Holocaust Remembrance | A story

While imprisoned by the Nazis, she practiced her “story” — her made-up name, middle name, profession, where she went to school, family history and quirky stories… she made them all up.

Her trial was coming and if she was not convincing they would end her life. (She was secretly working in #theResistance and operating under a false ID when she was caught.) So every day/every night, it was the same thing. She had to be convincing and trick to the Nazis into believing she was not a threat. Her life depended on it and so did the lives of her Jewish friends… for whom she had been risking her life.

For the five’ish years of getting to know her, I would travel to visit with her in the assisted living home where she resided. We’d talk about “those days”. We also talked about the days we were living in. She was watching the *visible* rise of antiSemitism and it all brings her back. Even little things brought her back. Our talks took her so far into her emotional history that two years or so into my trips to see her she confessed that her nightmares always returned after we spoke. In them, she was being chased by the Gestapo. In that moment I silently vowed, ‘no more interviews. I’m done.’ She’s lived through it once and that was enough. But she halted my thoughts, knowing them — reading my body language and the sudden twinge of panic in my eyes. “You have to let me tell you… I MUST tell you….” She knew I would carry her story and one day tell it too.

She trusted the power of story and of sharing it to do the work of holding each of us to account.

I want to scream remembering. I am heart-hurt and sad and raging angry and ALL the feelings about what happened in “those days” and the loss of life and the lingering trauma impact on so many and on her… and on her.

Going for a chatty stroll to the cafeteria. [Photo by B. H. Bowers]

We may seem like an odd pair of friends. Different generations. Different cultures. Extraordinarily different lives. Yet, our unlikely friendship humbles and inspires me relentlessly. I’m not sure what, if anything, our friendship did for her EXCEPT that she would 100% poke some fun at me for wanting to be married. Seriously!

We would pray out loud together for each other at the end of every visit. Nothing grand. Just simple heartfelt and, at least once, funny:

her: “how should I pray?”

me: “well, I wouldn’t mind getting married some day.”

her: “pfft! okay.”

me: (giggling) wait. what?!

her: “meh!” (as if to say it was totally overrated). “Fine, though, I will pray” (closes her eyes)

me: (closing my eyes but giggling)

She had been engaged twice and married once. Her first love was executed by the Nazis (firing squad) only days before liberation. We never talked about marriage except in the context of the unrequited love of her youth.

So she prayed for me; but ended up forgetting all about the marriage prayer-request. When she opened her eyes after praying and looked at me, she shut them again quickly, remembering, and said:

“AND P.S. (give this girl the best husband for her)”.

We laughed about that (“and P.S.”) moment until her death in 2019. The words “And P.S.” became a throw back to an unforced moment of laughter and pure connection; our personal connection as friends.

So, on #HolocaustRemembranceDay, I’ll simply say… AND P.S. My friend, I miss you. Rest in Power.

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President, Reel Roost. TV/Film Executive Producer. Writer. TEDx Speaker. Story Consultant. Book Nerd. Content Creator. Snack Champion. & Marilyn’s daughter.

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Michele Barnwell

Michele Barnwell

President, Reel Roost. TV/Film Executive Producer. Writer. TEDx Speaker. Story Consultant. Book Nerd. Content Creator. Snack Champion. & Marilyn’s daughter.

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