My mother, Anna Silber was born on 15.December 1898 in Majdan, Karpatorussia.
(See page 131). She married on 2.August 1925 in the Hungarian town of
Sátoraljaújhely her five years younger betrothed, Moses Graber. She was a tall,
slender woman with blue eyes. She always took a headscarf in accordance with the
orthodox Jewish custom, and on Sabbath or festival days her well tended wig, the
Sheitel. During World War I she lived in Majdan.
When she was 17, she lost her mother in the tragic railroad accident described
before. It was her duty to look after the family from that time onward.
When she moved to Nyirbátor, she had communication and adjustment difficulties
at first. Her Yiddish was different from the one spoken in Hungary. Only a few
people understood her Polish accent. But she soon got over the difficulties; my
mother spoke Russian, Ukrainian, Yiddish, German, Czech and Hungarian. On
certain occasions, she was asked to act as an interpreter. Nyirbátor had a
number of Bulgarian gardeners living there who laid out vegetable gardens and
grew locally unknown vegetable varieties. They sold their produce on the
Thursday market. As they did not understand Hungarian, they were very pleased if
mother turned up to assist them as an interpreter. As a reward, she received a
basketful of vegetables free of charge.
Just like her father, my mother too had artistic talents. The results of some of
her efforts were on display in our home. A framed picture could be seen I the
bedroom. It represented two doves painted on a black lacquered glass perching on
a twig. Their outlines were filled in with shiny chocolate wrappers in various
colors. Artificial flowers made by her were displayed I flower pots. Framed
tapestries quoting wise sayings in Czech language were displayed on the walls. I
still remember some of them, such as: Ruka ruku myje (One hand is washing the
other) Komu se neleni, tomu se zeleni (Idleness does not make your garden
green) For Sukkoth, she prepared colored paper stars, to decorate the Sukkoth
tent, and she suspended birds made of eggshells from the roof, with wings and
tails made from colored paper strips.
On a certain occasion I had to stay away from the school for a few days as I was
sick. My mother wrote an excuse to the melamed in Yiddish whereas in Hungary the
women almost never wrote in Yiddish. The teacher asked me who wrote that letter.
I replied, my mother. He flew into a rage and tore up the letter of excuse in
shreds and yelled: How can a woman dare to write to a melamed in such manner?
On another occasion, a fire started at the Nyirbátor banking corporations
building. The slabs of slate that were used to cover the roof were flying in
every direction, like firework. I was hardly six years old at that time. My
mother rushed in to the Talmud-Thora School in desperation, covered me in a
plaid she brought along and took me in her arms. She ran along with me amidst
the glowing shingles. The memory of this image is fixed in my memory forever.
Ill always remember the hours of twilight at the end of a winter Sabbath as
well. My mother sat with us on the bed standing in the kitchen. To drive away
our fear caused by the growing darkness, she told us tales and legends in
Yiddish or real events from her own childhood. She also sang Yiddish songs such
as Margeriten, In the Temple, A fire is glowing in the oven. We loved
these homely hours and were sad when they came to an end. Before the Separation
Blessing she recited a prayer that women used to say in Yiddish at the going out
of the Sabbath. In that prayer she asked God of Abraham, Isaak and Jakob now
that the Sabbath has come to and end to protect the People of Israel from all
evil and to bless every true believer with a good week, a good month and a good
Although my mother was religious, her religious observance had its limits and
especially she did not accept any commands. My grandfather Reb Abraham Eliezer
had occasionally attempted to interfere with our religious upbringing and
demanded more Jewish ness. But my mother guarded her independence in these
matters. Her rules defined fore example: temple locks (payers) no longer than
the lobe of the ear; standard dresses instead of orthodox-Jewish attire. My
mother did not accept any regulations in her choice of books to read either. She
used to read the books of Shalom Asch 37) whose writings were forbidden in
orthodox circles, even his book, The Nazarene. Mostly it was I to pick up her
books from the lending library. She wanted us to have general knowledge and a
good trade so that wed be prepared for the immigration to Israel.
As a Yiddisher Mamma she looked after us to have enough to eat. She fortified
us with spinach, cod liver oil and what else, I dont know. She was especially
worried about the late development of my growth of beard. She wanted to see me
growing up quicker.
All her hopes and efforts were directed to see us developing a large,
well-established family and enjoying the company of her grandchildren I Erez
Israel. The Nazis and their allied prevented the realization of her dreams.
Mother, what I have to tell you today is this:
Mother, much to my sorrow you have no grave with a proper grave-stone I would be
able to visit, It is still weighing on my mind that at that time, at the
selection in Auschwitz you were separated from me in the chaos. You were
dragged away from me without a word of farewell. I see you and the children
hanging on to you, frightened to lose you in the turmoil. for ever. You moved
away and I followed you with my eyes, until you disappeared. I did not know at
that time that you went on your last way.
Mother, unfortunately I was unable to hold you a funeral speech and to express
my love to you. I loved you more than anything else in this world. You were to
me the Yiddische Mamme and more. I would gladly offer some years from my own
life if I could see you again for just one second.
I shudder at thinking at your last walk and the Hobs sufferings upon your entry
to the gas chambers. Whenever I hear the song Yiddische Mamme , the song they
wrote for me, I get goose-pimples and Id like to cry.
If I could stand at your grave Id sing for four you a song we sang together and
which represents your character:
Wholl find an able woman? She is more valuable than pearls
She is good to him, never bad, all her life long
Honor and shine is her attire
She laughs as she thinks of the future
Her mouth she opens with wisdom, her tongue transmits kindness
Many able women exist but you surpass them all.
37) 1880-1957, Jewish writer of short stories, playwright