Thursday, March 26, 2009

Great Story from the Holocaust Era

Holocaust Legacy Written in Letter

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Barry Friedman heard about the postcard in January, just a few weeks before his mother died.

His grandfather had written it in January 1944, when he and his wife were on a train headed to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. He was worried about his children -- 14-year-old Anne, who became Barry Friedman's mother, and her younger sister. When he finished writing, Izak Altenhaus tossed the note out of the train window, hoping someone would find it and deliver it.

Izak and Pepi Altenhaus arrived at Auschwitz, where they and 417 others on the train were fatally gassed by the Nazis.

But someone found his note along the tracks, put it in an envelope and addressed it. Anne Altenhaus got it, packed it away, and immigrated with her sister to America in 1946.

She married Thomas Friedman, learned English, had four sons, made a life.

A few days before 79-year-old Anne Altenhaus Friedman passed away on Jan. 30, Linda Peck, Barry's wife, asked if she knew where the note was. Anne shrugged: Good luck finding it.
...Peck looked down and saw an envelope. It was so old, the paper had softened. It was addressed: Prevos, Van Marlanstraadt 37, Antwerpen.

"You know what," Friedman said, "maybe we're looking for an envelope, not a postcard."

...From the envelope, the couple slid out a small piece of paper. It was ragged on three sides, cut cleanly on the fourth. It might have been written on a piece of toilet paper that Izak Altenhaus tucked away, Peck thinks.

Altenhaus had scrawled the letter in French. The couple don't know the language, so Peck drove to the home of a friend, who translated it.

"These two letters have been found along the train tracks. Please send this letter which is not yours."

In the note, Altenhaus wrote not to his daughters, but to friends who could reach them:

"Mr., Mrs., and dear Monique, I thank you one thousand times for the packages. I regret a lot that I couldn't write to you from Maline. It was forbidden. Unfortunately, we were denounced October 20. I am so happy that my children are in a good/safe place. If my children ask you (something illegible), tell them only that we will do it when we come back. ... We are on the road to the unknown. Most cordial greetings and see you soon."

He signed just his last name.

Anne Altenhaus never saw her parents after that. So Friedman never met his grandparents, and for the longest time his mother didn't talk about the war.

...Peck called the Holocaust Museum in Washington, museum officials found Anne Friedman's memoir. When she told them about the note, they wanted to see it -- and would travel from Washington for it.

Friedman, as long as his brothers agree, would like to donate the letter to the museum.

No comments: