The family I could not have
Cornel Lustig describes his family history in
an emotional and personal way one does not forget soon.
The original Romanian version can be found here
The family I could not have
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Look at the picture bellow, four characters (out of several millions) without a face or identity, color, religion, ethnicity, political beliefs, handicaps, sexual orientation or any other "deviation" that some may consider harmful to the mankind but with the same fate: they are 1,3 km away from death ! They don't know it. They only know they are going to have a shower. Yes a shower, but it's the shower of death! They'll find it out only when they will be naked and locked in the ... shower room, because it's not water that will pour from the ceiling it's ...Death! They were lied with an unlimited cruelty and sadism: it actually is a gas chamber. Next to it is the crematorium. In 1,3km they will simply disappear. No grave, no name, no lives, no memories, no relatives, no personal belongings, no trace ...nothing ... like they never existed!
Look at them one more time!
Very often, believers or not, we start our questions with "What in god's name ...."
In God's name (regardless of the God we believe in or not) what possible mistakes might have those human beings done to deserve such a fate?
Some 20 years later (in the 60), my cousin Mariana, came home from school (in Cluj, Romania) and asked her parents:
"How comes I don't have any grandparents?"
How was this possible?
What can we do to prevent it from happening again?
We all asked and still are asking ourselves.
It definitely takes sick malefic minds to bring such absolute evil to life as a philosophy of life.
But that would have not been sufficient. Obviously it took people with sane minds, who for a reason or another decided to turn their heads and thus make room for the evil.
If you don't believe or agree with this maybe you agree with Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the wind" song.
Yes, and how many times must a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see
Yes and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry
Yes and how many death will it take until he knows
That too many people have died?
Thank you for the patience with which you red the above and if you have some more time, now or some other day, please go to the next pages and read our stories, older or newer events, our opinions our thoughts.
What ever you decide, I hope that what you have been reading so far will make you stop and not turn your head when ever you see evil ! Weather it's a passer by negligently throwing a piece of paper on the ground or any kind of a violence of a being against another one, react! It is the only chance to make our life better and neither will any kid in this world ever again have to ask such a question nor will a any parent ever again have to live through the tragedy of the answer
Have a nice life and may you never face evil, small or big not even as distant or close witness.
Nephew of a being (would have been my grand mother), who together with other three beings, her youngest children (would have been my uncles and aunt), painfully resembling with the picture above, 70 years ago, went down the same road, and after 1,3 km ... disappeared
Once upon a time
Once upon a time ... this is how all childhood stories start or have started, anywhere on this earth and in any language spoken on this planet.
Then, kings, princes and princesses, fairies, poor children, rich children, outlaws even fruits and vegetables or dolls and ... god knows who and what else, where going through all kind of happenings or trials, where fighting with all kind of enemies, obstacles, lies and unfairness and then, with love for people, beauty and truth, with the help of their friends or simply of those whom they would meet on their roads, bugs and flies, flying horses, dwarfs ... or god knows what else, they always managed to somehow win, they would bring the good and the truth back to light, fixed the mistakes, put the love for people back in it's place, they would have wives, kids, grand sons and on top of it all ... live together, happily ever after !
As any other kid, I heard them all – an believe it or not – even now when I am 58, I do listen, almost every Sunday, the radio theater program for kids. (Last time I listened Alice in wonderland was on).
My childhood stories started like any another, some of them though ....
Once upon a time, a baby boy was born, near Cluj, in Romania. His parents named him Edmund. The baby became a child, played through his childhood, like any other child in those days, or today, went to school, and one day became a young man by the name of Edmund Lustig. Like any other young man he fell in love with a young girl by the name of Iolanda Hermann.
There was a problem though: young Iolanda, from a quite well off family, according to the traditions, was not supposed to marry before her elder sister.
But in spite of it all, because they loved each other dearly, they married. Iolanda was disinherited and Edmund, even when he was bringing his kids to visit their grand parents, was not allowed in the house.
