A Few Good Men? Ladies, “You CAN Handle the Truth”!

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Do you continually fall for the same type of guy? You know, that really hot guy who “had you at hello” . . .the very one who suddenly quit texting you after several romantic nights together and left you crying in your Cosmo while your loyal girlfriends rallied to  your side and assured you he was indeed a total a-hole . . . Hold on! Before you succumb to the belief that “all men are pigs” and there is not one good one left . . .relax, take a deep breath and hit the reset button. You don’t have to give up on the whole male population but you may have to readjust your radar.

Here’s the Deal . . .

Assumption: You are a healthy, single, heterosexual woman. Therefore, it is no surprise you may have fallen for a few Prince Charming’s in your life – only to find out you lost your heart to Sir Suxalot yet again! And yes, it really does suck a lot. Because you, like every other chick-flick loving female, have had an image of the perfect man embedded in your brain since you hooked-up Barbie and Ken, danced around in your princess dress and pretended you were Ariel…or Jasmine or…I think you get the point. The quest to find Mr. Right, fall in love and live happily ever after is, after all, part of your DNA. “Someday, my prince will come….”  Thank you Walt Disney!

Unfortunately, boys didn’t get the same memo. While you were all rainbows and unicorns, he was all match box cars, transformers and plastic green army men. With GI Joe in hand, he made rude sounds and shot bad guys while he rolled around in the blood and the guts and the….stuff. That is until his Spring Awakening – the very moment when his voice got lower and your chest got bigger. One sight of your newly acquired assets…with zero remorse, GI Joe and his brave men got heartlessly kicked to the curb (long after you had carefully, lovingly stored your Barbie dolls away for you future daughter). At this very same time  a new discovery of a much cooler toy, completely assembled and permanently within hand’s reach – was all the “playtime” he needed. Like you, he began to live in a fantasy world. Unlike you, his head was only filled with one image playing over and over again 24/7 pretty much for the rest of his existence. Thank you testosterone!

Here’s the 411 . . .

Despite what you have told yourself, all the “good ones” are NOT taken. There are plenty of awesome guys out there who are both manly and sensitive to a woman’s needs, handsome but yet naively humble, gracious but intuitively strong, funny yet possessing depth, etc.  The problem is you may not readily see them because your “good guy radar” is short circuited by what you think is your ideal type – which turns out may not be so ideal. Thank you Hollywood!

So how do you go about changing your Sir Suxalot attraction? Firstly, you must identify what it is that you repeatedly and of course, naturally go for? Obviously for both sexes, initial physical chemistry plays a huge role in what attracts us to one another. Which makes infatuation such a powerful force, it can easily overpower our critical thinking and even our gut instincts when choosing to go deeper into a relationship. Somewhere between the electric charge that sweeps you off your feet and the unhappy ending are all the huge flashing, warning signs. The good news is losers will always show their true colors no matter how charming they seem in the beginning. Here are just a few signs you are heading for another train wreck:  if he starts to make you feel like your feelings don’t matter, if he controls every decision about date nights,  if he over exaggerates his accomplishments, if he is selfish with his time, if he doesn’t introduce you to his best friends, if he always walks a few steps ahead of you, etc. – you are at best falling for another jerk or even worse, a narcissist. For more signs and warnings check out his article: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-relationships/dating-a-narcissist

In a Nutshell. . .

So let’s recap. Being a woman you are pre-wired for romance and the “feeling” of falling in love which makes you particularly susceptible to the kind of guy who seeks to manipulate your DNA for his own selfish needs. Nice guys have the same sexual wiring as the jerk dude – they are just more evolved and therefore more in touch with both their own emotional needs as well as yours.

However, according to Eric Marc Katz, dating coach and author of the highly popular Blog – Evan Marc Katz | Understand Men. Find Love., there are a few things you MUST understand about men before you can have the successful relationship you are seeking. Here’s a quote from one of his recent posts.

“Men live in the moment. We look for sex and find love. Just because we think you’re attractive and we show you a good time doesn’t mean we’re actually INTERESTED. Essentially, men fall for you during the process of pursuing sex with you. Which means that if you have sex before you get into a relationship with him, you’re taking a predictably high risk that things aren’t going to work out.”

