Por fragmentos como el que transcribo a continuación es que este episodio de la historia me causa tanto interés. Ni una mente fuera de lo convencional como la del autor puede procesarlo de manera natural.
So what a joy it was to get to MIT and be free from all of that; I felt reborn. Everything was done to encourage you. I got a key to the front door and could work in my office day or night just as I wanted. To me, that key to the building was like a key to everything. The head of the Physics Department offered me a faculty position six months after my arrival, in June of 1966. I accepted and I’ve never left.
Arriving at MIT was also so exhilarating because I had lived through the devastation of World The Nazis had murdered half of my family, a tragedy that I haven’t really digested yet. I do talk about it sometimes, but very rarely because it’s so very difficult for me—it is more than sixty-five years ago, and it’s still overwhelming. When my sister Bea and I talk about it, we almost always cry.
I was born in 1936, and I was just four years old when the Germans attacked the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. One of my earliest memories is all of us, my mother’s parents, my mother and father and sister and I, hiding in the bathroom of our house (at the Amandelstraat 61 in The Hague) as the Nazi troops entered my country. We were holding wet handkerchiefs over our noses, as there had been warnings that there would be gas attacks.
The Dutch police snatched my Jewish grandparents, Gustav Lewin and Emma Lewin Gottfeld, from their house in 1942. At about the same time they hauled out my father’s sister Julia, her husband Jacob (called Jenno), and her three children—Otto, Rudi, and Emmie—and put them all on trucks, with their suitcases, and sent them to Westerbork, the transshipment camp in Holland. More than a hundred thousand Jews passed through Westerbork, on their way to other camps. The Nazis quickly sent my grandparents to Auschwitz and murdered them—gassed them—the day they arrived, November 19, 1942. My grandfather was seventy-five and my grandmother sixty-nine, so they wouldn’t have been candidates for labor camps. Westerbork, by contrast, was so strange; it was made to look like a resort for Jews. There were ballet performances and shops. My mother would often bake potato pancakes that she would then send by mail to our family in Westerbork.
Because my uncle Jenno was what the Dutch call “statenloos,” or stateless—he had no nationality—he was able to drag his feet and stay at Westerbork with his family for fifteen months before the Nazis split up the family and shipped them to different camps. They sent my aunt Julia and my cousins Emmie and Rudi first to the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück in Germany and then to Bergen-Belsen, also in Germany, where they were imprisoned until the war ended. My aunt Julia died ten days after the camp’s liberation by the Allies, but my cousins survived. My cousin Otto, the oldest, had also been sent to Ravensbrück, to the men’s camp there, and near the end of the war ended up in the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen; he survived the Sachsenhausen death march in April 1945. Uncle Jenno they sent directly to Buchenwald, where they murdered him—along with more than 55,000 others.
Whenever I see a movie about the Holocaust, which I would not do for a really long time, I project it immediately onto my own family. That’s why I felt the movie Life Is Beautiful was terribly difficult to watch, even objectionable. I just couldn’t imagine joking about something that was so serious. I still have recurring nightmares about being chased by Nazis, and I wake up sometimes absolutely terrified. I even once in my dreams witnessed my own execution by the Nazis.
Lewin, Walter; Goldstein, Warren.
For the Love of Physics