Starting as a small child, through most of my early life, I listened in deep captivation to my father’s intense experiences. It was clear these had been profound and traumatic memories central to his being, framing his life. These true-life stories became embedded in my soul. From these disclosures, I also learned of the brutal loss of his entire large family. These were my immediate relatives including my uncles, aunts and grandparents who I would never know.
From these narrations, I learned of the monumental saga of his life during Nazi captivity in WWII. Beginning in his late teens, for five and one-half years, his life would be massively disrupted with harsh cruelty, intense hunger, arduous slave labor, and numerous near-death escapes. He also had to deal with the loss of all his immediate family.
In these stories, he disclosed how he coped with great daring and resourcefulness while managing his predicament to enhance his survivability. This often entailed lying about skills or capabilities to satisfy some of his captors’ immediate needs, and buy a bit more time.
With untainted candor, he explained how cruel murderous guards could exhibit unrestrained viciousness one day, and then show compassion on another. He came to understand how circumstances could drive gullible people who were stuck in roles demanding their conformance with evil. Their behavior often depended on whether or not they were being scrutinized by superiors. I was amazed at how he could remain objective in his understanding of complexities relating to his most horrific oppressors, and not develop a blind hatred. He displayed the noble quality of not blaming entire groups for the misdeeds of some. This came through as kindness and caring for others the rest of his life.
A theme which permeates these experiences centers around a vision he experienced early in this chronicle. Therein, his beloved late grandmother (Bubbe) came to him, vowing to guard him through the upcoming turmoil, keeping him safe and assuring his survival. He perceived her presence constantly during one close-call escape after another. This feeling of sublime protection provided comfort during his ordeals. He constantly felt her invisible angelic wings embracing and protecting him to fend off harm. This was clearly a source of hope for him, keeping him from sinking in despair.
A similar experience of my mother is also included in the book, but of very limited extent given her reticence to discuss this episode in her life. She also ended up as the sole survivor of her family, with the loss of another uncle and set of grandparents. In her case, it was the aid and comfort of dear friends which provided support during her travails. It is by their final meeting in a Displaced Persons camp after survival that my parents came together to rekindle life and family again.
I tell this story through my father’s eyes, using his first-person voice. This immerses the reader into his experiences as they transpired. I wrote it in their place, serving as their scribe, memorializing their history and tribulations. Since both my parents have passed prior to this book, I based it on my memory of their narrations, notes, their documents, and published witness videos.
This book is presented in tribute to my parents and their heroic endurance, persisting and surviving horrendous ordeals to carry on their families despite murderous obstacles. It is also a memorial to those numerous victims who left no one alive with their family lines having become extinct.
About Under My Bubbe’s Wings
This is a true-life memoir of defiant endurance through cruelty and traumatic loss, leading to ultimate survival. The author presents his father’s ordeals during five and a half years of Nazi captivity during the Holocaust. Included is a section of his mother’s similar experiences, although limited by her difficulty in discussing this topic.
As the title infers, throughout, he perceives the aura of his late grandma’s spirit protecting him with her angelic wings, as vowed in an early vision. Besides the brutal forced labor, extreme hunger, and massive life upheaval, there are numerous near-death escapes. He consistently feels luck being steered his way. With this fortune, perseverance, and daring, he ends up as the lone survivor of his large family. A similar outcome applies to the author’s mother.
Narrated from a first-person viewpoint, it depicts forced migrations, Warsaw ghetto internment, and an ever worsening struggle to survive. Finally he must endure a series of Nazi camps for years until Russian liberation brings the war’s end. He becomes aware of the complete loss of family, being alone in the world in his early twenties. Finally free, DP camp life offers renewal, marriage, USA migration, and starting over.
In this hellish environment, often the salvation of one person was paid for by the demise of another. Injustice was the norm, as the better fortune for some was frequently undercut by the intense misfortune of others. Eventually, tragedy found its way to most in the end. It was a matter of time. Searching for any fairness or justice in these settings is pointless. The incident where my fellow digger was beaten instead of me illustrates this completely. There one prisoner paid with his life for an innocent mishap (the dirt caving in) which he did not cause, while another (me, in that case) was passed over and spared. Had I been the victim, it would also have been an equally undeserving and grave injustice. As perplexing and disturbing as these situations seem, the truth of these occurrences cannot be white-washed. This was
the stark reality that cannot be denied or wished away. Another vivid and haunting near-fatal encounter at a
different camp comes to mind…
Iser Flaum is a retired systems engineer who worked for various companies in high tech development roles throughout his career. His work resulted in several patents as well as contributing to the creation of various products. He raised his family in Southern California. Given the leisure afforded by his retired state, the yearning to tell the story of his parents’ Holocaust experiences called to him from the past. This resulted in his publishing “Under My Bubbe’s Wings.”
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