ISAAC'S WIFE

2022-07-06

ISAAC'S WIFE

You are very welcome, sir. With such heat in the air, one becomes thirsty.
That is right. This is an old farm. You have guessed it right. After Jews
What? At the entrance? The painting disappeared. You know. No money for the repair work. That Jewish mezuzah was taken down by my father. Grandpa, who took the farm over, somehow could not make himself do it.
Right again. This farm has seen better times. Also worse.
I do not remember anything because I was born after the war.
But Grandmother told me a lot.
There were some Jews in the village. No. Just ordinary people. Not rich, not poor. Only one of them was very rich. Isaac was his name.
My father used to work for them on Saturdays when he was a boy.
Because they could not do anything on that day. Even light the fire.
The rest of the Jews lived here like all the others. In the neighborhood, but without too close contacts.
We had a Jewish neighbor too. We were poor.
That one who lived there, Magieres was his name, hired Grandpa sometimes to help him with work.
Grandma also had some jobs there now and then.
When the Germans came, not that much changed, to begin with.
First, they ordered the registration of the Jews. Some of them tried to pay off and not to come on that list.
But people knew it, so it wasn't like in the old days.
Then the order came that all of them had to pack and move to the ghetto area in the town. Before that order, nobody tried to harm them.
It happened first when the Jews got the schedule to move.
Grandmother said that some villagers could not wait until the Jews had gone and begun to take their livestock before they left. There was some screaming, and some of the Jews were beaten.
Not all Jews had left. The Jews from two farms did not move.
No. The Germans did not interfere. Probably they did not bother about so few Jews. It was cleared by our local policeman with his helpers.
When the Jews were to go to the ghetto, some of them arranged with their neighbors the temporary taking care of the huts, inventory, animals, and land.
It was at that time my Grandpa and Grandma moved in here. Supposedly to keep an eye on Magieres' property.
In the beginning, the old Magieres visited them from time to time from the ghetto. One could get a kind of pass to do it, but it was difficult and expensive.
I have been told that a couple of times my grandfather supplied the Magieres with food in the ghetto.
The others treated from the very beginning the taken property as if it was their own.
That rich Isaac escaped with all his family. But he couldn't take all his riches with him. The people began to loot. There was even some fighting about which one had the bigger right to do it. Then the policeman said enough and moved in into Isaac's house.
The last time Grandpa saw the Magieres' in the ghetto, they had to be taken somewhere.
Grandpa promised them to take care of their property as if it was his own. But they have disappeared without a trace. So what were we supposed to do?
Even after the war, my Grandpa waited for someone to come and claim the property.
And he was always worried about how to make up the settlement.
Because our old cottage was burned to the ground when the gendarmes found two hiding Jews there. Fortunately, no one had told the Germans that it was our old hut because they would probably burn us too.
When my father took over after Grandpa, he stopped all that fuss.
He took that mezuzah off from the entrance door. He renewed everything with a new painting and said that now everything belongs to us, and there is nothing to talk about.
He sold these Jewish candlesticks on the market in the city and used the old Magieres' books as a kindling.
The furniture was solid, so some of it was just recently thrown out.
We stopped using their old bedding something like ten years ago.
So you will not find a trace of the old owners here.
There was an interesting story with that rich Isaac. Grandma has told me about it.
That Isaac prepared a kind of hiding place. There he was with all his family.
There was a man to bring them regular food. And everything would be fine if not for their retard son. He was born such. Not right in the head.
But he didn't bother anyone. Only a few knew about him because they did not let him leave the house.
But when they were hiding in that closet, he could not stand it and sneaked out at nighttime.
Someone saw him, and the gendarmes had been informed. They came to the area and used the whole day to find the hiding place.
When they found them, they were so angry that they beat them all to the blood.
Then they ordered those battered people to board the cart.
Grandma had just come by and saw that.
She recognized Isaac's wife because it was she, who went with my father to Isaac's house when they needed help on Saturdays.
That Isaac's wife had some good shoes on her feet. Grandma told her that these shoes would suit her quite well.
And what said that Isaac's wife? That she was still alive and would not take off the shoes!
Grandma was so angry. It was known that the woman was going to certain death.
And she didn't want to give the shoes to an acquaintance? At least they would stay with someone she knew.
But no! Some strangers probably took it. Such an unfriendly witch to the end!
Do you need some more water? You are welcome! We have plenty of it!

Alex Wieseltier
March 2021

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