CONVERSATIONS IN A NURSING HOME

 

When I leave the apartment, a man in a black coat and hat follows me. Manhattan surrendered without a fight. The Polish army will defend the Bronx. We must run, run, run away. Washington D.C. will be O.K. Leave everything, the Germans will take it anyway.

Who told you that eighty babies were found starved? If Jews are not allowed to use the subway, how did you travel from the Bronx?

At Broadway and Ninety-sixth German soldiers forced a bearded man, in gabardine, to sweep the sidewalk with a toothbrush. Jews must have identification cards. In Bergdorf Goodman's windows, yellow stars. Stores on 47th Street are broken into, robbed.

You walked all night?

 

The death-heads herded children, and women into the 67th Street Armory. Huge empty room, glass steel ceiling, wood floor. No toilets. Pails by the doors. It was a hot June. Stench fills the room. Seven days we sweltered, stood and waited for trains to take us to be cremated.

My diamond ring for a comb, a hair brush, lipstick, rouge. That morning, I washed my face, combed my hair with water ladled into my bowl, swallowing only drops. I looked good, not like a Jew, as they marched us along Park Avenue. At Forty-third Street I plunged into the sidewalk crowd. I didn't stop till I reached Central Park.

"Doctor, will medication bring her back?"

 

- Bernard Otterman