Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A letter

The Germans were coming, and there was no chance that anyone would survive. The mother decided that she was going to give her daughter over to a non-Jewish couple - perhaps she would be saved. The following letter was sewed into the shirt of the girl in hope that it would remain with her ... that someday she would read this letter.

Dear Mirrele,

I can’t believe that I have one night to struck a life time of love into this letter. Tomorrow morning at 4 am – if it can be called morning – I’m giving you up. I’m taking you Mirrele to the back entrance of dear, brave Herman’s grocery, and the child rescuers will be waiting there for you, and the 32 other children under the age of three. They will inject you with a sedative, so you won’t cry, and then they’ll slip off into pre-dawn, with you, my life, my love, out of this horrible country to safety.

We’ve pushed it off, and pushed it off, Mirrele. We didn’t want to believe we would have to give up our child, probably never to see her again. But this is the last child rescue. After this there will be no-one left to rescue, because tomorrow our informers tell us is the last big round up. Tomorrow they come for men, women and children. And I’ve been convinced by these words spoken by our entrusted informer Herman, the brave gentile grocer any child they take away either dies immediately or dies on the way to the death camps. We were the last ones to be convinced to give up our child.

He said finally, with the deepest sadness, and every exhausted wrinkle in his face, “I cannot force you. But if you keep her with you she will be dead in a month. They have no use for babies. She cannot work for them. If you want to give her to us bring her to the back entrance of my grocery at 4am. No belongings. Whatever food you have. Goodbye”.

Mirrele, do you see why I had to give you up? He said no belongings, but I will beg, I will plead that this letter be allowed to go, sewn into your undershirt. And then I will pray to G-D the letter stays with you until you are old enough to read it. You must know that we love you. You must know why you are alone without parents. Not because they didn’t love you, but because they did.

Its eerie to think that by the time you read this I will probably be dead. That’s what Herman said is going on. People die either immediately, on the way, or after a week or two of forced labour and no food. But I won’t have lived in vein, Mirrele. If I know that I brought you into the world and you will live and survive and grow big and strong, and you will be happy. You can be happy, Mirrele – because we love you.

What makes the difference in the lives of adults, it seems, is if they had to kill childhood, secure it with lots of love and acceptance, and means fulfilled, and predictable routines in the life. You have that up till this minute. You have it up until 4am. But then you won’t. Who knows who will end up taking care of you? Some family who will take you in for the money. Herman will pay them. They will surely be kinder to their own then to you.

Here is where pain mixes with rage. I rage at the animals who are making it possible for you to cry and I won’t be there to comfort you. But you will have this letter. And this letter will make you feel secure, if G-D answers my prayers.

You leave us Mirrele, even though you can’t see us. We’re with you. We’re watching you. I’m praying for you. Every time you have troubles, we are pounding on the door to G-D’s very throne room, and shifting on the audience to demanding mercy for you, Mirrele, down on earth alone without her parents. And G-D will listen to us. We won’t leave Him alone, until he agrees with us, that you deserve health and love and happiness.

Mirrele, you will wonder what your first two years were like? You wish you could remember. Let me remember for you, right now, tenderly on this piece of paper.

You like hot cereal in the morning with lots of milk and sugar – except there is no milk and sugar now, not in the whole city. But I make you cereal anyway, and you eat it with big smiles between every bite. Then you become ready for your nap, so I wrap you putting you where the sunlight will fall on you. I rock you until you fall asleep, and then I put you in my bed. You sleep well there. You like my smell. What will you smell tomorrow night? Surely nobody will wrap you tomorrow morning – not even in the shade.

O G-D, I cannot do it. I will do it for you Mirrele, so that you will have at least a hope for life.

Mirrele, do me a favour. After you grow, after this dirty nightmarish war is over, I know there will be those who underplay the tragedies going on here every day. They will say, “War is war. It was just a war”. Mirrele, tell them about the agony. Tell them how you felt secure in my arms being rocked to sleep in the sunlight. Tell them how your father ran one night a year ago when you were sick to get you medicine, past sentries whilst breaking the curfew. He risked his life to ease your pain.

Mirrele, now the three of us are being torn apart. Just a war? Tell them Mirrele that all the wars in the world don’t add up to the agony in my heart right now as I write this.

G-D, it’s 2am already. Only two more hours with my loved, my baby, my life, my Mirrele. I’m going to hold you now, Mirrele, for two hours. Your father and I are going to wake you, feed you, and tell you over and over how much we love you. Your barely two years old, but maybe if G-D is good, maybe you will remember us, until you are old enough to read this.

There will be bad times ahead for you Mirrele, I know. But just think about me holding you, rocking you to sleep in the sunlight. Keeping that sunlight in your heart always.

I love you. Your father loves you. My G-D help us all.

It remained with this woman, who at least knew her name. Her name was Mirrele, Miri. She never knew her mother’s name. Her mother signed off 'Mamma'. She calls herself Miriam bat Liba. Liba means ‘loved’, because that is what she remembers about her mother.

This is about a mother who was forced to abandon her child out of love.

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