Dear Daddy,

I wrote to you in December, 1944, Aunt Miriam, Mommy’s sister, gave me a big, beautiful Grimm’s Fairy Tale book for Chanukah because I like to read the Childcraft story books to Cousin Harvey at her home.  I am hiding my letters to you in this book until you come home from the war. The stories are scary, but the pictures are colorful and I enjoy looking at them. It is winter vacation now, there is a blizzard outside, and it is too cold to collect newspapers and bacon fat in my little red wagon for the war effort. We can’t work in the victory garden until Spring.

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I miss school, my favorite place to be except for the movies, but my teacher reminds me every day that you are Missing in Action by asking if I have heard from you and if I am praying for your safe return. I want to tell her that I haven’t learned how to pray, but I don’t. I remember you said after Basic Training, that if you forgot for a day that you were a Jew, there was always a soldier to remind you at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.


Roland, a boy across the street, chased me home yelling I was a dirty Jew. Then he spit on me just as I reached home and Mommy opened the window – the one with the blue star that tells passersby that a member of the family is serving overseas on military duty. She told Roland to stay away from me. Why did he call me a dirty Jew, I asked Mommy? I’m cleaner than he is and I thought I was an American. “Well, your country is America and your religion is Jewish, and that’s enough for now.”

I wanted answers and tried looking in the Junior Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which you bought for me to read, but I didn’t know where to start. Mommy’s father, Bepa, wasn’t any help. He said that religion and praying is for other people, but Grandma Mimi said that religion is what got them out of Kiev and Odessa in Russia. She said that they came to America in the early 1900’s when the Tsar didn’t like the Jews anymore.

Bepa told Mommy that she has to get a job as a secretary and he bought a typewriter for her to practice. I fall asleep at night listening to the little bell ring at the end of each line. He said you wouldn’t be coming home from war, but he is often wrong, like saying you wouldn’t pass the physical at age 35 and you’d never finish basic training, but you earned a marksmanship medal. I don’t listen to him, but Mommy says I have to be nice to him because he is supporting us since your payroll checks have stopped coming.

He said he will whip my sister and me with his razor strap if we fight and I told him I’d tell the police. He laughed and said I am learning too much from the movies. That’s true and I also get ideas from the radio when I hear the Andrews Sisters sing, “You gotta accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with mister in-between. To illustrate my last remark, Jonah in the whale, Noah in the Ark- what did they do when everything looked so dark? Man they said, you gotta……”

Mimi tells me to be grateful that Bepa paid for my Brownie outfit so I could join the junior Girl Scouts, and I should eat everything on my plate because children in Europe are starving. Is that accentuating the positive?

I hope you are getting enough to eat wherever you are in Europe, Daddy and I also hope that you received the packages that weren’t returned to us.  I think of you every day even without my teacher’s reminder and I will also learn how to pray for your safe return.

Love,
Maxine


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