That I am here today, is to honor the memory of my beloved mother Helen Lubliner z”l”. Besides being beautiful, she was gracious, kind, discreet, generous and above all a lady. Though she survived Auschwitz, she rarely spoke of those horrors. Instead she chose to speak about the beautiful Jewish life she had before the war. She especially loved to talk about the Shabbosim, the sense of family she got looking around the Friday night table with all her married siblings and their children present.
Like most survivors, she understood that her survival was a miracle. And though she told few stories, there was one she recalled many times throughout my life.
She and her sisters Frania and Bronia, had been transported to Auschwitz in a stifling hot cattle car. Her sister had worn a dress with a red design. When the Nazis had them strip down for “inspection,” red dye marks from her dress had bled onto her body.
Understanding that any defect was a sure ticket to death, my mother and sister kept moving back in line, desperately using saliva and urine to remove the stains. As they worked, they kept moving, until finally, her skin was clean. At that precise moment, the gloved hand of an SS officer came down, dividing the line in two. Those standing in front of the hand were sent to the gas chambers.
Some might say it was the red dress, others the heat or the push back in line. But my mother credited G—d for her survival.
When I asked her, “why did you try so hard to survive when it would have been so much easier to have given up? To end the misery by throwing yourself onto the electrified barbed wire or having yourself shot?
“Because I had to have you,” she said, referring to me and my older sister, Sandra.
She had to become a mother.
Even though it’s been almost 10 years since she passed away, there is not a day that goes by that I do not remember my beautiful loving mother – whether I am baking with her cookie cutters or lying in bed, watching snow fall recalling her description of standing, as a prisoner, barefoot in the snow.
With a mother like mine I have learned to take nothing for granted — a full belly, an undisturbed night of sleep and the freedom to be a proud Jew, in full view of the world.