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Who’s your daddy? A Holocaust story

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Rabbi Baruch Lederman

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO — When we light the menorah we instill the light of Yiddishkeit into the hearts of those outside and of those inside, as the following true
story, heard from Yichel and Baila Lederman, illustrates:

The German Invasion of Poland began on September 1, 1939. Jews fled from the city of Warsaw searching desperately for safe haven. David and Sarah Abramowitz and their two small children went to a forest trying to stay out of sight of the Nazi invaders. They eventually found an isolated spot to sleep for the night.

The next morning they were rudely awakened by a Polish farmer. “Halt trespassers,” said the farmer, rifle in hand, “Do not move or I’ll shoot.”

The Abramowitzes were frozen with terror as the farmer approached. The farmer slowly walked closer and closer. “Wait,” proclaimed the farmer, “You are Abramowitz the teacher from Warsaw. I once attended a lecture of yours. I see you are running from Hitler. Leave the children with me. They will never make
it.”

“I cannot do that. My children are coming with me into the Russian interior.”

“Take the boy, but the little girl will never survive. Leave her,” insisted the farmer, still pointing his rifle.

“I will leave her,” said David, “We will pick her up from you when we return.”

“Of course,” replied the farmer, “Now hurry and go.”

David and Sarah tearfully caressed their daughter, “Be a good girl Chana’le. Tatty and Mommy will return for you when it is safe.”

The now three Abramowitzes traveled into Russia where they eventually wound up in Siberia. The harsh freezing cold winters proved too much for Sarah and her son. After a time they perished. Only David survived.

By December 1945, the war ended and David finally was able to return to Warsaw to retrieve his daughter and rebuild their shattered lives. The thought of her was the only thing that kept him going. As he approached the farm, his mind was flooded with memories of Warsaw – both happy and sad.

He knocked on the door. The farmer answered and he blurted with excitement, “It is me, David Abramowitz. I have come back after six harrowing years to pick up my daughter whom you took in your care.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said the farmer.

“What do you mean,” shrieked David.

As the two men were arguing, a nine year old girl came to the door. “Father, who is this man,” she said to the farmer.

“It is just some crazy man Hilda, don’t pay any attention to him, “replied the farmer, “Go away stranger, don’t bother us again.”

Although she had changed, David clearly recognized ‘Hilda’ to be his daughter. “I am your father. Surely you remember me and your mother and brother!” cried David.

“I don’t know you at all,” she declared. “You are not my father, he is.” she said pointing to the farmer, “Listen to him and go away.”

David was at his wit’s end. He knew the farmer was lying, but his beloved daughter was so young that she remembered nothing of her true past, and believed that the farmer was her real father. David was about to lose his daughter forever. Losing her again would be too much to bear.

As he was being pushed away he called out to her, “Do you remember Chanukah in our house. Do you remember how I let you choose a candle and put it in the menorah?”

Something suddenly stirred within her as though David had struck a chord. She stood there churning for a few minutes. She finally exclaimed, “Yes! Yes! I chose the pretty pink one.

I remember! I remember!” Chana’le ran to David with outstretched arms, “Take me home for Chanukah Tatty. Take me home.”

At this point the farmer had no choice but to relent. David held Chana’le tightly. She was truly his special Chanukah miracle.

Dedicated in memory of Shlomo ben Yitzchok by his son Simon.

*
Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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