Founder Rachel Mandula describes past and present events that led
to the initiation of Remember-Together.
are many stories at the bottom of my soul. Strong, painful, difficult
stories. Still, a faith in life and in human beings springs out
of them. I was born in 1942 in the industrial-agricultural town
of Turda, Rumania. A town where Rumanians, Hungarians, Jews Gypsies
and a few Armenians lived. There where many ways for praying to
God; the Catholic, Orthodox, Reform, Unitarian, Pocaites, and, of
course, the Jewish way. A town of religious tolerance. I was the
only Jewish child born in this town during the War, and everyone
rejoiced in me. It was the triumph of life. I was also the only
Jewish child during all my school years. The perfect minority.
Turda, my birthplace, a unique undertaking took place during the
Holocaust. It was an organization which smuggled Jews from Hungary
to Rumania across the border at Feleac. It was a joint undertaking
of the Orthodox Jews and the Zionists. About 1,200 Jews, coming
from different parts of Europe - Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary
- were smuggled across the border with the assistance of Rumanian
peasants and border guards, the former showing goodwill, the latter
having been bribed by the community. Those smuggled in were hidden
in Jewish homes for a few days, taught basic Rumanian and sent on
to Bucarest, and from there by ship to Palestine.
was a one year old baby on my mother's arms when the alarm sounded
and our neighbors hurried to the bomb-shelter at the house's garden.
My mother, with me in her arms, staid behind to make sure that those
in hiding will not be exposed. I remembered the name of one man
from my mother's stories about the refugees. His name was Halperin.
He was a brilliant man, born in Poland, who drowned on board the
refugees ship Struma, which sank in the Black Sea. The war was over.
My parents went back to Cluj, my father's town, which during the
war was under Hungarian control, and its Jewish population, including
my father's family, was sent to Auschwitz. My parents and I lived
in my father's family house. Survivors drifted back. Soup was always
cooking on the stove. The survivors ate the soup, and mostly told
stories, stories out of the oven. And me, a two years old girl,
is there. Just being there.
1945 my sister was born, together with many other children born
after the War. The Holocaust was not discussed in the Communist
countries, only the war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany
was glorified. My father also kept silent. He never spoke of his
father or mother or four dead brothers, and his two sisters who
came back also did not speak. A large mirror was hanging in my parents'
bedroom, and next to it were the pictures of grandfather and grandmother,
hung there by my mother. When we looked in the mirror, the dead
grandparents were always in front of us. I know that my grandmother
was taken on a Saturday, and had taken with her a dish of rice with
plums, which she kept all the way, to have something to eat at the
labour camp to which she naively believed they were being taken.
She ended her life as ashes. But I carry within me her hope for
life. The last report of my grandfather, while in forced-labour
in a Polish wood, was that he was shouting his name at the top of
his voice: "Mandula! Mandula! andula!" I heard his story from my
mother after I grew up, but already as a child I knew it was my
duty to commemorate his name.
have been asking to be allowed to immigrate to Israel for 15 years,
but were rejected time and again. Finally, in 1963 we were allowed
to go. Years have passed, and the Holocaust was meaningless for
me. During ceremonies I stood at attention, I watched the programs
on television, and all of it was like things which had happened
to somebody else. Until one day, by complete chance, a narrow crack
had opened into the bottom of my soul. It was on Holocaust Memorial
Day, when I was standing under the bridge leading to Beilinson Hospital,
the siren which sounds throughout the country on this day was heard,
and everybody stood at attention. Only one woman kept walking on
the bridge. Somebody rebuked her, and she stopped next to me, saying
apologetically "I'm in a great hurry". This incident lead me to
ask many questions regarding the ways by which we remember and commemorate
the Holocaust. Thus I began to search for another
way to remember.