I once received a post card from Auschwitz, saying: “Wish you were here.” From a friend with a ‘certain’ sense of humour. Yes, I know we choose our friends as opposed to our families, but I probably would have done the same. Irreverent humour is but one response to that which is beyond response.
As it was, the post card took me back to my university days, when I worked on a farm in Germany in lieu of getting into a Goethe Institute. Not particularly taxing farm work. I could relate the painting of apple trees or escaping from the midst of a herd of bulls after breaking my whip on one of their backs – but I won’t. If I ever get to my memoirs however . . .
After the farm I travelled through Germany and parts of Europe, mostly by train. One of my stops was Munich where, as often as not, I stayed in a Youth Hostel. And there I met the Jewish gal on her way to Dachau. She was from the US and not on a work experience as was I. Dachau was the specific destination for her.
She either borrowed postage stamps from me, or I from her – I don’t remember, though I know we exchanged them. We had the part of two days together (no – no nights) and then she was on her way. I don’t remember if she asked me to accompany her to Dachau, but I think not. Although I was going to Britain to visit relatives, I believe I would have taken that extra day.
As it was, we exchanged addresses and, upon our return to North America, we wrote letters. And, as it was, we arranged a visit to my New Brunswick home from her New England home. That was quite a leap for less than twenty-four hours together. I picked her up after dark at the closest airport. During the drive I stopped in the middle of forest for two hitch hikers. She must have been a bit concerned, but she said nothing. I remember the deep smell of pine from their clothes, as they had been working in the woods.
She stayed with my parents and I for four days (no nights there, either). She told me that when her mother was talking to her grandmother on the phone about the trip, she heard her grandmother bellow across the room “IS HE JEWISH?”
Thus does memory flow from a post card.
I don’t, alas, remember her last name (this being decades ago). At the time she was studying to be an air traffic controller. Whether she became one, and whither she went, I do not know. When I last communicated with her she was attending Brown University. She did not discuss Dachau with me.