Read My Mother's Secret Online

Authors: J. L. Witterick

Tags: #Fiction, #General

My Mother's Secret

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

Publishers Since 1838

Published by the Penguin Group

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Copyright © 2013 by J. L. Witterick

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Witterick, J. L.

My mother's secret : a novel based on a true holocaust story / J. L. Witterick.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-698-15152-9

1. World War, 1939–1945—Poland—Fiction. 2. Jews—Poland—Fiction. 3. Families—Poland—History—20th century. 4. Holocaust, Jewish (1939–1945)—Poland—Fiction. 5. Historical fiction. I. Title.

PR9199.4.W568M9 2013 2013024512

813ˇ.6—dc23

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Dedicated to Jim Hunter . . . the bravest man I know, and to those who risked their lives to save others known as the Righteous among the Nations

“I have always had an acute interest in history as it relates to the Holocaust.
My Mother's Secret
took my breath away!”

—B
RIAN
G
OLDSTEIN
,
President, CCMH

“It is a luxury to be able to read lots and lots of books; most are enjoyable, but some make you stop and think. This book is one of those—it has a Jonathan Livingston Seagull quality to it.”

—R
ICHARD
S. S
ELF
,
Head, Marketing and Communications, RBC Global Asset Management


The story will take you on a heartfelt journey. The writing is exquisite . . . simple, yet profound.

—M
ARY
T
HROOP
,
President, Summerhill Capital Management


My Mother's Secret
is excellent! The strong message is told in a quiet and unforgettable way.”

—P
AM
M
OUNTAIN
,
Branch Head, Annette Street Library

“Unbelievable! What an amazing read! I LOVED this story.”

—T
ED
M
ANZIARIS
,
President and Cofounder, Turtle Island Recycling Corporation

“An inspiring story that deals with choices, courage, and life's meaning.”

—K
IM
S
HANNON
,
President and CIO, Sionna Investment Managers

“I can see this novel changing and touching many hearts . . . including mine.”

—A
NITA
P
YCLIK
,
Literature and History Major

“I see great possibilities for this book to promote peace and understanding.”

—A
RNOLD
M. N
OYEK
, OC, MD, FRCSC,
Officer of the Order of Canada

“J. L. Witterick has given us an important book.”

—J
OSEPH
K
ERTES
,
Canadian National Jewish Book Award, U.S. Jewish National Book Award, Dean of Creative and Performing Arts, Humber College

“I was taken by the story. It is beautifully written, moving, and lovely.”

—T
REVOR
D
IGHTON
,
former CFO and Executive Director, G4S

“This is a captivating story of amazing courage and heroism.”

—D
R
. P
ATRICK
G
ULLANE
, CM, MB, FRCSC,
Order of Canada

“True heroism is when no one sees or knows! A truly inspiring and breathtaking book.”

—R
ABBI
C
HAIM
B
OYARSKY


My Mother's Secret
is a compelling read!”

—D
R
. S
USAN
R. G
ROESBECK
,
Principal, Havergal College

“I really loved the whole book. Every sentence was enthralling. It was a perfect balance of danger, romance, and history.”

—A
LEXANDRA
P
HILP
, 13

“From the moment I started to read
My Mother's Secret
, I couldn't put it down. It captivated me. I just loved it!”

—B
ARB
S
IMPSON
,
Vice President, International Banking, Scotiabank

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Praise for My Mother's Secret

Disclaimer

Epigraph

Part I: HELENA

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Part II: BRONEK

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Part III: MIKOLAJ

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Part IV: VILHEIM

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Final Part: HELENA

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

 

Epilogue

Trip to Israel

Acknowledgments

The book was inspired by the courage of Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter, Helena. The characters are fictional. Nevertheless, many of the experiences of the characters are consistent with events of that time.

To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.

—E
LIE
W
IESEL

Part I

H
ELENA

Chapter 1

W
hen you're a child, you think that your parents are the same as everyone else's and that what happens in your house happens in other people's homes too. You have no way of knowing any differently.

And so, I think that everyone is afraid of their father. I think that men marry to have someone cook and clean for them. I don't know that some men actually love their wives and their children.

My brother, Damian, and I grow up with two very different people.

My father is precise, hard, and linear, while my mother is imaginative, loving, and warm.

Both are strong.

My father is Ukrainian and my mother is Polish, but we moved to Germany, where the opportunities are better than in Poland.

My father is a machinist, and that suits him well because it requires precision and measurement—both skills he possesses in abundance.

My mother works as a cook for a wealthy German family, and we love that she often brings leftovers home for us. She brings food that we never would have tasted otherwise. Not much usually, but there are sometimes small pieces of expensive meats like pork chops and, if we're lucky, fruits and nuts, which are luxuries for most people.

When there are leftovers, my mother puts them all on a plate for us to share. Even though we would have already eaten the dinner cooked ahead for us in the morning, it's a special treat that we all look forward to. Typically, my father gorges himself, reaching for more even while he's still chewing with his mouth partly open.

Once as I am about to pick up a slice of apple from the plate, my father slaps my hand. It is something that he wants.

My mother sees this and shakes her head. The next week she keeps a whole apple in her pocket and only brings it out after my father starts the loud, snorting sound that is his snore when asleep.

She cuts the apple in half and gives it to my brother and me.

I don't know why, but I remember what happens next more than I remember how my father treats me. I can hear the words from my brother as if he has just said them: “Lena,” he says, using his nickname for me, “you know I ate so much for dinner that I really don't want anything else. Why don't you have my half too?”

I shake my head. “You can eat this, Damian.” But he refuses and makes me take it.

It makes the apple even sweeter than it already is.

My father, not having seen a trace of an apple for some time, asks, “Why aren't you bringing home any apples, Franciszka?”

My mother shrugs her shoulders and says, “I work there; I don't shop there. I can only bring home what they give me.”

My brother and I look at each other and then down because, if we didn't, he would have seen our smiles.

•   •   •

T
WO STRONG PEOPLE
living together is not easy to begin with, but two strong people with opposing political views—that's virtually impossible.

My father is a Nazi sympathizer, and my mother is horrified by it.

“Hitler is the answer to the problems of the German people,” my father says.

Just a few years ago no one had even heard of Hitler, but now it seems like his name is everywhere. His wave of popularity is swelling. People are poor and unemployment is high. Hitler promises better times. He tells the German people that they are superior.

“Germany will be a great power again if Hitler is the leader,” my father says. His fellow workers at the machine shop are all going to vote for him.

“If you're German and someone tells you that you're born superior, that would sound pretty good,” my mother says.

“Even better if the bad times are not your fault but caused by the Jewish people. It's so much easier than trying to explain it logically.”

My mother doesn't pass judgment on groups of people. She believes in the individual.

“Not all Germans are good or bad, and the same with Jews,” she says.

She's outspoken and says what she believes.

They have shouting matches over this, and while my brother and I stay quiet, we don't like what Hitler is promising. We heard Hitler speak once and saw the hypnotic power that he had over people.

He has that effect on our father.

•   •   •

M
Y FATHER DOESN'T ARGUE WITH FACTS.
He makes his points with attacks on the other person.

He doesn't fight fair.

“What do you know about politics?” he says to my mother. “Cooking makes you smart, does it?”

“It doesn't make you blind” is what she says.

I think to myself,
I will never marry anyone like my father
.

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