By Corinne Copnick
Of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, one million were children. German-born, award-winning journalist, Eve Rosenzweig Kugler, who makes her home in London, England today escaped to America on a "kindertransport," the initiative of the late Eleanor Roosevelt and the Quaker Society. She was one of 200 children who made it safety from an OSE (Organization Pour Sante et L'Education) home in France.
Not knowing if she would ever see them again, her mother, Mia Kanner, had to make an agonizing decision to part with both Eve and her sister Ruth. Actually, it was Kugler's father,Sal Kanner, who made the life-saving decision for her. A younger sister, Lea, not yet six years of age, remained with her mother in Europe because she could not bear to send so young a child away.
The experience was so traumatic for Eve, who lived in three different foster homes in New York (Ruth lived in four), that she totally blanked out any remembrance of the years from Kristallnacht--when her father's store was destroyed--until the end of the war when she was reunited with her parents and Lea.
"Among Holocaust survivors, there are some who have no memory of their suffering," Eve writes in the Preface to Shattered Crystals. "Survivors do not choose to remember or not remember. This is beyond their control. In our family, the parents, Mia and Sal, and the oldest daughter, Ruth, remember. Lea and I, the two younger children recall nothing. It is as if we began our lives as nine and ten year olds."
But haunting fragments nagged her until, decades later, she persuaded her mother to tell the story of those six terrible years that followed Kristallnacht. Shattered Crystals is the result. Mother and daughter sat down and tape recorded the odyssey of survival. What emerges is the portrait of a woman who, coming from a sheltered and well-to-do orthodox environment in Leipzig [Germany], became a powerhouse of courage and resourcefulness.
Kugler's mother secured counterfeit documents to buy her husband out of Buchenwald concentration camp and fled from Germany to France with three young children. She secured her children by working as a cook for the OSE, a remarkable organization dedicated to saving the lives of young children, and by the connections she forged with the French Resistance in Occupied France.
Eve believes that the kindertransport children who were placed in orphanages in America had happier experiences than the ones who lived with foster families. "As foster children, we were almost universally unhappy,"she says. "We didn't feel we belonged."
Kugler also suffers from guilt because her place on the kindertransport originally belonged to another child whose papers were not in order. "I not only know I had got out when so many other children didn't, but that I wasn't even supposed to go. It was better not to remember." Among the kindertransport children, there was a "universal push to learn English quickly. We wanted to blend and not be German. I forgot most of my German by effort. When my mother came, she couldn't communicate with me."
In 1997, Kugler made a trip back to Leipzig to visit her grandmother's grave. She also found the house in which she had lived in Halle. "I know what happened," she muses, "but I still don't feel it."
In 1992, Kugler voyaged to Israel with her parents. "My father couldn't believe the changes that had taken place since 1935 when he made an exploratory trip there. . . ." Kugler recalls being at the Wailing Wall with her mother as the most moving experience of her life. In a way, it was a completion of Shattered Crystals before it was written.
Shattered Crystals . . . is being distributed in the U.S., Israel, Great Britain, and Canada. It is available at most Jewish bookstores.
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