Sharing memories with Chaja. Learning/Feeling/Knowing

Hy Penn – 3/21/11

Chaja  – There are no tears in Chaja’s eyes. The tears dried up long ago.

We stand in front of the grave of Emanuel Verveer, her father.  A beautiful stone marks the site of the only Jew buried on this Christian cemetery located within walking distance to the place we just visited – the place where Mr. Verveer was brutally murdered – by the Nazis.

Chaja has no personal memory of her father – only memories formed from the memories of others. As a 3 year old, there are few persistent memories – hopefully this cushioned a lifetime of tragedies she had already suffered.

We carefully place stones on the grave of a man we never knew, a man his daughter never really knew.

We recite Kaddish, we listen to Chaja speak of her father. We now know him.

Memories of memories. This is what we must continue to pass on to others.


About Holocaust Museum Houston

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, we teach the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.
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3 Responses to Sharing memories with Chaja. Learning/Feeling/Knowing

  1. Hazel says:

    Jerry you have me in tears once again. I think you need to write a book of this magical and powerful journey. Speedy and peaceful flight home. This one HMH family member can’t wait to see you. Peaches

  2. Hazel says:

    Beautiful Hy. Thank you. I look forward to your safe return. Rest up and I know it will take a long time before you will be able to process this amazing journey that you have been on with Lynn. Time brings so many emotions into focus, I know because it took me a long time to process my thoughts, nearly two years to be exact. To all bloggers and travelers, safe flight home and know that I am anxious to see you all. Hazel

  3. Jerry Rochman Tuesday, 3/22/11, Amsterdam

    Today was a celebration of life and all its goodness!

    After the darkness of the last week we were ready for an inspiring , uplifting day but none of us could have imagined the day we had.

    From the inspirational visit to the Anne Frankhuis, to the beauty of Van Gooh’s art, to the story of life and love and friendship told by Chaja and her friends, to the wonderful dinner gathering shared with memories and laughter and wonderment, this was for me one of the most unforgettable days of my life.

    I only wish I had the words to express my feelings. My words don’t come close to expressing my joy, my wonderment, my gratitude, at being a part of this wonderful group and being a part of our wonderful museum.

    First stop today was the Anne Frankhuis. Anne to me is a heroine, an upstander, a young girl of insight far beyond her years. Her words “I still believe in the goodness of people”, written under the most trying of circumstances, speak to her eternal optimism, her goodness and her courage. They also speak of hope; a word I use a lot during my tours. Anne still lives, her words endure and serve as an inspiration to us all.

    With the afternoon free, a few of us went to the Van Gooh Museum. His art is meaningful, magical with vivid colors that seem to jump off the canvas. I was inspired by the works of this troubled art genius, who even through the darkness in his life continued to create great beauty. His art speaks loudly that man can overcome difficulties to build and not destroy.
    I see this same beauty in the lives of our survivors, who through the most difficult of times enrich us all with the beauty of their lives.

    Dinner tonight was a celebration. With Chaja tonight were her friend Rudy, also a hidden child and survivor; a dear friend who befriended young Chaja in Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen, kept her by her side, gave her nourishment, love and the strength to somehow survive Westerbork, Bergen- Belsen and Thereienstadt as a child of only 3 years old. We heard the stories of Chaja reuniting with her mother after the war, of her hero father, a member of the Dutch Resistance who was executed by the Nazis, and of her life in post-war Holland.

    Chaja opened her heart to us tonight, let us into her life and reveled in the friendship and joy of sharing the evening with members of our HMH community.

    When you get up in the morning we never know what will happen during the day. Tonight we may have, in some small way, changed the lives of two people through a chance meeting at the Anne Frankhuis and later meeting those same two people, at the restaurant this evening. Having spoken to these two people, a mom and her college age daughter this morning and meeting them again tonight, Mary Lee invited them to meet Chaja and our group. To say they were mesmerized by the experience is an understatement. I asked them if they had ever met a Holocaust survivor before. They had not and and you could see from the expressions on their faces that they felt they were in the presence of a very special person. Chaja spoke with them, took pictures with them and laughed with them. She celebrated her life with two strangers who left with an understanding of the beauty and richness of life.

    I was awestruck tonight, by the love I felt among all at the table. I alternately laughed and cried, overcome by the sheer joy of being part of a re-affirmation of life. This was a powerful evening never to be forgotten.

    Tonight we saw and experienced that the power of love and friendship always wins over hate and intolerance.

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