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Good-bye, Eva

Eva Lieberg was Renate’s older sister.  We do know quite a bit about Eva and her life, but one cannot help but think carefully about this excerpt from Renate’s memoir.  It is important to note that Eva was alone when she was arrested and interrogated by the Nazis.  She was a child trying to make sense of the world, and for that, she was punished.

DAF. What on earth does that stand for? In the yard of my father’s factory, the Nazis put up a large bulletin board with the letters DAF painted in red. Eva, not yet a teenager, came home from school and stood in front of this new board, puzzled. She tried to figure out what the letters stood for: Deutsche Arbeits Front, the German Labor Front.

Eva tried various interpretations, talking to herself. She whispered Deutsches Affenvolk, German Monkey Folk. She had substituted a “V” for the “F” in the abbre­viation. Spelling was never her forté. A party member overheard her. The Nazi took offense.

My father was notified immediately. Eva could no longer attend school in the Reich. If she was not out of the country in twenty-four hours, both she and my fa­ther would go to jail for this transgression. My parents made desperate phone calls; Eva left, unaccompanied, for a German-Jewish school in Moreno, Italy. High above the town of Bozen was an Italian settlement of a few farmhouses, a church, and the school, which could only be reached by a funicular—a cable railroad. Somehow that made it seem safe.

Eva’s absence changed the dynamics of our family. My mother and father did not eat or sleep and barely spoke for days after they had said good-bye to her at the train station. Helga and I missed Eva’s bedtime sto­ries. Up to this point, we had paid little attention to the fact that we were the only Jewish children at school or, for that matter, in the village. Now we worried. What small mistake will get us torn away from our parents? Why did the Nazi report Eva? Why did she have to leave? We had no answers.

Eva never recovered from suddenly being tossed out of her home. Rather than blaming the Nazi for his excessive reaction to her childish error, she felt that it was her own fault she was exiled from her country and had to leave her family. She spent much of her life trying to prove she was intellectually capable: that she could spell! After Eva’s sudden departure, we never lived together as a family again.

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