Okay, let’s assume Eric speaks for all men – even the “good guy” you are hoping to find. According to Katz, from the guy’s perspective, it’s giving up the keys to your “magic kingdom” too soon that could possibly derail the love monorail before it is even out of the station. Which makes a lot of sense because in their basest reptilian brain, sex is the goal. So, if they don’t have to spend any time to get to know you to achieve that goal, they will indeed take what you are offering and move on to the next more intriguing conquest. However, as long as you keep him at arm’s distance, so to speak, he will continue to be intrigued.

Good news! This delay of game, places the ball squarely in your court! But, before you serve up your next volley – it is imperative that you ask yourself this question: What are your non-negotiables? . . .as in “must love kids”, “must have a great sense of humor”, “must be college educated . . .etc.” Once you have fully examined your heart and mind and feel confident that you know your “must haves”, proceed with eyes wide open (with the understanding that settling for less will most likely lead to future disappointment).  Only when and if he passes your non-negotiables challenge should you allow him to move on to the next round of the ever crucial “ideal mate” vetting process – which includes passing the girlfriend test, your guy friend’s test, the pet test, the baby test, etc.

So, there you have it! The truth about the ideal “Man of Your Dreams” and the actual real man who will finally possess your heart, ultimately comes down to the potent combination of 1) gaining a deep understanding of the male species and  2) truly knowing yourself and what qualities you are seeking in a man.  Just like thunder naturally follows a lightning strike – rest assured your “good guy radar” will fully kick in once you have learned to value yourself and treasure your most sought after prized possession more than you do the instant gratification of wielding its mystical power over another unevolved man.

Now that you are aware of the mating habits of the Neanderthal and can easily spot him in  his natural habitat – the unequivocal potency of your strength and confidence will act as a strong repellent to his type. Simultaneously, the fog will lift and the good guys will come into view. You will know him – he’s the guy you didn’t see immediately, but he saw you and waited for the perfect moment to approach. He’s the guy who is intrigued by your smile, your laugh, the way you hold your glass . . .he is the guy who is willing to wait for all the rest in order to discover your intellect, your heart, your inner beauty, while being completely intoxicated by your outer beauty. He is the one your dog, your mom, your girlfriends, your friend’s baby and everyone else who has your back will naturally love – for one reason – he will value the same qualities about you as they do!

CHERISH is the WORD . . .

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In the arena of love and marriage, one of the major contributors to discord is the inability to communicate in a calm, rational, non-accusatory fashion. For most couples, it takes several years of navigating the choppy seas of difference of personalities, viewpoints, priorities and lifestyles, before it’s all smooth sailing. Sadly, some folks never reach that island of harmony where rational minds prevail and love is watered daily…instead they wake up to find their relationship…shipwrecked.

If one could take the opportunity to dissect the anatomy of an argument, it might be quite surprising to see how often it has nothing to do with “what” you say, but rather “how” you say it that sets off the smoke alarm.

Tone and inflection (whether intended or not) can unfortunately transform a mundane question such as, “did you remember to unload the dishwasher?” into an explosive emotional grenade setting off a full-blown argument. I’m sure it was these type of seemingly stupid little “dropped bombs” that was the inspiration for Pat Benatar’s big hit, “Love Is A Battlefield”.7647176[1]

There are so many ways we can inflect our voice. Think about it. We can say pretty much anything  in a way that implies that the other person is stupid or inept, simply by making a punctuated exhalation sound…showing we are annoyed or exasperated. Combine that with “the rolling of the eyes” and you have a problem in the making.  The dishwasher comment can be delivered in a way that is accusatory…as in, “OMG did you seriously forget to put the frigging dishes up again?” The problem is, when daily interaction is habitually filled with negative tones and accusatory voice inflections, it can take a very damaging toll on any relationship.

It is so easy to recognize these kind of demeaning tones and negative interactions when observing our children. As parents, we are so quick to jump in and correct…”Michael..don’t talk to your sister that way…that is totally unacceptable! Now, say you’re sorry…etc.” But for some strange reason, we adults are much slower to recognize it in ourselves or to point it out in our spouses before the damage is done and a relatively minor exchange becomes an emotionally charged duel of words.

In contrast, there is a way that “love” speaks. Like anything, it requires commitment and practice to become natural at it. But with both, couples can learn to cut off their negative tones and learn to speak to each other in a loving and respectful manner. No matter what the actual “words” are, if we are conscientious about how we are speaking them, our interaction can take place on a much higher level. Even, a simple word like “sweetie” can be inserted in front of a phrase and the listener can receive it in a much more positive way. For example, “sweetie, I was wondering if you had208315_2014038227442_4762824_n[1] the chance to unload the dishwasher yet….”

