Michaela Merz

Erika’s story

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAErika was 14 when in 1942 the Nazis brought her and her family into the Warsaw ghetto. She had long, curly fair hair, a much too serious expression and an endless will to survive. She was small and very delicate, one could have easily taken her for four years younger.

The family had suspected that this day might come. They had agreed that whatever happened, after the end of the war they would meet in the house of the father’s oldest brother. Erika told that a few diamonds, which the father had given to the right person, had saved her life. She managed to flee and survived the war in the woods with resistance fighters. About this time she refuses to talk. Either she blocks this time or it is so terrible that she does not want to recall this time with words.

After the end of the Second World War she returned to Warsaw. Apart from one single cousin nobody had returned. She was alone, left to herself. Nothing was left what reminded her of the happy days of her childhood. It was terribly hard and bleak. Erika just wanted to go away. In 1946 at the age of 18 she left Poland and travelled to relatives in the USA. In any case, she did not feel at home in the USA and the rejection of her application for a residence permit encouraged her to continue searching.

On the ship to South America she met him. A Romanian Jew, who came from a once very wealthy family and as a child had to flee from Romania with this family without any belongings in order to save his life. The new life they found in South America, to the previous wealth they did not even come close. The two fell in love, Erika followed him and soon after the two of them got married.

Today Erika is demented and does not know whether she has children or what their names are or what she ate one hour ago. But the happenings of more than 60 years ago are still so present as if it had been yesterday. I do not know whether that’s a good or a bad thing. Whether the pain of loss arises every time again or whether she is happy that she survived. She cannot tell.

 

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