stop at the box office before proceeding to our balcony seats. While we waited for the show to begin we scanned the program and read a synopsis of it. It sounded as though it would be lighthearted even though there was a serious side to it.

The musical began with the characters planning an evening on the beach and how they would meet girls. It seemed like typical teenage angst with a good setting, nice voices, and period costumes— very entertaining. But as I watched, it did not hold my attention and I started to think about the summer of 1942. I withdrew further from the show and began to think about how different life was in Europe at that time. In 1942 I was living in Thorpe, England, with my foster family. Norwich, the large city of which Thorpe was a suburb, had been heavily bombed by the Germans in 1941 and again in 1942. There was severe rationing of food and clothing. We carefully considered our excursions into Norwich on Saturday
afternoons before leaving Thorpe.

My mind really began to focus on my parents, who were interned in the Rivesaltes transit camp in France. The last letter we have that my parents sent to us children and our aunt is dated May 11, 1942. Our mother, Kathe Rosenfeld, wrote to her beloved children and sister thanking us for the money we sent. She also mentions that she has not heard from our relatives in the United States and asks if Bertl has written to an uncle about the need for help to emigrate and for money. In the remainder of the letter, my mother talks about her and my father’s life and work in the camp, news from other relatives and neighbors, and a wish to hear how Herman, my brother, is doing in the United States. My mother continuesto talk about what might be possible in the future.

Our father wrote a short note at the bottom, telling us they were healthy, “though the rest leaves a lot to be desired.” He also states that they would like to know more about what each of us children and his sister-in-law are doing. Our father, Adolf Rosenfeld, continued to admonish us to be very good and obey our aunt. The final postscript tells us our father’s replacement leg is finished and it will be picked up tomorrow.

My attention returned to the play when the main character picked up a telegram to the woman of his fantasies. The telegram tells of the death of her husband in combat in Europe. In the summer of 1942 our parents were two of 1,015 deportees on Convoy 19. On August 14 their convoy was sent to Auschwitz. Our parents were gassed upon arrival. Death was everywhere the summer of ’42.

©2008, Esther Starobin. 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:   esther starobinechoes of memory, volume 5


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