13 January 2017

Published January 11, 2017 by rochellewisoff

 

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100

THE HEAVIEST WHEEL ROLLS ACROSS OUR FOREHEADS

            When I was a little girl in the 1950’s, Mom used to take me to visit my aunt in St. Louis. I looked forward to those train rides. Sunlight dazzled through the trees as they whizzed by and the rhythm of the wheels clicking along the track soothed me.

            Dad, on the other hand, hated trains, but would never tell me why. Only once did he accompany us.

            As we left Union Station, tears trickled from the corners of his faraway eyes.   

            “Daddy, what’s wrong?”

            “The stench was unbearable. Fifty of us crammed into a cattle car. I alone escaped.”

.

.

death-train

145 comments on “13 January 2017

      • Maybe ‘forget’ is the wrong word. I can’t forget since I wasn’t there, have not been touched at a personal level, but the Holocaust transcends individual memory, it’s part of the memory of humanity and will always be remembered even when the deniers and the bigots and other worms that live in the woodwork and under stones raise their ugly voices .

        Liked by 1 person

  • I can only imagine his fear… I lived a block from a stockyards growing up where they would load the livestock in cars every fall. It was horrible to hear their screams… I can only imagine it a million times worse with people. I used to sit on the old ramp on our side of the cracks and cry for the animals.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Excellent story. A common thing among survivors to have everyday reminders of their trauma. PTSD has a way of recurring at the oddest times, and it’s always emotionally devastating. The train rides were hideous indeed. One of the most moving depictions I have seen was in Art Spiegelman’s comic masterpiece Maus. It’s a tough read, but I think it’s important to keep this in mind these days with all the bluster about deporting immigrants.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dear J Hardy,

      PTSD comes in a variety of packages. I can only imagine what images a train ride would conjure up in the mind of a survivor. (No doubt, my imagination pales next to reality.)
      It would do well to remember how many Jewish refugees were turned away from the US and sent to their deaths in the camps. Nuff said.
      In any event, thank you for your insights, comments and compliments.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Björn,

      I debated on whether or not to include a photo. I’m glad the story was self-explanatory. How humans can treat other humans this way, especially children, is beyond me. Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

    • Dear Karen,

      In my mind, that moment is when he did open up to her about why he hated to ride trains. Up until then she wondered why he wouldn’t ever go on those trips to St. Louis.
      Thank you for your kind compliment.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, another very good example, yes. It’s good to remember that other people’s “irrational” fears deserve as much patience and respect and kindness as our own. I don’t know anyone who isn’t scared of something, whether it’s spiders or heights or public speaking or letting other people into their hearts.

        Like

  • Great job, Rochelle — as usual.
    This reminds me of how grateful I am for the Catholic school in my hometown.I’m not Catholic, but as a newspaper reporter, I’ve done several stories on the church and school because they are so pro-active in so many important ways in our society. In the midst of a wave of programs in the U. S. educational system that are working to convince the next generation that the holocaust never happened, this school has a teacher who spends an entire term in her history class teaching in detail on the holocaust. She has interviewed survivors and relatives of survivors, and she brings the truth in glaring detail to her students. At least the hundreds of children (some of them from other nations) who go through her classes will never fail to understand, and they will never forget. We praise the Lord for her courage and determination.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Good take on the photo, a neat turn-around. I still haven’t gotten the FF “frog” to appear for me — have been blog hopping to find out who all belongs.

    We’re the same age! (I’m a March ’53 model.)

    My (uncle) Dad went overseas but never talked about the war. Alas! He was a WASP through and through; he never had much use for Europeans of any variety.

    It grieves me to know that kids nowadays aren’t learning history. Neither the history of the War years nor of the Depression years — which are important factors, too. IMO, History gives you your roots. It tells you where your people have been, your country has been, where you fit in the grand scheme of things. (And usually it tells you how good you have it, so quit griping and deal with your relatively minor issues.)

    Liked by 1 person

  • You managed to put so much history and pain in so few words, Rochelle. It seems extraordinary that people who went through the Holocaust survived afterwards – physically or mentally. To punish the human mind and body to that extent and for them still to be able to live a life afterwards – it might sound like a cliche, but it’s a testament to human endurance, strength and the power of hope.
    Passionate, heartfelt writing

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Lynn,

      I, too, find it hard to fathom, the resilience of the human spirit. Some never recover and some do and never look back. Last spring I had the privilege of meeting with and interviewing a survivor. She held nothing back in telling her story. Lovely lady.

      Re my story, this does seem to be my soapbox. Thank you so much for your affirming comments.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

      • That must have been extraordinary, talking to that lady. What a unique experience and a privilege to speak to survivors while we still can.
        We have a regular customer in our shop – a Jewish lady who was a child in Germany just before the war started. Her father was a stamp dealer and secured their escape with the help of some valuable stamps he smuggled out, sewn into the lining of his jacket. She swears she has never wanted to return to Germany, that it could never be her home after all that happened.
        She came over to Bristol where she grew up, married, had a family of her own. People can be so amazing, can’t they? Wonderful work, Rochelle

        Like

    • Dear James,

      As I’ve gotten older I’ve often wished I’d asked my grandfather about his youth. I only knew that he’d come from Poland as a teen to escape the bloody pogroms in Eastern Europe. He didn’t know his true birth date. In retrospect, I suspect that he was a closed off person because of he horrors he’d experienced. Live and learn and try to be an understanding human.

      Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

      • My wife’s mother didn’t even tell her she was Jewish until she was a young adult. Her Mom had some falling out with her family at the beginning of WW2, so she left them in Boston and joined the Marines. At the end of the war, she met my father-in-law, a Navy yeoman, and they were married. She never talked about being Jewish to her kids and it was only by accident that my wife found out the truth.

