Is now a good time?
One day in 2006 my cousin was surfing the internet researching our family history, when she came across a book written in French. On the front cover was a photograph of a group of children and there was my mother with her twin sister Annette, unmistakable thanks to their distinguishing almond-shaped eyes. The title of the book was "Je ne vous oublierai jamais, mes enfants d’Auschwitz…" which translates to "I will never forget my children of Auschwitz..." and the author Denise Holstein.
Denise was 11 years older than my mother and as such she was made a supervisor in the children's home of Louveciennes, Paris in 1944 and put in charge of a group of children, the group in the photograph. Denise was sent to Auschwitz along with the young children in the home at the end of July 1944, just weeks before the liberation of Paris. Only my mother was spared as she was sick in the infirmary so she was sent to a hospital instead. On arrival at Auschwitz all of the children, including Mum's twin sister Annette and her brother Nathan, were sent immediately to their death in the gas chambers, only Denise was spared thanks to her age. After years of tormented silence Denise was persuaded to share her story and write her book. She had no idea that my mother was still alive. After seeing the photograph of the book on the internet, emails and phone-calls followed and eventually in June 2006 Mum travelled to Cannes to reunite with Denise after 62 years. The reunion was written about in the Jewish press.
I now hope to visit Denise myself. There are always a dozen reasons why now is not a good time to go and that is one of my motives behind blogging about Denise today. People will read my intention to go so now I have to make it a reality.