Oh Death, Oh Death, won’t you spare me over ’till another year…

The title comes from a traditional Appalachian dirge made famous by Dr. Ralph Stanley.  We had lived in Oslo for more than a year, and I had walked this same path almost daily.  Today a truck was parked squarely in my usual path, and the detour to the other side of the road helped me notice the tiny brass plaques for the first time.  I don’t read Norwegian, but the word “Auschwitz” resonates in any language.  On 26 November, 1942, the local police rounded up the Jewish women and children (the men being already in custody) and transported them, some in taxis, to the waiting D/S Donau at Oslo’s pier for the trip to Stettin and onward to Auschwitz.  On December 1, shortly after arrival at the camp, the women in this group were gassed…it seems the men were gassed/beaten/starved/worked to death at later dates.  After the war, taxi operators sued the Norwegian government for back-wages owed them for transporting the Jews to their points of deportation.  I haven’t been able to determine whether the cabbies prevailed in court, but I hope not.  There were roughly 2,100 Jews in Norway during occupation.  Around 900 made it over the border to Sweden, usually with the help of Norwegians.  775 of them were arrested/detained/deported.  Ten lived through the experience.  Noticing those plaques, all that is left of what was probably an extended immigrant family who lived about a block away from me in the wrong place at the wrong time, makes me wonder what else I’m walking by every day and failing to recognize.  (23 September, 2011  Oslo, Norway)

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