Top row left to right: Franka (Weintraub) Iglewicz (in a vest that she knit) and her younger sister Mala (Weintraub) Mosenson. Bottom row left to right: Franka’s older sister Lola (Weintraub) Schwartz, her younger brother Leon Weintraub, and her first cousin Franka (Weintraub) Charlupski, Lüneberg, Germany, 1946
Chapter 8: Lessons from My Parents
By Natalie Iglewicz, daughter of Henry and Franka Iglewicz
I was a late-in-life only child born to Holocaust survivors. My parents met and married in 1956, when my thirty-five-year-old mother was visiting Detroit from Israel. She was introduced to my father by her cousin’s husband. My father was a factory worker and my parents, wanting to provide all they could for a child, decided to have just one.
I was named Natalie after my mother’s mother Nacha, who died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz with her sister Ava. My middle name, Libby, was from my father’s mother, Liba, who died in childbirth when my father was two years old. For my parents, I embodied their loved ones whose names I was given. I was cherished.
Growing up I knew there were more names of the dead who needed remembering: my father’s beloved brother Lazer, who died at fourteen of some unnamed illness before the war; my mother’s sister Rosa who died in the camps; her Aunt Ava, gassed along with her mother; and her best friend Ava, who was shot at her home in Łódź while hiding with her family. I stored those names, thinking one day I would pass them on to my children, and eventually I did.
My father worked on the assembly line at a Ford plant, leaving the house by 5:00 a.m. for the 6:00 a.m. shift, and arriving home just before my mother left to work in the Jewish bakery in Detroit. Right after that hand off, one day during the summer after kindergarten, I asked my father if I could play with neighbors across the street. The neighborhood kids were playing Duck Duck Goose, a favorite activity of mine. My father told me I could go if I brought a sweater. It was July and hot but I didn’t argue. I wanted in on that game!
I never made it across the street. The car that hit me never saw me as I darted out from between parked cars. Dragged thirty feet before the driver stopped, I sustained life-threatening head injuries. As a teen I asked my mother to tell me about the accident. She went into her bedroom and emerged with a short clipping from the local newspaper. It wasn’t very descriptive, so I asked her for a detailed account from the time she arrived at the hospital. I could tell that she didn’t want to recall this terrible memory of how she almost lost her child, but I persisted, and she relented. My mother told me that when I arrived in the ambulance at the hospital with my father, the doctors had to medicate him because he was in hysterics. My mother, having been driven from work to the hospital by her cousin Rosa, found us both on a gurney when she arrived. When my father gained consciousness, he was consumed by guilt and worry as I was being operated upon. After the operation, I awoke briefly. When I opened my eyes, I saw my father’s tearstained face and told him I loved him. Then I closed my eyes and went back into a post-operation-induced sleep. Apparently, my words of love for my father gave him some peace and he finally calmed down. My mother also said something I never forgot: during the operation she prayed only that I would survive. She didn’t care if I was going to be a vegetable for the rest of my life. She only wanted me to live.