The Star of David
As we walked into the kitchen I noticed her pulling something out of her pocket.
“So some 20 years after the war and the Shoah, she sat me down and gave me this star of David to wear. In Germany the Jews were forced to wear a gold star, now it will be your decision to wear a star and to be proud of who you are, a Jew.”
Now it’s time to pass it down to another. She placed the necklace with the star of David in my hand. “Wear this when you are ready.”
I placed it into my shirt pocket and told her that I would let her know when I do place it on my chest.
“Do it for you, not for me.”
“Ok, thank you.”
That Sunday, Louis and I headed on our journey.
The first stop we made was to Amsterdam, where we stayed at a small boutique hotel. The concierge offered a book, it looked like a Victoria’s Secret catalog, of women, who were available to visit. I was kind of in shock and intrigued.
The first full day we went to visit the Anne Frank house. I only knew a bit about her life when I went to visit.
When I saw how she lived as a young girl, hiding in the attic after being forced from her life, her friends, her home and everything she had possessed, including her freedom, it truly broke my heart and I teared up and held in my sobs. Knowing that monsters disguised as human beings could storm in at any moment and destroy whatever dignity and freedom they still possessed, was too much for me to bear. Mostly because I had been so sheltered in my life. Why did I close my eyes to this part of my people’s history? Why did I take everything I had for granted? Anne Frank never lost faith in humanity, why did I think I had the choice to believe or not to believe?
I purchased the “Diary of Anne Frank”, went back to my hotel room, placed the star of David on my chest and began to read.
“Didn’t you read or learn about the Holocaust in school?” Louis asked.
“My fault was I skipped school a lot and couldn’t really pay attention. So I remember hearing six million but it never really hit me. It still hasn’t, but seeing her teenage room and the fact that she needed to hide in an attic, she was silenced yet still hung on to her soul despite the fact her life had ended.”
“Freddy, this is one of six million storys. Not to mention the unborn generations who would’ve followed. I suggest you read, ‘Man’s search for meaning’, by Victor Frankl.”
I was in for an education and an awakening.
The next day Louis was going home and I was headed on to Paris.
“Please tell your mom the star of David is on my chest.” He smiled.
I arrived in Paris on Thursday evening and I felt lonely being there alone. I went to eat at a restaurant, I sat there alone and felt lonelier than I had ever felt. I was used to being alone and I usually preferred it. But I felt far away from home and there was a chill in the air.
I walked along the Champs Elysees and stopped into a bar.
I ordered a vodka with grapefruit juice. The bartender looked at me and said something to a co worker behind the bar. I couldn’t understand French but it sounded kind of insulting to me. Not being in the mood for his attitude I responded.
“Do you have a problem?”
“I heard you say something to your co worker over there about me. Say it to me in English.”
He looked away and I walked away thinking he probably dislikes Americans.
There was a band playing in the back and college aged kids were dancing and rushing into each other and seemed to be wrestling or something. I looked around and I saw the bartender giving me a dirty look and then looking away quickly. I ignored him.
There were a group of Americans seated together so I approached them started talking.
“Where are you guys from?”
“Santa Monica, you?”
“New York City.”
We made some small talk and then I went to get another drink. The bartender still was acting kind of rude to me. Was this what I heard about the French being rude? I didn’t even say anything to him.
“Can I please get another vodka and grapefruit?”
“What is that on your chest? A Jewish thing?”
I had forgotten I was wearing the star of David.
“Yes it’s a star of David.”
“The vodka is not kosher here.”
“I have some Christian boys blood if you want? It looks like wine so you won’t get in trouble.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
A woman co worker, interrupted him and took over. “I am sorry for Paul, he is an angry man. His girlfriend is from Palestine and whenever he sees a Jew he gets angry.”
“You can’t blame him, they stole their land.” She added.
“Who stole what?” She went on and on and I honestly stopped listening when she said she admired Yasir Arafat.
She had big eyes and was interested in me so I waited until her shift was over and we spent the night together. When she was leaving in the morning she said, “For a Jew, you are all right.”
Sometimes you need to represent your people the best way you can.
I wandered around Paris the next morning and several people inquired about where I was from. I would answer New York and their responses were not friendly.
As an experiment I turned my necklace so the star did not show. When I was asked where I was from from a waitress, I responded, Detroit.
She responded with a smile. “Where is that?”
“In the midWest of the United States.”
“Is it nice?” She asked in pretty good English.
“It’s ok, a lot of lakes.” I had never been to Detroit.
“I want to visit America. I hear that New York is scary? Have you been there?”
“It’s scary if you are afraid of feeling the pulsating life that is constant. New York City is a heart that is constantly pounding to the rhythm of it’s own making.”
“It has a mind that is dirty, sexy, artistic, daring, courageous, humorous, vulnerable and fucking tough.
The people of New York, the true New Yorkers, not the transplanted wannabees, are punk rockers with an honesty and bluntness that no other city can ever measure up to. New Yorkers are inbred with a sense of confidence which no one can ever dampen much less take away.”
I continued as if possessed.
“We are family, we are champions, we are Broadway, we are Ellis Island, the statue of liberty and the twin towers. We are Madison Square Garden, Central Park and… I’m sorry. ”
She was uncomfortable and I felt terrible.
“I’m really sorry, I guess I am homesick. I really am from New York.”
“You scared me.” She said and then laughed. She took my order and then turned back to the kitchen.
I realized I must’ve been kind of paranoid about being Jewish. I’ve never given it thought before I had this star of David on my chest.
“Where are you from?” I asked the waitress when she came with my coffee. “From? From here, Paris.”
“You look Middle Eastern.” “I am Israeli.” She whispered.
“You are Jewish?” “So am I.”. “I figured, Jewish or Italian.” She said. “People don’t like Jews here much, do they?”
“No and you are American, so they really dislike you.” “Screw them, I like me!”
She turned and she saw she was needed, it was lunch time. So, I asked for the check, paid at the table and left her a nice tip.
As I walked back to the hotel, I saw a book store on a side street so I went inside.
I picked up Victor Frankl and Elie Wiesel books. I paid and smiled to a stone faced woman, who when I asked about English language books about the Holocaust said, “it’s a million years ago.” Pointed to the section.
I responded to her, “Actually it’s been 45 years or so since the Americans came to free your country, otherwise this could’ve been Nazi Germany and bookstores like yours would only sell government approved books.” I didn’t wait for a response and left with a fake smile. “Kill em with kindness.” My father used to tell me.
I walked towards the hotel, stopped in a cafe along the way and began my education on the Shoah. Little did I know at that point, the education would never cease to shock and amaze me.