In order to have a thriving, robust relationship – with awareness and practice, we can choose on a daily basis to break the bad habit of speaking with demeaning, negative and disrespectful tones. It is just one more key to a successful love-filled life together!

 

The Gift

Red and Yellow, Black and White. . .We Are Precious in His Sight

We all feel blessed when we recognize our parents passed on their wonderful talents and gifts through their DNA, such as the ability to create beautiful art, sing an aria, perform amazing athletic feats or to solve intricate mathematical equations. But one gift I am especially thankful for was not part of my genetic make-up, but rather a gift my mother gave me – unknowingly, by her life example.

When I was ten years old, my mom moved our family to a very small rural town in Oklahoma. It was the summer of 1969 and although the schools had been integrated, the town itself was still segregated by law. Black residents were not allowed to live on the north side of the train tracks, forcing them to exist in a part of the city which had no indoor plumbing or running tap water. Soon after we arrived, my mother landed a job at the hospital as a purchasing agent. After a few short weeks, she became close friends with a co-worker in her office. Her name was Cora, she was a single mother of a little boy. . .she lived with her parents and several other family members in a little three room house on the south side of the tracks. My mom’s best friend was black, and even though it was 1969 and she had a good job with good pay at the hospital, she was not allowed (at that time) to be our neighbor and enjoy a simple thing like an indoor toilet.

That summer between my 5th and 6th grade year, as well as the next, Cora’s mother offered to take care of me while my mom worked full-time. My days were filled with chasing chickens around the yard, learning how to dance (soul-train style) and doing typical kid stuff (playing tag and hide and seek). I remember the first time I had to use the outhouse – I pinched my nose together with my thumb and index finger and looked around at the four wooden walls. Light was streaming in through cracks and holes – time and weather had left – in the gray wood slats. I prayed no peeking eyes were staring in at me. As soon as I was finished with my business, I pushed the door open and ran out to play with my new friends. . .quickly forgetting the unpleasant odor, no trauma or anxiety, just childish acceptance of my new surroundings (amazing how the world looks through a child’s eyes). Although my presence was certainly a spectacle in the neighborhood, I was never made to feel different or like I stood out (which I definitely did). I became part of the family…and I have wonderful memories from that time in my life. Early in the 70’s, the city managers finally passed a new (much belated) law allowing anyone, regardless of race, to live wherever they wanted. Cora, and her sister, moved into a lovely, new apartment just down the street from us. My mother was elated.

Later in life, I realized my mother had given me a unique and precious gift that would stay with me for the rest of my life . . .the gift of color blindness. As I entered into adolescence and adulthood, the gift would not only serve to broaden my horizons and social outlook, but would actually blossom into a rather quirky personality characteristic – I possess a stalker-like attraction to anyone from a different country, who has a unique accent, different language, culture or religious background. Early in our marriage, my husband worked for a Dutch company, so I studied Dutch for several years. Much to my amazement, I was able to converse with some of the wives when they came to the United States. Now he works for an Italian company, so I have spent many hours listening to “How To Speak Italian” CD’s while driving in my car . . “come stai, molto bene, grazie!”

Fortuitously, my job as a fitness instructor has allowed me to interact with people from all over the world – which for me, is so friggin cool! Just two weeks ago, I had three ladies from Russia, two ladies from Japan and two from Israel in one class – truly fantastic. My class – which is done in a circle – is just a small representation of our world today. I feel so incredibly fortunate to work in an environment where my so-called “box” is daily expanded. If I had not been given the gift at such an early age, perhaps I would be striving hard to pull them into my narrow space, but because my mom was a very open-minded, accepting person, I find myself enveloped in a world of nuance, cultural beauty and colorful celebration. Now, it is up to me and the rest of us, to make sure this type of societal color blindness,  is passed on to our children. For this gift I have to say…merci, grazie, gracias, spasibo, danke and finally, THANK YOU!! 

