Reunion: A Holocaust Memoir by Sara Pachter

Suddenly I froze. Before me stood Ana, our Jewish Kapo, an image that I had tried with all my might to erase from my memory.

…”I make it my business to attend every celebration of my entire extended family — every engagement, wedding, bar mitzvah, bris, etc. I do my utmost to make sure I’m present. I do the same for all my close circle of friends from ‘there.’ We are a group of survivors, all from the same barracks, Number 267, from Auschwitz. We all make a point of keeping in touch, in general, but we also make a monumental effort to participate in every celebration that one of ‘the group’ makes. This is our attempt at avenging ourselves on our barbaric captors. We stand together, unified in the message that we declare loud and clear: ‘We are still here today, and we will live on!’

…”When I arrived at the hall, I wove my way through the throngs of people, in search of the designated table. I threaded my way between the many tables, nodding in response to the greetings sent in my direction. When I finally found our table, I sat down and proceeded to look around the hall, keeping an eye out for newcomers, and anticipating the others of our group. I remember well the cacophony of voices, the cries of good wishes, and the fluent French swirling all around, a sea of unfamiliarity. “As is my custom at every gathering, I scrutinized my fellow tablemates. There were constantly new/old faces that suddenly resurfaced, and I delighted in the discoveries each time. Although it’s hard to identify faces from so many years in the past, since decades had passed already since the liberation, I still have the habit of carefully studying the faces at every affair. So every new arrival to the hall merited a thorough inspection by me, as I searched for a hint of familiarity on each otherwise unfamiliar face.

…”Suddenly I froze, riveted to my place. Before me stood Ana! An image that I had tried with all my might to erase from my memory. I looked at her again, and felt my heartbeat accelerate dangerously. It wasn’t easy to identify her positively after all those years, but the more I looked at her, the surer I was that indeed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was her!

…”She felt my gaze on her, and when our eyes met, a flash of recognition sparked in hers. She gave me a look whose message was clear. It was a desperate plea not to reveal her identity to those present. “All at once I was hurled back into that world of ‘then,’ a world which had rules and norms all of its own. No longer did I see the glowing bride. I didn’t hear the sounds of song and rejoicing that filled the hall. All I heard were the sounds of the past. I felt like I was choking.”

…”Ana was our Kapo. She was the butt of our hatred. We couldn’t assimilate the fact that a Jew just like us, stemming from the very same hallowed roots as ours, could treat her fellow sisters with such abject cruelty. That pain cut deep, and was the source of the intense hatred that we felt towards her.

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