They have no graves, they have no markers of ever having existed. The millions of people who were murdered by the Nazis live on only in the memories of the survivors, those that had survivors.
In his 79th year, Andor Schwartz was driven to record the lives of his family and friends who perished. He writes of getting: ‘a strong message . . . what you have to do is bring back your beloved ones, one by one, make them alive for a short time’.
Over a period of 3 months, he wrote these memories in long-hand. He writes that: ‘It was a miracle. My pen was pushing ahead with full speed. I didn’t have to think, names and dates were coming back with the speed of fire. Sentence after sentence, all making sense, all of them correct. It was written with my tears, I broke down many times . . . All my hear family, one after the other, all came back to me.’
Writing with the instincts of a born storyteller, Andor takes us back to the world of his childhood in rural Hungary, in the years leading up to Second World War. Unlike most orthodox Jews, they lived on the land. His father was a Talmudic scholar and a born entrepreneur who owned enormous estates.
He paints a vivid picture of his life at the Yeshivas where he boarded as a child and he brings to joyous life the end of term, when he would return home to the country, to his beloved family. His love of nature and country life, his friendships with the children of the farmhands, the harvests, the Jewish festivals, the age-old customs, now lost, are all evoked with uncanny vibrancy.
But then the dark clouds of evil obliterated the sunshine of his arcadian childhood.
We live with him through the horrors of the Holocaust years, on the run in Budapest, surviving certain death time and time again under the protection of his Malach (angel), whose name had been given to him by his father on their separation.
He survived, but his entire family perished.
‘We don’t know and never will know why it happened to us . . . the pain will be with me for ever and ever. My loved one will live in my heart to the end of my life.’
Life went on despite the enormity of the loss. He takes us to Israel and then to Australia, where he prospered and his children had children, and the cycle of life returned to its natural and proper order.