Monday, April 9, 2007

Alex's nine year old son

"In his interview, Alex did not say whether he had considered the possibility of dire poverty when he decided to keep Jacob and move his family away from the center of town. Probably he chose to trust in his own proven ability to make money. A very important ingredient for coping with stress through the numbing of fear is a sense of personal competence and self-esteem, and Alex had financial self-confidence...

Jacob grew comfortable as a member of the family, tutoring Alex’s daughter in math and reading. He read to Mary from Heinrich Graetz, the great Jewish historian. Life settled down to what passed for normalcy in wartime Poland: Jurek and Jacob slept on the couch, and Mary slept in the bed with her parents....

It had been so for only a matter of weeks when a member of the underground came to beg Alex to take in Jacob’s brother, Sholom.
This was too much for Mela, Alex’s wife. ‘When she had agreed to hide Jacob, she had not known it would mean the unbearable suspense of two Gestapo inspections and a complete uprooting for her family. Now she realized there was a price to pay for rescuing that was below the ultimate punishment—but dear nonetheless.
“You’re playing it very dangerously,” she said to him that night.
“What’s the difference?” Alex pleaded. “It’s the same danger to hide two Jews as for one.”
Alex could see his wife’s determination cracking. He overcame the fear of losing her and the worry about hurting her by deciding to maintain confidence in her intelligence and internal strength. Perhaps, too, his faith in her helped her to stick with her initial decision and not leave him. The next day, Alex accepted Sholom into his growing household.
Sholom, who was nine years old, had been kept for several months on a rooftop. Exposed to wind and rain as well as the neighbors’ prying eyes, he had been unable to so much as sit up while there was still light out. From dawn to dusk he had been forced to lie silently on the roof.

When he came to Alex’s house, he was pathetically skinny and a nervous wreck, starting in terror at the slightest unexpected sound. Alex had nothing to give him but hot soup.
Two months later Sholom came down with scarlet fever, and infected Alex’s own son, Jurek. Luckily, the local doctor could be trusted enough to visit both patients—but Sholom was too sick to be cured at home.

Mela was frantic. She had known taking Sholom would bring nothing but misfortune. Jurek was sent to the hospital, and Sholom remained wasting away at home.

But when Jurek went into the hospital, he did something extraordinary. Jurek took only half of his medication and hid the rest. He took notes, in his fever, on what the doctors and nurses did to cure him. When his mother came to visit, he gave her the medicine and the notes and told her to use them to help Sholom."

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