default_mobilelogo
Image of the book cover for The Saviour Shoes and Other Stories by Carol Lipszyc
Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews
September/October 2015

Vol. V. No. 3

Lipszyc, Carol. The Saviour Shoes and Other Stories. Toronto, Canada: Inanna Publications and Education Inc., 2014. 184 pp. $22.95. (9781771331722).

This book is a moving and powerful collection of stories of Jewish children and teens who survived the Holocaust in a variety of ways. The stories provide a historically accurate sense of what life was like before, during and after the Shoah. Most are based on oral history testimonies. The author, daughter of two child survivors, has included her own parents’ stories in the collection. She has published poetry and short stories in Canadian and American journals, as well as online, and she is currently an Associate Professor teaching English education and writing at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh. The book reads well; it provides a fascinating glimpse into the experience of the Holocaust from the point of view of children and teens, and it is a valuable addition to the literature of testimonies and memoirs of child survivors. The Saviour Shoes has broad appeal, and will be an important addition to Temple and synagogue libraries, as well as high schools, colleges, universities, and public libraries.


—Susan Freiband, Retired Librarian and Library Educator; Volunteer Temple librarian

Stories

A Jewish Interrogation

AFTER THE WAR, trains throughout Germany ran sporadically. I travelled lightly, boarding a train in Bremen that was en route to Frankfurt am Main. From there, I planned to reach Salzheim and join other Jewish refugees. I left a Polish Displaced Persons camp set up by the United Nations along with two male Polish companions I had befriended there. Both Jan and Bronislaw were slender, genteel young men who had fought in the Warsaw Polish Uprising and been taken as prisoners of war in Germany. There was about them a silent melancholy; they lapsed into it uncontrollably, briefly, as one lapses into a little sleep. But they did not lack hope. They were curious, restless as we all were, with latent desires and ambitions that were only now reawakening.

I was sixteen and had survived the war under an alias given to me by a righteous Polish farmer in Noviny, with whom I was still corresponding. Through the war, letters had gone back and forth asking after my welfare, sometimes with the gift of baked and dried slices of cake and bread packed in paper. Now, I could shed the name, Helena Jablonska, which I had assumed while working in a rope factory for the Navy in Bremen-Vegesack, and return to my birth name, Roza Han delsman. My identity was something I had learned to wear, like my hair, which I braided in the early morning hours to tame its natural wave and quell any suspicion of Jewish heredity. Knees on the cold floor, I weaved my hair crisscross, fearful of detection. Eventually, I wore my identity like a second skin, becoming the Jablonski girl well versed in farm chores, creating vignettes whose details I loved to fashion and had to replicate perfectly with each telling.

But language held me in limbo. Building a new person en tailed sealing my lips for ever from uttering my mother tongue, Yiddish, which I had spoken at home with family and with my spawning circle of friends on the streets of Lublin. I had to bury Yiddish for safekeeping, for my preservation.

On a winter morning in 1942, during the first winter of forced labour at the rope factory, I walked with a crew of Polish girls and my youngest maternal aunt, a twenty-one-year-old, who fled with me to Germany under the pseudonym, Lodzia Jablonski. She became both older sister and mother figure to me. I, in turn, consoled her with the naivete and brashness of a pre-teen. As we walked outside the Sudetenhaus in Bremen-Grahn, my aunt pinned her hopes on me.

"Do you really think we will survive?"

"I have no doubt we will make it," I answered, strutting. On guard, we listened for one another's missteps, ready at an instant to close holes in our fabrication of the past. Most often, our eyes read our hearts.

Each morning, we trekked to the factory from our quarters at the Sudetenhaus in Bremen Wegesak, a northern district of the city. Snow stuck to our wooden clogs, weighing us down. As we passed a group of timber-framed houses, a German boy, his winter coat open, his face sweaty, jumped out in front of us with a snowball in his hand. Polish pigs, schweine, he yelled, pitching his weapon with his right hand.

The word "pig" in German is the same in Yiddish. I screamed back in the language of my fighting schooldays that I would punch his teeth out. The German boy dropped the snowball and stared at me, suspended. My aunt pulled me away, into the group. Generally composed and steady around the workers, she began to laugh nervously, which first set off tittering and then all-out laughter among the girls who mistook my words for German. I joined the chorus. In a small way, this was our act of resistance.