Hitler’s Prisoner . . .Part 3

The Book…continued

Utter Defiance

Susan "17" and her Father

Shortly after arriving at Thereisenstadt, mother and daughter faced their turn for the selection process. As fate would have it, one of the administrators choosing whether you stayed or went to the “East”, was Susan’s former gymnastics coach, Fredy Hirsch. He had been assigned the job of youth welfare administrator by the Nazis. As soon as he recognized Susan and her mother he told them they would be staying. However, Freidl was more concerned about being with her lover, Rudi Guth. She asked if he would also be staying. Fredy informed her that was impossible due to the fact that he was not part of the family. Hearing this, Freidl exclaimed, “then we don’t stay either.” Susan relives one of the moments that saved her life.

“To this day I don’t know where I suddenly found the courage to defy my mother for the first time in my life. I said …No, I am staying! If you want to you can stay with me, but I am staying. Her love for Rudi was stronger than her love and concern for me.

Susan told her mother they would meet up again for Christmas at the Prasna Brana. Those would be the last words she would say to her mother. Almost 50 years later while visiting the Auschwitz Museum with her three children, Susan located the transport lists that contained her mother’s name. The decision not to stay with her daughter that fateful day at Theresienstadt, ended her up on a train that took her directly to the gas chambers of Sobibor, not to the arms of her lover.

During her eight months stay at Theresienstadt, Susan would locate many of her friends from Prague, make new friends and fall in love with Dr. Ernstl Fuchs.

“It was a wonderful time for me despite the fact that we were incarcerated in a camp run by the Nazis. Being in love was important in Theresienstadt, though the object of one’s affection might change. It was important to have someone who could help with providing some extra food, which Ernstl could do, working in the hospital in the Sudeten barracks.

The extra food that Ernstl would provide was cooked up on a little pot-bellied stove by Susan and her best friend, Lilly. This little luxury would prove to be the two girl’s passport to hell. Upon discovering the supposed “stolen” stove in Susan and Lilly’s possession, the two friends were immediately called up for transport to Birkenau. Susan remembers that having to say goodbye to Ernstl felt like the worst feeling she had experienced up until that point in her life. However, nothing in her young life could have prepared her for the next part of her journey, which she describes in her book as literally a trial by fire.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

After a two-day long journey huddled together on wooden benches inside a cold, dark enclosed compartment, Susan and her fellow prisoners arrive at their destination.

“The train stopped, the doors were flung open and the very first impression was a smell, or more accurately, a repulsive stink, seemingly emanating from a smokestack in the background of the train, its flames topped by black swirling clouds. We found ourselves standing on what appeared to be a fairly wide railroad platform, bordered on both sides by long barbed wire fences.

The scene of terror, often seen in documentaries or Holocaust recreations, began with the women being lined up separate from the men. The SS men in their tailored uniforms positioned themselves directly in front of the line of women, posed and ready for inspection.

“They surveyed the first row of women standing in front of them. Some women in the row were sent to the tarp-covered trucks lined up on the ramp in front of the ambulance. The rest were told they would walk. I was standing well back in the column and could observe that a certain pattern seemed to evolve. Girls under 14 or 15, or if they looked under that age, and women over 35-40, would go by truck.  All children with their mothers in the column went into the truck as well.  I remember thinking: “How lucky they are to be able to ride. Now we remnants will have to walk God knows how far.” At that point those of us left standing did not realize what we learned all too soon – that the trucks took the women and children chosen “to ride” directly to the gas chamber and the crematorium.”

Out of the original 500 or so women transported, Susan and 61 others remain. After being herded like sheep into empty barracks with nothing more than a dirt floor, the dehumanization process began. First, each woman was stripped of any jewelry or valuables. Next, the women were marched into a large room with recessed windows, each one marked by a young SS man on guard patrol. In front of the young male guards, the woman were ordered to strip completely.

“Again, I can only say, I must have been in shock, feeling as if I was standing outside of myself observing the proceedings. I calmly took off all my clothes and the felt boots I was wearing. Then we were shorn from top to bottom of all body hair. This was supposedly for hygienic purposes, but in reality if was just one of the numerous processes calculated to demean and dehumanize the person, so that no dignity, self-esteem, or a sense of the need for self-preservation would be left.”

Naked, cold and shorn from head to toe, the women were forced into the shower room where they underwent a one minute ice-cold power-wash. No towels were offered to dry their shivering bodies only brash orders to move on to the next station. They would dry their wet skin with their new prison garments…rags sewn from captured Russian soldiers’ uniforms. Shoes, were not a given.

