Here are my memories of my grandparents, David and Fannie Fox. In 1913, at the age of seventeen, David had left his family and friends in the small shtetl of Uzlyany. He met Fannie Greenberg in New York City, where they married and raised a family.
When I was a little boy, we visited my grandparents in the Bronx, where they, and my Aunt Shirley, lived on the ground floor of a tenement building near a public park. The two room bedroom apartment was small, and it always smelled of boiling chicken soup and dill. Occasionally, on special occasions, Grandpa Dave opened a dark wood cabinet, which smelled like cedar, and poured a small glass of "schnapps" for himself and his guests. Then, he and Grandma Fannie would sit upright in straight-back chairs on one side of the room while my two younger brothers and I would sit, facing them, on the other side of the room.
|Me (Douglas) and Grandpa Dave|
There was rarely much conversation while we, the younger Fox generation, faced our elders. Dave and Fannie sat quietly, even wordlessly, sometimes for long stretches at a time, occasionally smiling weakly at us while we fidgeted in our chairs. I do not ever remember hearing any talk of their emigration to the United States, or of relatives they left behind, or anything at all about life in the "old country."
It was not until I was much older that I first learned, from my Aunt Shirley, that Dave's mother and father, my great-grandparents, Eli and Fruma Fuchs, were ruthlessly murdered in the early days of the Holocaust in their shtetl in Yuzlyany, in what is now known as Belarus. The loss of parents under those circumstances must have been incredibly painful for Dave and perhaps even caused him great guilt for the parents left behind. I imagine now that Dave and Fannie's stoicism resulted from the horrors of the Holocaust and the loss of his parents. How could one make polite small talk or crack silly jokes in the face of such horrors? Dave and Fannie were victims of the Holocaust. I just didn't know it, and of my own personal connection to the horrors of the Holocaust, at that time.
As the head of my law firm's pro bono program, I have had the privilege to assist several Holocaust survivors to make application to the German government for Holocaust benefits. Usually, the survivors are accompanied by their children, and on more than one occasion, I learned during my interviews that the survivor had never spoken to their children about the survivor's experiences during the Holocaust. It is not so surprising, then, that Dave and Fannie wouldn't have shared the details of the deaths of Eli and Fruma with their grandchildren. Yet, I wish they had, in some age-appropriate way, been able to share the horrors of the Holocaust with their grandchildren. It would have helped us to understand what made Dave and Fannie who they were, and who, in turn, we were. Whether or not Deb and I ever make our journey to Uzlyany, our work on this blog has already enriched me beyond words. For that I will be forever grateful, and mindful of the sacrifices made by Eli and Fruma, and Dave and Fannie, so that their great-grandchildren and grandchildren could live better lives.