If they could only see into the future, they would have done everything in their power to run away, to escape, to leave their beloved Holland, to get away from Europe.
Of course, many tried and were refused by nations who sent them right back to “where they belonged,” to their deaths.
But the three Jewish siblings photographed here, in April 13 1941 according to the print on the back, didn’t know how bad it was going to get for them, for Jews. So they stayed in occupied Holland and hoped for the best.
The oldest brother, Herman, on the left, was 28 when the photo was taken. Six months later, in October, he and his father Lion were sent by the Nazis to Mauthausen concentration camp, where they were murdered a short time later.
Miep, my dear beloved oma, 26 years old, was already engaged to my late grandfather Ari. They got married in 1942, because being married increased their chances of staying together. They did manage to stay together, surviving hell, and oma always said that opa’s insistence that she keep going and survive was the only reason she did. She would have given up.
The youngest brother, Philip, in the middle, was only 20 years old. A few months after the photo was taken, he and his mother, my dad’s grandmother, entered an apartment were they were able to hide until the end of the war. They were the lucky ones, losing everything they owned, but escaping the horror of the camps.
I look at the photo of these young people, frozen in time by the camera, still with their nice clothes and their dignity and money to pay for professional photography, and my heart goes out to them. “Run away now!” I want to tell them. “Leave everything and go to Palestine – your only option, as the rest of the world has closed its doors to you. As crazy as it may sound, anything is better than staying where you are and hoping for the best.”
But they are frozen inside the photo. They can’t hear me. And can we really blame them, anyway? People are optimistic. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be able to survive this sad joke of a short life that must always end with death. Who could have possibly imagined that things would get so bad? Who besides Hitler could have envisioned thousands, millions of dead bodies, who could have foreseen the extent of the horror?
One million Jewish children, two million Jewish women and three million Jewish men were brutally murdered during the holocaust. Other victims included the Romani, Soviet prisoners of war, Polish and Soviet civilians, homosexuals, people with disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other political and religious opponents. All were murdered systematically, in a freakishly efficient state-sponsored murder program, bringing the total number of Holocaust victims to over ten million people.
Let’s take this day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, to remember them.