Nana Kass

A is for Auschwitz.

What would Nana Kass have said had I told her that an American Nazi youth drove his car into a crowd of people protesting a White Supremacist rally in Virginia?

She would have shaken her head back and forth and muttered “eeesh” under her breath, almost in disbelief that her struggle to survive Auschwitz was in vain.

Time was when I thought all I had to do to earn her pride (give her nachas) was to graduate from a good college. Now I am not so sure.

A few years ago I decided to honor her memory by getting her concentration camp number tattooed on my left forearm in white ink. I wanted a constant reminder of her struggle, so that no matter how much I might stress about my situation, I would pause when I saw her number and take a moment to appreciate how lucky I was to be free.

Take a moment to think about the pain she experienced when she was tortured by her captors who had determined that she was inferior to them, based on her genetics, based on her Jewishness.

Take a moment to think about the choices she had to make — and the risks she needed to take-- in order to survive Dachau, Bergen Belsen, Majdanek and Auschwitz as a teenager, emigrate to the United States, and give birth to my mom and her three sisters.

Take a moment to think about the scars on her body which were inflicted by the Nazis and that got worse as she got older, like the welts on her shins from being forced to kneel on ice for hours at a time.

Take a moment to think about her Auntie Eva. She reunited with Nana after liberation, but her husband and children were killed by Nazis and she lived broken by that sadness for the rest of her life.

When I think about Nana Kass, her story is simple: on one side is life, on the other side is hate.

There are not “many sides.”

A-15333 was her number.