“If we were unlucky, we got clogs. Clogs rubbed the foot, caused open sores, resulted in infection, in gangrene, in death. Lucky me; I got shoes, high-tops, if I remember correctly.

Next came the most demeaning step in the Nazi’s exertion of their notorious humiliation tactics . . .the original mark of the beast. . .the tattoo.

“Depending on who did the tattooing, women prisoners trained in doing this, we either got a large sloppy five-digit number or a small neat five-digit number. Either one had a triangle underneath . . .there was no triangle under the Jewish number. Then the SS discovered that identifying a naked Jewish woman was not as easy as identifying a naked Jewish man who stood out from the others by being circumcised, and unless they looked Semitic or of Mediterranean type, women had no identifying mark. And if they were blue-eyed to boot, and hairless, there was no way to distinguish them from Aryan women. Therefore, triangles were tattooed under the number of all Jewish women new arrivals, after November of December 1942.

Following the strip-down, shaving, icy shower, issuance of rags, and the permanent ink reminder that they were just a number…came the handing over of the bowl. The psychological message was clear to the Nazis’ captives. . .in our eyes, you are nothing but dogs.

” . . .we were handed the bowl, a brick-red metal bowl about 10 inches wide and about 5 inches deep. This bowl, as we all too soon realized, was the only utensil we were given: no knife, no fork, no spoon , no cup, no saucer, no plate. There were also no toothbrushes, handkerchiefs, towels, nor combs. In a word, we were totally deprived of any civilized accessories; another fiendishly clever aspect of the Nazis’ plan to totally dehumanize their victims, which of course, led to mental dehumanization as a consequence. It reduced the prisoner’s self-esteem, her self-awareness, in short her humanity, to zero, preparing her for the quick descent into what in the camp jargon was called the “Muselmann” state (zombie) which designated her as ready for the gas.”

Death-Defying Stupidity

On day two at Birkenau, Susan impetuously stepped out of line and did something that could have ended her life that day. She dared to speak to the SS men on watch. Once again, her assertive spirit and ability to think fast on her feet, would keep her alive.

“Don’t ask me what prompted me to do it – was it sheer stupidity, or simply ignorance of the rules? – I stepped out of my row of five…stood at attention and said to the SS-men: “Melde gehorsamst Ich bin eine Bureaukraft” (With your permission, I would like to report that I am an officer worker!) Only later was I told that what I had done could have just as easily bought me a trip to the gas chamber…”

Apparently her aggressive style of self promotion did not issue in negative results. In fact, just a few days later, Susan was assigned work duty in one of the barracks outside the main gate. The barracks housed the offices of the Stabsgebaude, the staff building of the main camp where all the administrative work for the entire camp complex was carried out. This work detail allowed her to get a hot shower, fresh clothes and even new shoes. Unfortunately her stay in the office would be brief and in March of 1943 she was returned to the unending horror of Birkenau.

“Not long after returning from the Stabsgebaude, I began running the dreaded fever, the first sign of typhus, a disease spread by lice. Gastroenteritis followed. Every morning for roll call, I would stand between two of the women and they would practically hold me up…I remember them practically carrying me through the selection, that at that time, took place every morning and every night. I certainly looked like a Muselmann: concave in places where female bodies were supposed to be convex, with big eyes and a long nose in a skeleton face. But I distinctly recall keeping my eyes wide open and trying for what must have been a hideous grin to prove that I was not the apathetic, shuffling, Muselmann, ready for the gas.”

Over the next year, Susan would survive rape (with the promise of food she was lured by a guard into a store-room), venereal disease after the attack, near starvation leading to several brushes with death. Once again, her skills and intellect would prove to be her salvation. The same officer who she had so boldly approached on day two of her arrival, would offer her a new job detail.

“As I came in front of him, he smiled and said, “Ah, the office worker; how about you working in Kanada for a while?” And that is where I went, to Kanada, the most desirable work detail in all of Birkenau. . .Kanada was the elite work detail of the women’s camp as well as the men’s camp. It was the place where everything was available if we were careful enough not to get caught smuggling “organized items into the camp.

