disclaimer or something

A mummy-hand holding, (former) biker gang affiliating, hippie influenced semi crunchy granola mom's ramblings and reminisings on an off-kilter life

Friday, May 30, 2014

the historian

meh...probably my great uncle, big deal.....

I'm the family historian, and I cherish some items in my collection; photos of Sacramento in 1910, French postcards and letters from WWI, my grandpa's kindergarten drawings. When my mom handed me a manila envelope yesterday "with some pictures or something from Grandma", I was eager to see them, but also thought, meh, probably copies of photos I already had. I sat in the car, casually opening the envelope, and glanced at a photo and thought, hmm, must be my adopted grand uncle's photos. Big whoop.

And then, I turned the thumbnail sized print over.

 Buchenwald, June 1945, it said.


My hands trembled and my breath stopped. Buchenwald. An original,in my hands.I was stunned, speechless, in awe. There aren't words in our language to describe the feelings I had.

 I'd read a lot about the Holocaust as a teen, trying to wrap my head around genocide, etching horrors in my mind so that I could never let history repeat itself. When a Holocaust survivor visited my school, it still seemed incomprehensible. When I visited Mauthausen in college, it still seemed unreal. Fresh white snow covered the ruins and memorial, the memorial statues somehow belonged in a garden. The ruins didn't register well in my mind that those walls witnessed mass atrocities, that the old farmhouses nearby knew. It was to surreal. So when suddenly I held a piece of history in my hands, the world shrank. history became the present, and my heart swelled in pain and joy, for the lives lost, and for the joy of liberation.

These picture are worth more than a thousand words and i sure wish i knew all they had to say.

"wall where executions occured" June 45'.  


  1. I'm speechless. I can only imagine what you must have felt. This a such a powerful post...especially on Shabbat. May their memories be a blessing. Thank you for sharing.

  2. You're welcome, susan! I hope my grandma has some story to go along with them but I'm not certain.

  3. Wow! Those are so incredible!
    What a great find!

  4. Horrifying that someone in your family found themselves there. Those are the kinds of finds we genealogists dread, but they fill in another piece of the puzzle. Thanks for sharing such important photos!

  5. Oh my gosh! I would have been so shocked! What a discovery.

  6. whoa... that's a must have been a life changing discovery, to have those photos in your hands. did your grandma survive the Holocaust? How did she obtain these photos?

    most of my family died during the 'killing fields' in cambodia during 1975-1979 and all their photos/homes were destroyed/stolen from them. i often wonder what life was like for them during that time, so if i had discovered a photo from that time period, i know i would be stunned speechless too.

    thanks so much for sharing this story.

    1. So sorry for your family. I knew a family that survived the khmer rouge but lost the vast majority of their relatives, their story was heartbreaking...and worse, it seems few know about the khmer rouge. My grandma's adopted brother was in the US military as far as I know and may have helped liberate Buchenwald. I have another branch of the family which were European Jews and many escaped beforehand but some did not.