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WAS GOD WATCHING? WINTER ARRIVED quickly, and I knew that I would have to remain at school with the other children. I envied those children who were able to go home and be with their families. For the first time, I understood the meaning of being poor. I realized that I was poor and that all the children knew I was poor, too. I swallowed my pride and reminded myself that summer was just around the corner and that soon I would get the chance to go back home. During my winter break, I noticed the counselors bickering more than what I considered to be normal. They constantly disagreed about the information that was being reported in the newspapers . The students who remained argued, too, particularly Péter Altman and Leó Wachtenheim. Péter supported the Germans and Leó supported the communists. I tried to find out more information from the counselors. Leó was furious as he read the headline, “What Do We Do with the Jews?” He took the newspaper, tore it up, and threw it down. Naturally, the commotion heightened my interest in politics, but counselors didn’t take the time to explain what was going on. Later, I learned that the controversy had become apparent on January 20, 1942, at the Wannsee Conference. Up until that point, discussions had been taking place about what to do with the Jews. The Wannsee Conference was the platform to launch the Final Solution.1 The Final Solution detailed a plan wherein Jews were to be put to death without exception. The Nazis’ vision embraced a Judenrein (Jew-clean) world. This vision required that all Jews be rounded up wherever they lived throughout Europe and then be sent by train to specially built extermination camps in Poland. By “Jews,” the Nazis meant all Jews—males and females, babies, children , adults, and the elderly. The Nazis had already been secretly 25 4 C H A P T E R (1941–1943) ch04_193032_Gallaudet_Dunai 5/14/02 11:07 AM Page 25 exterminating any undesirables up to this point, including Jews, certain non-Jews, and Gypsies. But now, the Nazis were openly stating that the Jews were a problem. The Final Solution also called for death by poisonous gas.2 The decision to use poisonous gas was made because gas allowed hundreds and thousands of people to be killed at a time. I didn’t know then, but euthanasia had already become a part of every hospital’s routine, so the foundation had been laid for the mass killings. The other part of the Final Solution involved collecting everything from the victims, including clothing, jewelry, gold tooth fillings, hair, and skin. Some of the materials would then be sold to support the German effort. I sensed that the future would not be good for the Jewish people. I knew that everybody was against the Jews. However, though the political outlook was bleak and anti-Semitism grew, my life went on as usual. I was unable to fully absorb the gloom and doom that my counselors were discussing on a daily basis. Even if they had attempted to help me understand, I don’t believe I could have processed the effect of the situation on my life. I was just a child. So in a twisted sort of way, my deafness and my ignorance allowed me to look positively toward the future. The spring months seemed to flow at a snail’s pace. I was now officially a welfare student. I had to wear a uniform donated by the Jewish community. I was sure that the other children looked on me as a poor boy. I certainly felt like a poor boy. But I had to accept it in silence even though I was hurt and felt bad. Many parents brought presents for their children; I got nothing because my parents lived so far away. Also, most of the children got to go home for Hanukkah and Passover. I couldn’t. But, on the brighter side, those parents who brought chocolate always brought enough for everyone to have a piece. Then, finally, it was summertime. Once again, I took the train home alone, but this time, I was unafraid. On the train ride home, a farmer offered me some bread and smoked bacon. I knew about God’s laws and about keeping kosher. I had been taught not to eat certain things because they were bad for my stomach. I told the CHAPTER 4 (1941...


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