My mother received a most unusual gift for her birthday in 2009. A few months earlier, she had contacted the Registry at the United States Holocaust Museum and applied for information about her father (of blessed memory) and mother who survived the Holocaust and for six other relatives who did not make it through. Out of all of those people, it was her father’s information that showed up on her birthday, just days before his 3rd yahrtzeit, day of death.
We were totally amazed at how many documents were discovered and delivered. It is emotional and at the same time surreal to see the records, documents and personal signatures that testify to the horrors that our beloved family members endured. One particular document stands out from all of the rest. The Allied Expeditionary Force Registration form is faded and pale like all of the others. The form, which was filled out when my grandfather entered the Föhrenwald Displaced Persons Camp, contains nothing other than simple facts and information. Name, birthday, gender, etc… However, the banality of the document betrays the plethora of emotion that it actually contains.
The upper right hand of the document asks for the applicant’s nationality. My grandfather’s answer? STATELESS. Beneath that one, simple, cold word lays the whole tragic series of events that left millions, like my grandfather, alone, lost, and homeless in every sense of the word.
Further down the document and slightly to the left, the form asks for the applicant’s ‘desired destination.’ My grandfather’s answer: PALESTINE, the official name of Israel at the time. Israel was and is the only possible answer to the 2,000 year persecution of the Jewish people. My grandfather never made it to Israel (other than a few visits), though he is buried here. Instead, fate took him to Columbus, Ohio where he made a good life for his wife and only daughter.
But that isn’t the end of my grandfather’s story. Two of his grandchildren and almost all of his great-grandchildren have made their homes in the Jewish country. Sometimes goals are only realized by later generations. It is through us that my grandfather has reached his DESIRED DESTINATION and his legacy lives on.