Death March and Finally Liberation 

Late in the year of 1944, Susan writes that rumors of Germany’s demise were swirling throughout the camp. Revolts occurred in the crematorium, those caught were hung in front of the entire camp. On the night of January 17, 1945 the orders to evacuate the entire Auschwitz complex were set in motion…evacuation meant the prisoners were going for a long walk, later it would be referred to as the “Death March.” As Susan recalls, the march took at least two days and two nights. The frozen snow-covered roads in the forest quickly became lined with bodies. The order was – “Bullet in the head to those who cannot walk.” Susan and her close group of 15 women from the Kanada work detail, clung together. Their destination was yet another train…to yet another camp, Ravensbruck, the only women’s concentration camp in the Reich.

“There the prisoner housing was luxurious compared to what had been provided in Birkenau for the main women’s camp. Here each of the women had a bed – I can’t recall whether they were two level bunk beds or single beds – but they had sheets, blue and white checked, and pillowcases and blankets.

A few months later, April 28 to be exact, the women were once again on foot, fortunately it was Spring and the weather was much more agreeable. This time, no one seemed to know where they were going. Susan believed they were marching west, in her opinion, the Nazis seemed only to be interested in getting them to the American lines – or more like it – themselves to the Americans, knowing full well if they ran into the Russians they would be shown no mercy.

“I seem to remember that we marched all the way through that first night. I see us on a paved road, with the moon lighting our way as we marched in a ragged formation, the three guards sticking close to us to make sure we 15 were all together.  – The morning of May 1st, while we marched on a two-lane highway, surrounded by Germans fleeing the Russians, it seemed as if all of the eastern part of Germany was on the road. Suddenly a motorcycle with sidecar, driven by a soldier, roared by, and he yelled as loud as he could “The Fuhrer is dead!” We’re free now, we shouted.”

A strange vehicle approached, Susan noticed the words “Daisy-Mae” right below the windshield. She knew they had finally run into the Americans. She was the only one in the group who spoke some school English. . .she approached the soldier and asked if he could please liberate them. She rolled up her sleeve to expose the tatoo and explain who they were and where they had been. After disarming the Germans who escorted the young women, he instructed them to continue walking to the town up ahead where they would find the Americans taking charge. When the girls finally arrived at the American checkpoint, they were greeted with total confusion. The soldiers had no idea what to do with them and told them to return to where they came from.

“I rolled up my sleeve and the rest of us did as well, and said: “I don’t think so! We come from Aushwitz and Ravensbruck.” They just stared at us, had no idea what we were saying, until an interpreter informed them. . .”these girls were extermination camp prisoners, they have no place to go.” So they told us…go into the village ahead and ask the commanding officer of our outfit what you should do. . .we walked the five or ten minutes on the dusty country road to the village. I was a strange feeling close to claustrophobia. This was the first time in three years that I had walked without a guard, without being told where to go. . .without fences or guards around me. A very strange feeling.”

Susan "Free" in 1945

Upon arrival, Susan and the others received a dental check-up, fresh clothes, etc. Once again, Susan was offered a job – this time as an interpreter for the counter intelligence group. This skill would land her in her first private bedroom in three years. After a conversation about former Jews she knew and inquiring about their fate, she discovered her father was still alive and living in Brussels. The APO immediately wired relatives who wired her father. Susan would not get in touch with her father directly until July or August of 1945, right before she went to Brussels.

“In July of 1945, I received permission to enter Belgium and took the train to Brussels. With my schoolgirl French I managed to find the right trolley car and get out at the right stop, Avenue Tervueren, and found the apartment house where my father lived, in the rue Vandenbussche, went up the stairs, and rang the bell. He opened the door. He had not changed at all. It was an emotional reunion; I think we both cried. It had been almost 6 years since he had left Prague and since both of our lives had taken frightful as well as miraculous turns, that kept us both alive.”

Susan completes the saga of her survival with the retelling of her coming to America, getting married and setting the course for the rest of her life.

After reading her book, I knew how much of a distinct honor it was that I now had the opportunity to spend time with her, to pose my own gnawing questions, to try to come to grasp with the kind of human spirit and will that could overcome such atrocities. I sit outside the window of the exercise room – she does not know that I am watching – and I watch her perform her weekly Tai Chi class. Her almost 90 year-old body moves in beautiful fluidity, as if encased in invisible water. I marvel at her strength, her wisdom, her beauty. And the only emotion that comes is gratitude……extreme gratitude.

If you wish to read Susan’s book, she has informed me that the best way to buy it is through her. You may leave your email in a message and she will contact you with the details..price etc.

