Return to Berlin

What does that mean? Returning at 71 to a city that hated, despised and exorcised me and mine 62 years ago, when I was not yet 9

When on the train to Holland I wept as though my heart might break, mourning even then loved ones I would never see again

Would it recreate the joy and freedom of a small boy roller-skating on the Savignyplatz or riding his bicycle on Schlüterstraße?

Or rekindle memories of being pinched by a swing, of seeing one’s first black man selling bananas before the Tiergarten or of riding a sled when my sister (aleve ba sholem) broke her leg

Or of playing soccer for the first time with other boys and Herr Hecht in the schoolyard of Adas Yisrael, of watching the older boys sliding gracefully and endlessly on icy paths

And of being seduced in a nearby field or lot by a daughter of a bearded Eastern Orthodox patriarch in a wheel chair surrounded by mysterious crimson and golden icons

And davening Shma Yisrael early in the morning before classes began with Herr Doktor Sinasohn, implanting one’s first vocational resolve to study for the rabbinate

Of visiting beloved Adi Loew’s tailor shop where his father, a frail and gentle man, sat cross-legged on a grey and splintered counter stitching who knows what, for whom?

Where are they now? Among the six million I, an agnostic non-believer daily say Kaddish for

And will it bring back the confusion and horror of the screams of a woman pinned under an overhead train — suicide, accident? — too much for a child or 8 or 9 or 49

And wandering the streets of the city too young to attend Kindergarten, without a mother at home, reminiscent always of Utrillo’s grey, un-peopled street scenes

Or of Uncle Yossel and his gentle ways “Di est sein a Mensch wet men dich halten fir a Mensch” — No way he could have survived

And above all, to reclaim a memory not within my recall, to place stones of mourning on a grave never visited of a mother unrecalled, murdered by Hitler’s criminal minions

What of this, of the pain, the horror and shame can I, must I, dare I, share with my youngest, my sheltered, beloved Ruth, who has never seen hatred, conflict, war (as I have not) and bitter dissension

But I must cathart, weep and rend my clothes — not to make whole or peace but to honour and acknowledge, the parts of me that long ago disinherited me

To remember and let go, if not willing or able to forgive, to forgive myself for not having been interred in the death camps and ended in a fate like millions more worthy and deserving than me

If there be a God then I pray that the suffering, destruction and losses serve as stepping stones, as monuments to a universe where kindness, patience, love, compassion and forgiveness will in matters small and sublime ultimately prevail

And if there be not a God then let such prayers be heard by every German, Rwandan, Israeli, American, Aussie, New Zealander, Chinese and Lebanese and by each and every Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Protestant and Zoroastrian

Amen, Amen, V’Amen

Dr. Albert Silver, né Albert Wolf Silberzweig
Chiffre 110103