in the garden

 

Feb 2008 Journal

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MY PRIVATE HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL

Sir – Memorials can take different forms. In my case, it is my clothes hanger. It has lived quietly in my wardrobe for many, many years, among all the wire and plastic hangers. This one – for me a very special one – is made of wood with a faded pink silk cover with black lettering saying: Richard Brill, Praha 1, Celetna ul. 18. Richard and his wife were my mother’s uncle and aunt. As the hanger says, they had a ready-made ladies’ dress shop in Celetna Street, near the Old Town Square in Prague. They worked hard in their little shop to make a living and to bring up their daughter Rose well.

When Rose grew up, she became a regular contributor to women’s journals and wrote a novel or two. With the onset of Nazism in Germany, the Brill family, like most of us Czech Jews, said: ‘This cannot happen here.’ Rose married a gentile, a dashing Czech pilot. It all seemed so good. However, the unthinkable happened. When the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia, the dashing pilot got scared of losing his fine job, being married to a Jewish woman. She loved him and agreed to a divorce. He lost his job anyway, but his wife and her parents lost their lives. These were just a few ordinary people among the 6 million who perished in the Holocaust.

My clothes hanger is only a tiny object, but for me it has always been my private symbol and memorial.

 

Hana Nermut

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