Around Passover we see an amazing flood of articles and essays examining the parallels between our modern struggles and the reason for this commemorative event- freedom from captivity.
In these weeks leading up to Passover I coincidentally asked what I assumed was a benign question regarding my family history in Europe prior to the Holocaust.
The answer wasn’t benign, it was malignant and my heart is aching.
The Germans didn’t come to Mukachevo (Hungarian control) in the beginning of the war, so I always knew my Great-Grandfather Julius, and my aunts Edith and Klari remained at home, waiting, while my grandfather was working in a forced labor camp in Poland with the rest of the Jewish boys from his town. I just never knew the details about their lives during those years.
I learned that my family kept their radios even though the invading and occupying Hungarian forces attempted to remove them from all the Jewish households. So my family heard the Germans entered their village on the first night of Passover. Their bare-bones dinner was held in candlelight so it wouldn’t look like anyone was home from the outside. As they sat at the table in their second story apartment — suddenly footsteps crashed up the stairs and then BOOM. BOOM. BOOM — the voices shouting “GET OUT you DAMN JEWS, open the door or we KILL YOU”
My great-grandfather didn’t get up. He stayed where he sat and extinguished the single candle illuminating the room while my Aunt Edith jumped out of their second story window in an attempt to locate their non-Jewish neighbors in a desperate plea for help.
Somehow, someway the neighbors intervened and the German soldiers left without killing my family. But, a week later by the last night of Passover they were being transported to the Jewish ghetto.
My story has no intentional message. My mind is unable to process the gravity and horror of the events that happened to my family. The closest “message” I can extract from this is that my spunk and determination must be hereditary.
At Passover, we state, “This year we are slaves. Next year, may we all be free.”
Passover gives us an opportunity to reflect upon instances where social justice is unheard of. It gives us an opportunity to discuss modern oppression, injustice and slavery.
It just gives us one more chance to say “never again.”