I found myself sitting at a table in Palm Beach, FL in the early 1980’s.
After graduating law school, my husband and I had moved to the area and established a private practice. We supported various charities.
I can’t recall the name of the particular gala; perhaps, it was the annual Red Cross New Year’s ball.
It was crowded, overcrowded in fact.
I found myself sitting back to back with a slender man in a tight white dinner jacket, He sported pancake make-up and arching eyebrows that could have rivaled those of a young Sophia Loren.
Who was this delicate creature? I wondered.
The evening wore on.
After a while we spoke and what he said, rooted me to my seat.
His name was Arndt von Bohlen und Halbach and he was a direct descendant of the founder of the Krupp AG armaments conglomerate.
My mother, a Jew born in Ruscova, Romania was deported from Auschwitz to Wüstegiersdorf, Poland in September, 1944, together with 200 female forced laborers, to work in a Krupp factory. She made hand grenades. The conditions were brutal. She was beaten and starved. She told me that the girl next to her had lost her hand when a grenade exploded.
His cafe au lait colored hair was plastered to his small head.
How was it possible that 40 years after the Holocaust, that I, the daughter of a Krupp slave, was sitting next to a descendant of the Krupp dynasty?
And he was a man who looked like he would have difficulty turning a door knob.
What could I say?
“Arndt, my mother worked for your family?”
And who was I going to tell about this encounter?
I couldn’t tell my mother.
My father had instructed my sister and I to never ask her any questions about the war.
If she chose to say something (rarely) we had no follow up questions.
My mother lived her life with joy in her family, her religion and her community. She wanted to put great distance between herself and her memories.
I would never tell her about Arndt.
I would never tell anyone.