A few days ago I saw my neighbor and friend across the street talking to an older woman I didn’t recognize. She motioned for me to come over, which I did.
Turns out the older woman’s mother was a Holocaust survivor. My neighbor was excited to introduce us because of the book I’m writing about my mother-in-law who, as some readers of this blog know, was born in a concentration camp.
This older woman, whose name I never got, asked me which camp my mother-in-law was born in.
“Freiberg,” I said.
Her face clearly registered disappointment.
“Well, she was born in Freiberg but liberated in Mauthausen,” I countered.
“Oh, I thought it was Auschwitz,” she said with obvious discern. “That’s where my mother was. Most people didn’t survive Auschwitz, but my mother did.”
I sensed pride in her voice.
For some odd reason I wanted to impress her so I told her that my mother-in-law was sort of in Auschwitz because she was a two-month old fetus in her mother’s belly at the time. Surely that would give her pause, yes?
Nope. She shook her head. My straw-grasping failed to impress.
Then it hit me. I was playing Jewish Geography, but the concentration camp version. This was sick. Twisted. What was I doing?
Luckily the conversation ended almost as quickly as it began because the older woman’s car was parked in front of a fire hydrant; she had to skedaddle before the parking police swooped in.
Now that I’m out there (meaning here, on this blog) and working hard to get this book written and out to the public (meaning in book stores and libraries), is this Concentration Camp version of Jewish Geography going to be a regular occurrence? It’s not that I don’t want to connect with other people — I do! — but not in a hierarchical competitive way. It felt so awkward and I was rather uncomfortable. This incident reminds me of my post about survivors trying to one-up each other in their suffering.
What do you think?