Thursday, August 3, 2017

Holocaust Monument in Stockholm - number of victims - Romek is going to fix the money!

The idea of present Holocaust Monument in Stockholm (Namemonument - Namnmonumentet) arose when my mother-in-law Maria Soltan, born Kalisz (from Łódź) traveled to Poland in the Autumn of 1993 in order to visit the graves of her family members who died or were murdered during World War II. The graves were no longer there! She walked very sad around the graveyard. The caretaker of the cemetery suggested that memorial plaques be engraved "instead" on the cemetery wall close to the entrance to the cemetery.

After considering all this above, I came to the conclusion that suggested memorial plaques and the names should be here, in Stockholm where the surviving members of our family live and where next generations will be raised! Not in Poland!

Within the family we considered this particular idea. I asked my mother-in-law about the names, number of relatives. Every time we discussed it, the number of relatives to remember was increasing. First there were just adults! I asked her about the children, she answered: they were many, but they were just children... and now I do not remember their names!

My mothers writings! The first request to collect the victims names I started through my and my parents network. It was in the Winter 1993/1994. At that time I just wanted to know, number of relatives. Above, my mothers notes about numbers of murdered relatives that she received from her friends.  From family Warman 40 persons, from family Szafran 30, etc. At the bottom her annotation: together with former ones 167.

Thereafter, I asked my mother the same questions. I asked just for number of close relatives that were murdered in Holocaust. Her short answer was, at least 100. She was silent for a long time. For her 100 there were not just the number, for her there were persons, faces, voices, her youth.

Later, I asked my mother to collect the number of names from other Holocaust survivors families, her close friends that also left Poland during 1968-1969. Some of them said 4 or 8, and they mean just the closest family. After the while they added their first cousins and their list were ending at 30-40.

All of the survivors gave very low numbers of family members they wanted "to remember" as they were afraid of the costs. They asked my mother how much it is going to cost? 
My mother said, nothing, Romek is going to fix the money.

Suddenly the numbers on my mothers and my lists were several thousands.

The numbers, but no the names. Almost like Nazis wanted it to be. And I wanted vice versa, all the peoples mentioned by my mother and her friends should have the names, should be mentioned, at least at one place in the world, in Stockholm.

I knew, I have to change the numbers to the names and number of names and also the Name-monument will increase in size. I started to think about co-worker. None from 2nd generation was at that time interested or had time. Most Holocaust survivors I knew in Sweden knew just their own story but their total knowledge about the Holocaust was very limited. There was, however, one exception. Halina Neujahr. I was a bit afraid of her. I called her and she agreed to meet at my place. 
After some minutes at my flat, I knew, I found the mensh, partner to work with and a new friend for life. Halina was also the member of the board of the local Holocaust Survivors organization in Stockholm.

Together with Halina we wrote our first appeal, we signed it only with our names and addresses as board of survivors of the Holocaust (Föreningen Förintelsens Överlevande), especially Jakub Ringart, the chairman, disliked our idea.  They just wanted to continue to go to schools telling their stories. They wanted to make movies about their own Holocaust experiences.

Letters we got back from our winter action, our first written appeal, indicated that many of the survivors had not 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 (our highest number of lost relatives on the appeal we distributed) but hundreds! Many indicated 10 and wrote 103 in the parenthesis. 

I asked my parents about names and also the names of the children in our family and I got the same answer as previously from my mother-in-law, they were small children, and they were many and I do not remember. My mother added that she had her aunt and some cousins as well that lived in Paris but all of them were murdered during Holocaust!
The highest number of victims to remember printed on our appeals was increasing, from 30 to 40 and later to 50.

Letters we got back from our winter action, first written appeal, indicated that many of the survivors had not 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 (our highest number of lost relatives) but hundreds! Many indicated 10 and wrote 103 in the parenthesis.

It was March 1994 and we knew that soon, in mid April there will be Remembrance ceremonies to commemorate the victims and the heroes of the the Warsaw ghetto uprising (April 19, 1943) in Stockholm synagogue. We prepared and copied new Appeal. Halina and I got finally the permission to use the name of Holocaust organization on our appeals. However, not using their funds, not even for printing or post stamps. Children from the Jewish School helped to distribute the Appeal prior and after  the Remembrance Ceremonies, among the my 15 year old Nathalie.

Counting the number of names that survivors wanted to remember we found out that they were almost 4 500.

Letters we got back from our winter action, first written appeal, indicated that many of the survivors had not 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 (our highest number of lost relatives) but numerous more like above 35-40 or 103 on another returned appeal.