Yesterday I received an email from my grandfather’s younger brother Georg in Argentina who is one of the people I write about in ”Herr Isakowitz Treasure”
I met Georg for the first time four years ago, when he came to Sweden. He made a great impression on me. Not only because he still had such a joy for life and was happy to travel the world at 91 years of age, but also because in spite of all the hardship he had gone through he somehow had managed to stay warm and kind.
Georg certainly had had a tough life. He first attempted to leave Germany at the age of 15, after having had his fingers smashed by the Hitler Jugend on stage during a piano concert, but ended up in a prison in Hamburg where he was severely beaten and abused.
After a year a friend of the family who was a lawyer managed to get him out of prison. Georg was told that he could not go home, as he would be taken straight to concentration camp. The only option was to leave the country. The lawyer helped to hide the young Georg at a friend’s house and the next day he left on a ship to Buenos Aires. As he had no Visa and came to Argentina illegally he was put in prison when he arrived and was to be sent back to Germany. However after some time in the cell he got very sick, fainted and was sent to a hospital. And the moment he woke up he got up and left.
Georg spent the next few days sleeping in parks, dodging the police and being scared of being caught and sent back to Germany. But he was lucky and bumped in to some Gauchos who took him under their wings and he went with these poor people – people who shared what little they had with him – to the countryside to work.
He worked for a number of years on the lands. Did hard manual labour and slept among the dogs and horses to keep warm. And slowly, through hard work and lucky coincidences, ha managed to build up a decent life for himself in Argentina.
Some 65 years later the city of Berlin contacted him to offer him an honorary citizenship. His first reaction was to say no, but curiosity got the better of him and at the age of 89 he returned to Germany and found, to his joy and surprise, a country where he felt welcome and where many of the young people wanted to hear of what he had been through. For a number of years he spent half his life in Buenos Aires and half in Berlin, but this year, at the age of 95, he finally decided that his travelling life had come to and end.
Being the only one who is left of all the people in the family who fled Germany during the Holocaust, Georg’s opinion of what I have written naturally is very important to me. So when yesterday I received his letter saying he now had read the German version of the book (who came out last month) and that he really appreciated the way it told the story of our family I felt so happy. As for me, getting his acceptance is worth so much more than any review.
At the end of his letter he writes these words about what happened to him and my grandfather, two brothers who came out through a horrible trauma in very different emotional conditions. One with his appreciation of life still intact and one a broken man.
“The Nazis stole our youth, the best time of our lives. We all tried to make the best of the situation, some succeeding better than others. Take care of your youth. It is the best thing of all, and it doesn’t come back”