They didn't give up and with Edmund in and out of jobs as a public notary (more out then in), they had 7 kids whom, with big efforts and difficulties, managed to bring up, send them to school, they managed to build a normal family, with joys and sorrows, ups and downs until ... „the big bad wolfs", this time wearing a black uniform and cock feathers at their hats – Nylas volunteers, tool of the fascist Hungarian regime of those days- on the 3rd of Mai 1944, forced them out from their home, put them on oxcarts, took them to the Cluj ghetto, then put them in cattle train coaches and after a long road, without meeting fairies, good hunters, wander lamps ... to help them fight back, on the 9th of June 1944 they arrived in ... Birkenau-Auschwitz, the terminus stop ... of life.
Iolanda and the three little kids were gassed upon arrival. Edmund and the other 3 kids continued to "live" in Birkenau
Soon after their arrival Edmund was moved to Mauthausen. Shortly after his arrival, a surviving eye witness told us that one of the "good hunters", the Americans, did bombed for once the area and Edmund - what an „irony" of fate - wounded by a shrapnel, died saying: I've got seven kids and none of them is near me on my death bed.( May this kind of death have been more "human" than the ones of his fellow inmates, who died crushed by starvation, cold -they were not allowed to close the windows of the barracks during the winter -, beatings and the hundreds of up to 50kg stones they had to carry on their backs up and down the thousands of stairs of the Mauthausen quarry, or simply by jumping off the cliff -mockingly nicknamed by the Nazis „the wall of the parachutists"- because they couldn't take it anymore ?)
That was the story of Edmund, the grand father I didn't get to have.
Oh yes, the part with the grand sons (me included) and the together happily ever after!
Because once upon a time, without asking, baby Edmund was born ... Jew!
And they were millions. And not only Jews. They were gypsies, political opponents, war prisoners, handicapped people and all sorts of other "categories" whom other millions of people believed (and unfortunately still believe) are lesser people and a "mortal" danger to the future of the mankind and must disappear.
How was this possible?
Because the queen of the bees couldn't get in to help them (the train coaches had no windows)?
Because Batman, Superman, Spiderman... were not yet invented?
Or because us, the"good hunters" of those days (but from these days too), for one reason or another decided not to take action and when they did though, it was to late for Edmund and all the others?
What's "left" of Edmund ?
A piece of paper!
In their diabolical meticulousness the Nazi doctors of the camp filled in the log:
Edmund Lustig, dead in Infirmary, 14.07.1944, 7,20hrs
Beside the wonder of the "survival" of two family pictures, this is the only "mark" left on this earth by the 5 members of Edmund's family, dead in the Nazi concentration camps
In the memory of my grandfather, exactly 70 years from his death!
Standing: Tiberiu, Eva, Oliver (my father), Emilian
Middle row: Cornel, Iolanda, Cornelia, Edmund
Down : Valentin
Cornelia and Cornel
(or the meaning of „luck")
I think that the only wonder in the world happens in the woman's womb.
(neither the wheel, nor the pyramids, the electricity, the steam, the radio, the atomic bomb,the tv, the lap tops or , God forbid, the mobile phone. No!)
It is the apotheosis of the creation. Out of nothing it gathers everything that's best in the universe and creates another ... universe: a little being that comes to the world, to the joy of the parents, relatives, friends ... mankind.
But what if they are two, or three or more? Nothing simpler: the wonder is double, triple ... and we just call them: twins !
Identical, different, with hours or even days „older / younger", boy and girl, white, black, chocolate, with blue, brown, round, oblique eyes ...
What can be more „universal" and „unique", in the same time, than the child that comes to the world, grows up, slowly starts playing with the wheel, electric power ... mobile phone and all the other inventions (not wonders) and who, when his turn comes, will fall in love with ... mankind so dearly that, through a repeatable wonder, will create a new universe (enriched with his own inventions) whom we should all protect : the human being (alongside with all the other beings, equal parts of the everlasting universe)
What a joy, what a surprise on everybody's faces. In front of such a wonder who could have any other reaction but love, happiness, enchantment ?
