This story was written by Felicia Lederberger-Bialecki-Graber and shared as part of the Memory Project.
“I always follow my logic” was my father’s “leitmotif” all of his life. He prided himself to be a logical person. To him, going against logic showed weakness and made no sense. Logic led him to abandon his faith and become a strong believer in evolution–an admirer of Darwin–because it made sense. Even though he stuck to traditional practices in deference to his parents, he viewed religion as “outdated,” “illogical,”, “backward.”
Logic drove him also to become a strong Zionist, because he believed that the only logical way to secure a persecution-free life for the Jewish people was for them to live in their own land. He never saw any contradiction between his lack of religious practice and his strong belief in the future of the Jewish people.
Logic also led him to trust people no matter how many times he would be proven wrong. “It makes no logical sense, for him to cheat me; I am helping him make a living,” he would say over and over again.
Logic was the theme of many of his stories, jokes and sayings. More than two decades after his death, my brother and I still recall many of those words of wisdom and pass them on to our children and grandchildren. Truisms–such as “Always follow your logic,” “Don’t follow others like a sheep,” “Follow your own reasoning, your own brain”–have become signposts in directing our personal lives. Logic dictated my father’s lifestyle, his business practices, even his choice of a wife.
At one crucial point in his life, however, logic did not overcome his feelings. It was a September evening in 1942. There had just been a round-up of Jews in the Ghetto. All Jews had to report to an assembly square. Those who did not have the correct papers or official stamp on their ID had been taken away. Contrary to prior such proceedings, this day the ghetto inmates who had all required papers were not allowed to return to their dwellings but had to remain seated on the pavement. Hours went by. Tired, hungry and cold, my father waited with his wife and me (his two- year old daughter), as well as thousands of others, for the permission to go home.
As the sun was setting, there was suddenly a commotion among the guards, and an announcement was harshly shouted through the loudspeaker. Everyone’s heart stopped. This was not the expected permission to return home; this was an inhuman command: “All children are to be relocated. All children, regardless of age or sex, are to be handed over to the guards and be put on the trucks. They will be taken to another camp with better food and facilities.”
“Schnell, schnell,” (quickly, quickly) another voice barked.
There was no doubt in any of the adults’ minds as to where that “better place” was—namely, Auschwitz and death. What to do? Do you save yourself and your wife, with the hope of survival, of rebuilding a new family, having other children? Do you rationalize that maybe, just maybe, the children will be better cared for, better fed? My father’s logic demanded to do just that; sacrifices had to be made. “Better give up one victim than give the butchers three.” And again, maybe they really would just relocate the children to a better location.
There was not much time to make a decision. The yelling, crying, and confusion were all around them. Desperate parents were trying to make the most difficult decision of their lives. Father’s first instinct was to follow his logic: to give up his daughter and save himself and his wife. But, this time, logic lost. He could not follow his life’s guidepost. He and his wife decided to accompany their daughter on the transport and boarded the truck with me.
This decision was one that saved the three of us. Because Father was with Mother and me, and because of various other circumstances too involved to recount here, he, together with us, was released the next morning and brought back to the Ghetto instead of being taken to Auschwitz.
Thus, I owe my survival to the fact that my father did not always follow his beloved logic.
[August 2011; revised June 2014]