Chicago and Cincinnati (28-Apr-2011)

So far, so good.

On Tuesday I flew from Amsterdam to Chicago on a very uneventful KLM flight. Despite a mask on my eyes and seatbelt over my blanket they kept waking me up for meals and I do not know what else. Nevertheless I managed to get some sleep.

With a rented car and the help of a GPS I drove myself to Skokie, checked into the hotel and went over to Hank and Ilsa. It’s symbolic that my trip starts here, because my research started by finding Hank, who is Uli’s brother. Their daughter and son-in-law came over for dinner. Unfortunately I did not feel well. I often have to pay for flying across the Atlantic with a headache and despite my precautionary measures I was hit by a migraine.

A good nights sleep solved that problem, so the next morning I was up early and ready to leave for Glen Ellyn, where I finally met George Levy, my numero uno on this trip. It was very special to finally meet George, and his wife. We sat down for an extended interview, which went very well. Both George and his sister have written a book, so I was well prepared. George gives talks to school classes very often, so he is used to talking about those horrible years. What struck me the most is that he said the worse experience of the whole Holocaust was seeing his father die, after he’d been released from Sacksenhausen in December 1938.  That was worse then his time in Camp Vught, Westerbork, Bergen-Belsen or the lost train that ended in Tröbitz.

I drove back to Skokie where Hank and Ilsa took me out for dinner to their favorite Italian restaurant, which was very nice.

This morning I got up early because I wanted to take a quick dip in the hotel pool, but alas, that only opened at 9 am, by which time I was already at the airport, ready for my flight to Cincinatti, OH.

I went to Cincinatti to talk to Ruth Stern Kropveld. Unfortunately Ruth was not feeling well today, also because she watched a program about the Holocaust last night. Nevertheless she agreed to sit down with me for an interview, even though at times she found it very emotional to talk about those difficult years. Needless to say, I am very grateful to Ruth for talking to me even when she was not feeling well. Afterwards Ruth, her son Fred and I went out for dinner, after which Ruth gave me a very special gift: a hat that she made herself – Ruth became a qualified milliner in Berlin in 1936!

All this traveling and hopping on and off planes makes me feel as if I’m in a movie. It also feels like I’ve been here for at least a week, when it has just been over 48 hours. It is all very intense, and so special!