        Out of five children, only my wife has returned to Jewish identity and praxis. I’m sure there are a lot of questions she wishes she could have asked her family before they died. If only she’d been raised to know who she is.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sad to say, it’s not a unique situation. My gr-gr-grandfather was kidnapped at age nine from the streets of (what he think was) London, by a navy press gang. Whether his name was really John Smith or if the sailors just dubbed him that, we don’t know. Our family history on his side only began when he managed to escape in Halifax, NS, at age fourteen.

          Liked by 1 person

          • There are many stories like these. As for me, I always knew who I was and where I came from. I credit my mother of blessed memory with that. It seems that, after persecutions, some Jews went into perpetual hiding. I’ve a few friends who were surprised to find out they were Jewish. Thanks to both of you, James and Christine for sharing your stories with me.

            Like

  • i can fully understand his feelings. when i visited auschwitz, i was told up to 150 people were packed into those cattle cars. it’s horrible to think it was just the beginning of their sufferings. the worse was yet to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Plaridel,

      I’ve never been there, although, my earliest childhood remembrances are those horrid black and white films. I can only imagine…actually cannot imagine how bad it really was. Thank you for your affirming comments that keep me writing stories such as these.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

  • That was very powerful. Thank you for sharing that personal story.
    This is my first time participating in Friday Fictioneers and I hope to explore your site more often in the near future.
    I hope you will visit my blog also as I am newly back into the blogging scene as I took several years off to raise my little ones and I sure could use some comments and or a follow too 🙂
    – Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Lisa,

      In reality, this story isn’t personal. It is a ‘favorite’ theme of mine…perhaps more of a soapbox. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Welcome to Friday Fictioneers. Happy to have you aboard.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

    • Dear Courtney,

      I certainly don’t understand how anyone can deny the Holocaust. The Nazis were so ‘good’ about recording their deeds and keeping efficient records. The more time passes, the easier it is to say it was all staged, I suppose.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

  • Very chilling story. When I read the line “Dad, on the other hand, hated trains” I understood and the music “Different Trains” by Steve Reich started playing in my mind. If you don’t know it, look it up, but be sure you read about it before you listen and you’ll understand why I thought of it. Anyway, great story.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Dear Henny Penny,
    I’m surprised they got Dad on their for a single ride after such a horrible childhood experience with trains. Loved the contrasts in perceptions.

    Eat a bowl of Fruit Loops and call me in the morning,
    Dr. Ben Case-Uvem

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Dr. Ben Case-Uvem,

      It appears the sky is about to fall in our area according to the weather jockeys. I only hope we aren’t hit with a power outage. Meanwhile the whole city’s in a panic which means there will be no milk or bread to be had on supermarket shelves. Lucky for me I’m gluten free and lactose intolerant, eh? Guess that cancels out the Fruit Loops.

      Not sure how they got Dad on the train, but I wouldn’t have had a story if they hadn’t. 😉 Seriously, thank you for such a nice comment.

      Shalom,

      Henny Penny

      Like

  • Dear Rochelle

    Such horror. It’s just impossible to get inside the heads of the perpetrators of this act of genocide, especially those who gave the orders in the first place, having rationalised that the creation of a master race (as they perceived it) was for the good of the world. Strange how Hitler didn’t fit the Aryan picture of physical perfection at all, part of which was to have blond hair. Shows how mad he was.

    There is one thing that makes me glad in your story; that the girl was not having to go through what her ancestors had suffered.

    Your contrast between the two was brilliant, and that last sentence felt like the mental equivalent of a hard punch in the guts.

    Well done.

    All best wishes,
    Sarah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Sarah,

      The crazy thing is that there are many blonde blue-eyed Jews. My aunt was one. My mother’s twin brother had red hair and the bluest eyes you ever saw, while my mother had black hair and brown eyes. There is a true story of how in Nazi Germany a picture was published of the “perfect Aryan child” only to found to be Jewish. No happy ending there, she perished.
      As a child growing up in the 50’s, the Holocaust was practically current events. Although my mom was born and raised in the US, she had relatives who perished overseas. So you could say I grew up in the shadow of the horror. But it was nothing compared to what that father in the story (and some people I knew) went through.
      Thank you for such a wonderful comment.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      PS Just finished Noah Padgett this morning. What a delightful read. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Rochelle
        My paternal grandmother had really dark hair and dark eyes and was terrified of the Nazis invading England, because she looked so Jewish.
        I know about the fair Jews. I used to have a Jewish boyfriend who had strawberry blond hair and pale blue eyes. He was the son of a Rabbi, so we couldn’t get too serious as I was a gentile and he felt it his duty to marry a Jewish girl. I was very sad about this at the time, but respected him for it, too.
        I’m so glad that you enjoyed Noah Padgett 🙂
        All best wishes
        Sarah

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dear Sarah,

          My mom wasn’t too happy with me when I married a gentile boy. And my Uncle Norman (mom’s twin) had a fit when we name our third son Christian. (He’s named after my husband’s great great grandfather.)
          Thank you for sharing that bit of your past with me. 😉 Gathering my thoughts to leave a review for Noah.

          Shalom,

          Rochelle

          Liked by 1 person

  • I liked your story when I first read it on Wednesday, but reserved my comment until I’d time to process the sadness of it. Union Station in St. Louis, MO is where my husband and I fell in love. It seems I always find a deeper connection with your stories than initially expected. This one was no different. Lovely in every way.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Rochelle, such a visceral story that’s a reminder of the terrible memories many associate with experiences which seem innocuous even pleasant to us. As someone who loves trains, it was such a kick in the end to be reminded of the terrible use they’ve been put to. Hard to even imagine what it would be like. Thank you for sharing this reflection and keeping the memories fresh before us.
    Anne

    Liked by 1 person

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