Hitler’s Prisoner . . .Part 2

The Book

Susan, the daughter of Ernst and Freidl Eckstein, was born in 1922 in Vienna. Like all little girls, Susan grew up with many dreams for her life and hopes for her future. While Freidl passed on her incredible intelligence and audacious (although late to bloom) spirit to her daughter, it was her father who gave her a love for the arts, especially dance. At an early age, Susan was lacing up toe shoes with the intention and dedication of a prima ballerina. In 1929, the Ecksteins moved to Berlin, where Susan had the opportunity to attend ballet school. There were only two other Jewish girls in her class, Hanni and Ruth. At the tender young age of 11 years old, Susan would witness first-hand why her father always said “to be equal as a Jew we have to be better.”

“Ruth was the best gymnast in our class, better than any of the blonde valkyries. When they had to eliminate her from competition, because she was Jewish, the team did not win any more prizes as they had when Ruth was in the group. I can only imagine that this happened because the school did not want to have a Jewish-looking athlete in the competition. After all, Jews were not supposed to be athletes, according to the German propaganda.”

Back to Vienna

While most Jews in Germany were standing in line to emigrate overseas, much to Susan’s dismay, the Ecksteins invested good money to move back to Vienna to renovate her grandmother’s apartment. This decision in Susan’s words, would prove to be the fait accompli . . .playing right into the Nazi’s hands and Austria’s complicit role in Hitler’s take over. While Susan was going about the business of being a teenager – studying , experiencing her first “french” kiss and attending her first ball – the mood as well as the scenery, was changing daily in Austria. Her parents worked hard to shield her from the growing anti-semitic displays. For the most part, she only heard about the despicable behavior because her mother did not allow her to go into town where most of the incidents occurred.

“Contrary to revised post-war history, not only did the Austrians receive the Nazis with great joy and enthusiasm, they also went to work on anti-Semitic excesses with a fervor that had not been seen in the Reich itself since the Nazis took power in 1933. – The gleeful anti-Semitism displayed by the population found its outlet in vicious delights, such as making Jews scrub the sidewalks, which had been covered with Schuschnigg propaganda . . .they would stop anyone who even in the least looked Jewish, without asking for identification, and force him or her to do these demeaning activities. They would stop men with beards if they looked Jewish, and would cut, or even rip, the beards off them in the street.”

While Susan’s father was taking care of business in Prague, the Gestapo came to their apartment.  It was the last time that they would see their belongings. Susan and her mother were both issued exit visas and put on the next flight to Prague, with only two little suitcases in hand.

Susan at 14 years old

Refugees in Prague

An hour after boarding the flight, Susan and her mother were greeted by her father at the airport and taken into the city by taxi. The taxi stopped in front of their new apartment house. Their neighbors were Austrian and German refugees who had all left their former homes and everything in them behind. Knowing that it could have been much worse, they were all grateful for the shelter of their small flats. Over the next few years while sharing a small space with her mother and father, and eventually with other families, Susan blossomed into a young woman. She fell in love for the first time and experienced a somewhat normal life, as normal as it could be for a refugee living in fear of what might be coming around the next corner. Sensing the pending doom,  Susan’s father made arrangements illegally for the family to cross the Polish-Czech border, but due to her mother’s insistence it would be too dangerous for all of them to go, he left alone with the intention of providing safe passages for her and her mother in the near future. That day never came.

Deportation

In April of 1942, Freidl and Susan Eckstein received their transportation notice. As though hell itself had printed out a guest list, they were informed, in writing, that they would be escorted to the fairgrounds.

“And thus it was that Mother and I received a very polite card informing us that were going on transport on May 7; that we could take 50 kg of luggage, a bedroll and food for two days, and that we had to leave all our other property in place.”

May 9, 1942, mother and daughter arrived in Theresienstadt. They were sent to the Hohenelbe barracks, part of the hospital compound for the so-called quarantine, which later Susan would come to understand was actually a guise for the “selection” process.

Susan and her Mother

“It was only the administrative and professional hierarchy of Thereseinstadt that came to examine every new transport, and “selected” who was to stay and who was to go on to the “East.” At the time no one knew what “the East” meant. But those who did go “East” . . . .were never heard from again.”

   . . .to be continued, Watch for Part 3 in the following week