May the Fourth

Written and posted on Facebook, not here. Please excuse the oversight. Also incorrect: a statement in the FB post that Auschwitz was liberated on May 4th.

Alice Isaac in 1943

May the Fourth, 1925. Alice Elisabeth Isaac is born In Cologne, Germany, 95 years ago today. Her family moves to Amsterdam when she is barely in her teens; Anne Frank is a schoolmate. In 1940 the Germans invade Holland; Amsterdam, once considered a safe haven, becomes an easy target for Nazis hunting Jews. Alice escapes one roundup but is recaptured and “transported” to the prison camp at Bergen Belsen.

Belsen was liberated in April, 1945, just over 75 years ago. Auschwitz, on Germany’s border with Poland, was the worst of the camps, with a million people murdered behind its walls; American forces had liberated it in January.

Remarkably, Alice survives (her onetime Amsterdam neighbors, the Frank sisters, do not) and after the war she makes her way to Portland, Oregon, where her older sister, my mother, had found a refuge with distant cousins of my father. Alice becomes a school teacher in Portland, and later in California, and retires to Arizona, where she passes away at the age of 89.