Recently my family received our second payout from the Austrian government.
There, in the form of a check, and a nominal one at that, was the government’s way of making amends for allowing the Nazis to confiscate the property of its citizens.
We got the first installment back in August, at the same time my son was born. I thought it quite appropriate to use the money to pay for a mohel for Benjamin’s bris. What better way to stick it to the Nazis than to welcome a new Jewish baby into the world?
In thinking about meaningful ways to use the second check, I’ve plunged yet again into my lifelong connection with the Holocaust. Despite being two generations removed, despite not having all the details about my grandfather’s story of survival, and despite not knowing for sure where my great-grandmother ended up (though we are pretty sure it was Auschwitz), the shadow of the Shoah has always been lurking through my life.
I have to imagine that my semi-obsession is not unique among children and grandchildren of survivors and, that being the case, whether our fervor to “never forget” hasn’t hampered our ability as a community to make peace and move on. By constantly reliving the past, are we creating an even heavier burden for our children to carry?
My great-grandmother, who refused to leave the country with her husband and son, was forcefully removed from her home, taken to live in a ghetto and ultimately killed in a concentration camp.
Money from the Austrian government cannot ever make up for the fact that her son grew up without his mom, in a foreign country, all alone. But money invested in her great-great-grandchild’s Jewish education will provide one more opportunity for my family to say “we’re still here.”
And, hopefully, one more opportunity for us to make peace and move on.