Many of my relatives died in Hitler’s concentration camps. An aunt from Hungary lost her son and husband. Having barely survived after contracting typhoid, she made her way to America, married, opened a small motel with her husband, and lived a full life in Banning, California.
When she died, along with inheriting some of her dishes and collectibles, I received a small box of photographs and papers. Many of the papers were written in Hungarian and German. Some came from the Red Cross. Among the papers was a photo of her young son. He must have been three or four years old, in a horse-drawn carriage, dressed in lederhosen with ringlets of light brown hair.
The picture haunts me. This beautiful little boy must have been horrifically frightened when he was separated from his mother and lead to a gas chamber with dozens, if not hundreds of crying children. His lifeless body then shoved into an oven or tossed into a mass grave.
So when I hear denials that the Holocaust happened or read about white supremacists like James Von Brunn bursting into the Holocaust Memorial with a rifle in hand, I gasp. My chest tightens and I become queasy.
I think of my aunt’s beautiful son. She never talked about what happened, not even mentioning his name. But, I can’t stop thinking about him and I cling to the only remnant of him… a black-and-white photo taken on a spring day in Hungary. His innocent smile may have been one of his last.