CHILDHOOD: A Remembrance by Jona Oberski

CHILDHOOD: A Remembrance

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In snippets of recollection, all-seeing and uncomprehending, a small boy passes through the Holocaust. ""My mother whispered so close to my ear that it tickled. 'Go to sleep now. . . . Tomorrow we'll take a look at our camp, and in a few days we'll go home to Daddy.'"" That first time, they do go home. The boy has a birthday, and gets a wooden jumping jack. He watches a window washer; has a chance to steer the ferry; visits his father's office and types out his name with nice Mr. Paul. Like Daddy, he's wearing a yellow star. (""I thought the star was pretty, but I'd rather have gone without."") Soldiers come in the night, and hurry the family off. ""My father said we were hoping to immigrate to Palestine soon. . . ."" In a packed freight car, they travel to a new camp. The children clean the big pots by climbing in and eating the leavings. (""I told him my mother didn't let me lick my fingers."") His father is sick, and he's told to get his mother--quickly. The chapter is entitled ""Shade"": slowly, he makes his way hugging the wails to keep out of the sun; when he finally finds his mother, he's forgotten the message. Hearing that his father's dying, he insists on being there--other children have seen their fathers die, he says. The next day (""Dreadhouse""), the older children let him play with them--but he must pass a test. (""I tried to find my father. I twisted my head in all directions, to the side, upside down, so as to look at the faces which were turned every which way. But they all looked so terribly alike""). . . With liberation at hand, his ailing, crazed mother dies. He returns to Amsterdam, to live with Mr. and Mrs. Paul. (""For my foster parents, who had quite a time with me,"" reads the dedication.) It's a slip of a book that resonates, and holds to its child voice with a fidelity that commends it for children too.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1983
Publisher: Doubleday