The day began with an email that sounded suspiciously like one of those Nigerian scams: "Dear Mr. Greenberg, I wonder if I could ask for your help in the following matter. On behalf of a lawyer who specializes in restitution of Holocaust era assets...."
But then familiar names began popping up: "I am looking for heirs to the estate of
The letter was signed "
Goodness. I hadn't heard the name
Having no French, and with my cousins having no English, we conversed in what remained of our childhood Yiddish, and they even showed me Mendel's dusty shoe factory, where he'd hidden out in the war years a la
Two of my mother's sisters were rounded up, along with thousands of other French Jews, by the gendarmes and handed over to the German occupiers for Resettlement in the East -- a euphemism for the death camps. They were never seen again. One of them was my mother's favorite, my Aunt Temya, who had looked after her back in
I had grown up hearing stories about Temya; she was very real to me. When my big sister was cleaning out her apartment in Shreveport, she kept urging me to take some of the paintings she'd picked up over the years. But I told her I was reaching the age when I needed to free myself of possessions, not acquire more of them.
Yet there was one picture -- a small photograph in an art nouveau frame of my Aunt Temya that must have been taken in the 1920s or '30s. It's now on my kitchen safe, where I can see it every morning. And remember.
But I understood why others would criticize the former governor. And accuse him of exploiting the Holocaust just to score some points in his presidential campaign. How would they have known about Temya? She's not real to them, she's not family.
The same applies to those who, this August, discussed the 50th anniversary of
But to those of us who were around in the heady days of early
What a relief, what unalloyed joy! The car horns blared as folks drove 'round and 'round the Caddo Parish courthouse in Shreveport celebrating. The streets downtown were crowded with revelers -- sights and sounds an 8-year-old boy would never forget.
Neither would the historian and sociologist
"When we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near
But how blame those who didn't live through those days for not remembering them? They weren't there. They can weigh the suffering of the Japanese against the joy experienced by American families at the war's end only impersonally. As an abstract, debatable issue. Something for the history books to record in a fair and balanced way. The pain, the joy, it's not real to them. Any more than my Aunt Temya is.