What happens to the Next Generation of Refugees?
Why Do I Cry So Much When I Talk About My Dad?
by Rick Landman - September 7, 2019
I've been asking myself, why do I cry every time I have to talk about my dad and his Holocaust experiences? A simplistic answer is that my father would cry whenever he would talk about it. I remember when he came to Congregation Beit Simchat Torah - CBST around 1990 to our first Kristallnacht program and he was to tell his story. I got up for 3 minutes and started to cry, and said, "Ricky you know the story, you tell it"... and I did, without crying.
But it goes deeper than just missing my dad. Growing up I didn't understand the difference between the German Jewish child of Holocaust Survivor experience vs. those whose parent who lived in Eastern Europe and whose terror started after 1940. My family was dead by 1942 and no one who didn't get out survived.
As a kid I knew that my family "didn't get out"... but in my mind I thought they were alive in Europe or Israel. I never questioned it until I was around 15. Then I explored the beginnings of the Nazi era and learned about Kristallnacht and also Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld. Yes, I knew I was gay and heard about gay Berlin even back then.
I would play games in my mind, like what would I have done if i was alive in the 1930's. Would they have arrested me for being gay years before they arrested my folks for being Jewish? Would I have had the conviction to hide someone or would I follow the immoral laws and yell, "she is up in the attic".
Now thanks to this current Administration "The South has risen again" and people are hiding out in attics. Now we have to ask ourselves are we going to stand by and become numb as fellow humans are being turned into infestations, or invaders, or sub-humans? That is what Hitler did. In 1935 all Jews, no matter how many hundreds of years you lived in Germany, you became illegal aliens or foreigners living in Germany. You were of a separate, immutable and inferior race called Semites.
As a result the typical German believed that it was proper to get rid of these animals.
I think I cry because my dad isn't here any more to tell his stories and I am the last one who knows them. I can still hear his accent in my head and know about the horrors that he saw. Compared to my life of being beaten for being gay, was nothing compared to what he had to endure.
So like my dad we get through the crisis and then bottle up the emotions, and then they come out years later. I am grateful that I feel loved and supported enough at CBST to openly cry. And when Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum mentioned me tonight in her Drash the floodgates opened again. Yes, I will be going to the accompaniment on Monday and the Asylum Clinic on Wednesday and have been working on the Mass Incarceration program at the UJA for the 15th, and stand by the NYU Islamic Center each Friday because in order to live with myself, I cannot stand by and let things escalate. The only time to stop Hitler was in 1933, by 1935 when the Nuremberg laws were passed it was too late. The Jews of Germany were on their way to extinction. Justice, Justice shall you pursue, and that is why, as a long time attorney, I went back to Law School to learn Immigration Law so I can help out at our clinic.