I never knew her. I know little about her. My father rarely spoke of her while I was growing up. Long into my adulthood, when I had the courage to ask why, his response was, "it's too painful", so we moved the silent boulder up the unspoken uphill and padded it with everything else to try and stop it from falling on top of our relationship.
He allowed me a tiny glimpse of her at the end of last summer. Five days before the avalanche that we had been skirting most of my life covered us once and for all, he walked with me backwards down the darkened hall. As abruptly as he led me to and opened it, he slammed the door shut to my own flesh and blood. My lineage has no trace beyond my own parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and a cousin or two. There is no walking, waking evidence of my own existence borne from my own body; this woman's generation and the short life she lived is beyond reach. I am left knowing not knowing.
I have no idea of what she looked like and his memory of negatives have no printed version by which to compare the images I saw for the first time this morning. She could be any one of these women. Or none of them. How do you recognize someone else’s memory? She was my father's mother.
Along with so many others, she was gassed by the Nazis when she arrived in Auschwitz from Hungary in 1944. Because she was a woman, or too old, or too frail, or too young. Or just because. Her name was Fannie. She was a single mother whose visage may have been captured by a photographer's lens, printed, placed into an album with hundreds of others; lost, later found, fiercely guarded and then, gifted to Yad Veshem as a testament to and for the grandchildren who came later and made their way through the world without parents' parents to love or guide or show them anything but the cruel truth of history.
As I watch this video again, without a clue of who I am searching for, I can't help but wonder, are you my grandmother?