„Dr". Josef Mengele
Ever heard of him?
The Nazi's concentration camp Birkenau -Auschwitz „doctor"- „the Death Angel", who's medical specialty was the selection of the „ill / unable to work" inmates for the gas chambers and his „expertise" in the research field: the most inhuman experiments on ...humans. His special „weakness" as „research doctor": experiments on twins!
Therefore, one of the commands heard on the death ramp in Birkenau, every time a new transport came was:
Twins forward !
On the 9th of June 1944, 8 out of 9 members of my family, „arrived" in Birkenau Auschwitz. Among them Cornelia and Cornel, the twins, who would have been 14 in less than 2 weeks.
In a moment's „inspiration", when the command „twins forward" was heard, Iolanda, their mother, didn't let them go and shortly, that same day, they were taken to the gas chamber...
Cornel, Iolanda, Cornelia
Every single time I told the story, the remarks of my listeners were always: pour souls, what a fate ... what „LUCK"! Yes „what luck" is always my reply. Don't think I'm crazy, remember the title of this story: „Cornelia and Cornel (or the meaning of „luck") and think for a second:
Twins, 14 years old, a girl and a boy, „Dr". Josef Mengele.
I don't even dear to think what they would have had to go through before dying (anyway), if they would have not been „lucky" enough to walk alongside their mother to the gas chamber !
These aberrations, distortions (name them what ever you wish) have been and will always be the end result of the idea that the one next to us, only because he's different or does things differently, is a lesser person.
In the memory of Cornelia – my aunt to be – and Cornel – my uncle to be ( after whom, in the jewish tradition, I was named) two out of the millions of ... lost universes !
I'd say the most affectionate gesture between human beings is the embrace.
Out of cordiality, of friendship, joy, sorrow, pain, love, lack of words ... as a farewell !
I'd say, again, that among them, the ones that impress me most are the embraces between a child and his parents.
Ever since I know myself I cry very easily, „out of anything". For example, even now, if I see 10 times, the moment when Nadia Comaneci gets her first 10, 9 times I've got tears in my eyes, but absolutely every single time, in reality or in a movie, when I see a kid , out of happiness or fear, running towards it's mother and hugs her, I cry ! I watch and I almost feel the warmth, the shelter, the love, the encouragement of her arms and of her eyes looking at you and I almost hear the words that ...
... but among the hundreds of naked people, screaming in the „shower" room, over whom ... Death is pouring down from the ceiling, what can mother Iolanda, do? She took little Valentin in one arm and with the other one holds Cornelia and Cornel close to her? She's down on her knees embracing them all? Does she look at them? Has she got the strength to look them in the eye? Would she like to tell them something but there is not enough air to breath let alone talk ...
For a long time now, I'm asking my self what is it with this tears of mine? For some time now, ever since I'm writing the story of my vanished family, I'm asking myself: could these tears be the words Iolanda wasn't able to tell the children she gave birth to and know where dieing in her arms (and if she could ... what would she have told them?), could they be the beyond death cry of any mother for the right of any dieing child to life, or is it just my helplessness to do anything anymore for them ...
... but not also for the others who now live and will keep living as long as the planet, the „house" we all share, will bear with us . For them it is still possible!
Edmund, Cornelia and Cornel, little Valentin, Iolanda and all the other millions do not exist anymore. Even their ashes have been scattered by the wind and will for ever float above us !
Don't let this happen again !
In the memory of Iolanda, my grand mother to be, the mother whom life and the people of those days put face to face with the ultimate ... embrace.
In the memory of Valentin, my „little" uncle to be, who lived for only as long as his mother could hold him.
To my father Oliver, one of the family's 4 survivors, who told me that his biggest sorrow is that, on the death ramp in Birkenau, never had the chance to embrace his mother and siblings ... farewell !