She was Jewish, but to live she needed a Christian name.
August 5, 2011 2:40 PM   Subscribe

A Holocaust survivor raised a fist to death. 'Leon Weinstein survived the Warsaw Ghetto. But it is the story of the little girl that he wants to tell.' 'He lay Natalie on their front step. Tears ran down his cheeks. You will make it, he thought. She had blond locks and blue eyes. They will think you are a Gentile, not one of us. Walking away, he could hear her whimper, but forced himself not to look back until he crossed the street. Then he turned and saw a man step out of the apartment. The man read Weinstein's note. He puzzled over the baby. Cradling Natalie in his arms, the man walked half a block to a police station and disappeared inside.'

'Weinstein was beside himself.

What if the Gestapo took her from the police?

What if they decided that she was a Jew?

Today, at his small Spanish-style home in Mid-City, Weinstein, 101, recalls in agonizing detail what it was like to give up his baby in 1941 amid the Nazi juggernaut. He is frail, but his wit and memory are keen. He remembers well what followed: killing Germans, dodging death, hunting for Natalie.

Holocaust scholars vouch for his account, calling him one of the last living fighters from the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, almost certainly the oldest.'
posted by VikingSword (29 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
Great post, thanks.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:47 PM on August 5, 2011

posted by bonobothegreat at 2:50 PM on August 5, 2011

I was really, really afraid to read this, but I'm glad I did.
posted by gracedissolved at 2:51 PM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was extremely lucky to have been able to attend a memorial sharing by Auschwitz survivors held at the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Thank you for sharing this.
posted by infini at 2:56 PM on August 5, 2011

That's weird. My monitor seems to have gone all blurry for some reason.
posted by nonasuch at 3:00 PM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's more than one thing stuck in my eyes right now. Thanks for this post.
posted by emhutchinson at 3:13 PM on August 5, 2011

Thank you for posting this.
posted by Songdog at 3:14 PM on August 5, 2011

Whoah...hardcore. For multiple reasons.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:21 PM on August 5, 2011

Oh man. I meet survivors in my job every now and then. Sometimes they tell me they are, and sometimes I hear it through the grapevine. The stories the child survivors tell me of being left by their parents in the care of a sympathetic person, or being smuggled into/out of France or Belgium or other places...just.

Metafilter, stop making me cry this afternoon.
posted by bilabial at 3:36 PM on August 5, 2011

Oh, cannot cry at work.
posted by resurrexit at 3:42 PM on August 5, 2011

Wow. I am so glad that some of these awful stories have good endings.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:49 PM on August 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Wow. Thank you for posting this.
posted by The World Famous at 4:07 PM on August 5, 2011

Such a wonderful story.

Now if you'll excuse me, I seem to be crying now.
posted by inturnaround at 4:08 PM on August 5, 2011

I'm still at work, but I've stopped even trying not to cry. This is amazing, thank you for posting this.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:08 PM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

What a story. Thank you for posting.
posted by Put the kettle on at 4:24 PM on August 5, 2011

Wow. What a man. This is a photo of them now. (just googled the daughter's name)
posted by bitteschoen at 4:28 PM on August 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

Thank you for posting.
posted by ms.jones at 4:35 PM on August 5, 2011

My neighbor's father who lives with him is a survivor as was his wife who died this year. He is one of the nicest gentleman you could meet when you talk to him. But, to listen to his stories and to see him in an adversarial position is to see a steely determination I have not seen in many people. His willingness to standup for what he thinks is right, even if it is just arguing with a meter reader is impressive. But watch him with his little granddaughters and you will see the softest human being ever. His biggest fight though is with his son, my friend, over his independence.

Thanks for the post. Great story. Natalie is a beautiful name.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:28 PM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

"If we were going to die," Weinstein says, "we would do it on our own terms. We would die standing proud, on our feet, making a statement to the world. We would take as many of those bastards as we could kill.""

This is salient, devoid of prose and a thematic style in the writers excellent piece. The story/facts speak as if in stanzas of recollection pointed towards meaning and the pasts sterile disregard for human life but more, as if taken to the point of complete sanity, clarity, a terrible awakening.

It is a chronicle of the deads echo to the souls need to resist.
posted by clavdivs at 5:53 PM on August 5, 2011

Actually said "wow" out loud. Wow.
posted by disillusioned at 6:08 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay, I jumped ahead to make sure he found Natalie.
Stories like this force me to remember that my brain tumor isn't a "problem". Mr. Weinstein knows what "problems" are. I do not. I am going to go hug my two-year-old now.
Thank you for the link.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:36 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

It breaks my heart to even imagine the pain he must have felt leaving her on that doorstep.
posted by Leezie at 7:41 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

No words. Crying. Thank you.
posted by sweetkid at 8:06 PM on August 5, 2011

He found her. That is just amazing. And how she must feel knowing what he did, how hard it must have been, saved her life. I can't even describe how I'm reacting to that. I mean, he didn't *have* to go looking for her after the war...

posted by aclevername at 8:39 PM on August 5, 2011

Thank you for this story. This reminds me of the very humane and wonderful Saul Friedlander, who I had the privilege of studying Holocaust historiography with at UCLA. He was placed in a French Catholic school during the 1940s and only understood his Jewish heritage/that his parents had died in Auschwitz when he confessed his desire to become a priest to one of the Jesuit priests at his school. It makes me wonder how many children were placed in the care of others and didn't ever find out about their parents or their fates.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:32 PM on August 5, 2011

*whom*, gah.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:37 PM on August 5, 2011

A shorter version of the story is here, along with other stories of Jewish partisans and holocaust survivors. What a wonderful story; not many happy endings from that time and place.
posted by TedW at 7:04 AM on August 6, 2011

What an amazing story. On the topic of people not knowing their heritage, there is an excellent book about secret Jews that you might wish to read. You can find it here.
posted by driley at 9:31 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

David Rovics has a song about the Warsaw Uprising which I've always found stirring.
posted by Scientist at 7:47 AM on August 7, 2011

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