My Father - My Papa

You often hear a lot about my incredible and indomitable 104 year old mother, but not much about my father, Walter Blumenthal, of blessed memory.

You have to understand that I was only 4 years old when the horrendous tragedy of the Holocaust struck our family, and Jewish families throughout much of Europe. 

We tried leaving Germany by way of Holland, but because our visas were continually set back by the U.S. State Department, we were soon trapped in Europe when Germany invaded Holland. 

We spent 6 ½ years in various camps, transit camps, including Westerbork, and finally being forcibly sent to the hell-hole of Bergen-Belsen in Germany.

I try to imagine what it must have been like for both my mother, and father, just prior to, and post Kristallnacht. Can parents actually act in a normal, rational manner with one’s family when in such stressful circumstances? And Kristallnacht was only the beginning of our nightmare.

I remember my father as a tall man, but then I was quite small for my age. I was told by Mama that Papa was six feet tall. I remember that he was very strict, maybe because this is what it was like all around us. He made certain I said thank you when receiving the smallest gift of candy from a neighbor.

I know that Albert, my brother, inherited a number of Papa’s finer traits, among them the need to be scrupulously honest, and the need to be well organized. Papa had been an excellent businessman, and enjoyed working in the family shoe and haberdashery shop. His customers highly respected him. Papa was devastated when the Nazis prohibited non-Jews to enter his store, notwithstanding the fact that he served with honor in the German Army of World War One, having been awarded the Iron Cross.

The final year and a half of his life was spent in Bergen-Belsen, where at best I might have possibly caught glimpses of him when we were standing on Appel Platz until all hours of the day (and night!).

Finally liberated by Russian troops on April 23, 1945, Papa was a shell of a man, suffering terribly from a variety of diseases, in addition to severe mal-nutrition. He succumbed from typhus June 7, 1945 - coinciding with the 27th of Sivan on the Jewish calendar. This year the date of my Father`s passing coincides with Father’s Day itself.

I don’t know if Germany celebrates Father’s Day, but in those horrific years, I do know that Jewish fathers, mothers, children, and babies, meant absolutely nothing to the evil-minded Nazis regime that ruled at that time.

Yes, I miss my Papa very much – never really having gotten to know him as the firm, but gentle souled person he was described to me – the dedicated husband and family man that he was – the loving son and brother and uncle that he was. So today, on Father’s Day, on the date of my dear father’s Yahrzeit (day of his passing), my hope is for each of you who is still fortunate to have a father- please, please pay honor to him, love him, and treat him with the greatest respect and love.

Happy Father`s Day!