This story I will share with you, while it certainly does have a beginning, a middle, and an end, is a story that in many ways comes full circle, shows that miracles do actually happen, and that what we do today can reverberate decades later.
For much of my life I questioned my purpose here on earth. As someone who had not built anything I would leave behind or fathered any children, I wondered what, if any legacy would actually be mine to speak of. Having the initial motivation to tell the story of my parents would ultimately morph into what would first be an amazing gift to me, followed by one from me to others. Nothing I have ever done nor likely will ever do has greater importance than telling this story. The story of Bram’s violin.
When a young man is violently and cruelly taken from this earth just a month shy of his 19th birthday, nothing about it is fair. Growing up I did not know much about my Oom (Uncle) Bram other than that he was my mother’s younger brother and that the 2 of them were very close. I knew that he was taken to Auschwitz together with my maternal grandfather and murdered in a gas chamber. I knew that he was a young boy with a gentle heart and sweet disposition who suffered tremendously from the loss of his mother when he was just 10 years old. I knew that when my mother spoke of the war and the Nazi occupation of Holland she was always sad, but when she spoke of Bram she always cried. I would later come to realize that nothing and no one represented the tragedy and devastation of the time more to my mother than her sweet Brametje.
As a child hearing about Bram, I can best describe my feelings as being feelings of helplessness. I loved my mother, knew how sad thinking about his tragic life made her, yet knew there was absolutely nothing I could do to make any of it better. So I mostly remained silent and just listened to and looked at my mother when he came up in conversation, knowing that there was nothing I could do to help alleviate her sadness.
Around the year 2005 or 2006 I started developing a greater interest in not only learning about my parents’ past, but telling it to others as well. I sat down with them and interviewed them, learning as much as I could about what took place not only in the years of the war, but in their early years as well. It was at this point that I decided to write a book about their experiences. While in my younger years I remember them being reluctant to have this become a book for people to sit and read, at this point my parents were far more agreeable to it becoming a reality. I think in some ways we have Stephen Spielberg to thank for this as his foundation, and the subsequent interview of my mother started the change in heart that lead to them approving of my venture.
In June of 2017 when my father passed away at the age of 87, the Shiva took place in the house of my oldest brother Marcel in the town of Jenkintown, just outside of Philadelphia. There was a man who paid a Shiva call, a decent man, highly intellectual and friendly with my brother and his family who was so intrigued by my parents’ story that he expressed interest in writing a book about their life. This moment was a turning point not just in what would take place regarding my book, but very likely in events that would happen years later. I am fairly certain that had I not already been in a highly emotional state from the loss of my father I might have just given up and allowed someone who appeared to be more qualified to write the book that we all wanted to be written. But I had just lost my father and felt too emotional and connected to the process and what it meant to me and my parents to let this be taken from away. So I did something I did just this one time and no other time in my entire life. I called a family meeting. At this meeting I made it clear that both our mother and our father had sat with me and told me their story so that I, their son David would put it in writing, and that for anyone other than me doing it at this time would be unfair. I don’t remember details about how the meeting went, but I do remember encountering very little resistance, something I look back at with gratitude. I also remember becoming more motivated than ever to get it done, and in April of 2012, “Jew Face; A story of love and heroism in Nazi-occupied Holland” was published.
I of course spoke of my mother’s brother Bram when telling their story, and while I would never say he was an afterthought, he was of real importance to me and to all of us, upon release of the book and every moment before that I never felt as though he was my uncle. He was always my mother’s little brother.
I am a man who is blessed to be raised by 2 exceptional, loving parents who I had well into my 40s and one into my 50s. Parents I felt were my friends as well as my guardians. My father’s greatness was in his intellectual brilliance, his heroic actions during Nazi occupation, his attention to his principals, his devotion to his faith and his love for his family. I was fortunate to have a father I loved, respected and liked as a person.
My mother was something entirely different. My mother was a miracle personified. There are many stories of survival. Many of these stories, as difficult as part of my mother’s life was, were stories of much greater hardship and suffering. What made my mother so remarkable was what she did with the cards she was dealt and the life of love and joy she lead in her 95 years on this planet.
I loved and respected my father and it is impossible to tell this story without showing the important role he played in events that took place. However, that being said, in many ways this is a story about the miraculous life of my mother, and the inspiration, joy and strength that her life and death gave to so many that came in contact with her. It is also the story of a special relationship between a brother and sister and a relationship cut short by a life taken prematurely by the murderous Nazi war machine.
The letters written in the book will not be actual letters written by the people mentioned but rather a means of conveying the story in a more personal fashion. Having been blessed to know my mother as well as I did, I have taken the literary license, much of which is based on conversations I recorded with her, of telling part of the story through my perception of what would have been through her eyes and the eyes of those she loved.
So as I continue my work and get closer to the publication of the book “Bram’s Violin, I know I will feel tremendously honored to share with you a story that may shock you, will certainly inspire you and I am sure my mother and her brother, my “Oom”, Uncle Bram would want to bring you strength and joy in all you do from this point forth.