From page one of Dr. Ida Akerman-Tieder’s autobiography, And You Shall Tell Your Children – A Chronicle of Survival – Lessons of Life for Today, I felt its unique spirit. Dr. Akerman-Tieder is a child survivor of the Holocaust, and the book tells us the stories of her traumatic childhood and her courageous transformation into a young woman/mother/doctor. But And You Shall Tell Your Children is not only a “Holocaust book.” It’s a book of life’s wisdom.
It’s a survival manual, even billing itself as one. It’s also a book of meaningful and beautiful poetry – no pretentious verse, just deep-felt and direct. Through her poetry, Ida sings a song of love and remembrance to her father, her mother, her husband; she takes an honest look at the world around her; she yearns for Zion; she conveys the awe of Jerusalem and the eternity of the Jewish people.
If for no other reason to acquire …Tell Your Children, and there are plenty of others, the poetry itself is worth the read. It gives a distinction to the book.
Using her dramatic life-story as its framework, the author considers three dimensions – the poetic, the practical and the educational – teaching the reader how we go forward despite it all. Throughout the story and throughout her life, Dr. Ida Akerman-Tieder works hard to overcome the obstacles before her, and she does not allow for the reader’s passivity either. The picture of her life and her suffering are clear, but she is never paralyzed from the traumas around her, and she advises us not to get caught up in our challenges either.
Her first piece of advice, written as a poem from Paris in 1983, is never to take life for granted. Like a wise old aunt who’s seen it all (and she has), Ida cautions us, “Give thanks../thanks at every moment/ you have your parents/ who say good-bye to you/ in the morning/ and who nevertheless/ wait for you in the evening…”
“Give thanks again/ that, for you, suitcases mean/ holidays,/ trains and stations,/ the chance of going on journeys,/ and when you go off with a group of children/ it is only/ to have a good time.”
“Give thanks/ that if someone is a little late/ it is not always “too late”/ and that the slightest threat/ does not mean/ that there is no longer/ any place for you at all.”
The entire poem is memorable. You’ll have to get the book to read it all.
Ida Tieder began life in Berlin in 1927. Her great-grandfather had 100 grandchildren before the war. By 1945, few had survived. Her father’s staunch dedication to Yiddishkeit, her mother’s dignity and her parents’ devotion to their children remained with Ida and her brother and sister throughout their lives. These memories, plus their Jewish education gave them inner-strength when they needed it.
Her parents were rounded up while she was visiting friends and Ida was saved by a miracle.
Ida’s life is filled with small miracles, mostly in the form of “angels” that were present to help her or guide her when she needed them most. Some were family. Some were just good people who cared.
Alone in the world (her siblings were in Moissac, a children’s home) and at the mercy of others, in order to survive, Ida plunged into her studies, empowered by her academic excellence. When she was able to enter the Moissac home as well, she was alone in her respect of the Shabbat and kashrut. Only 15, she refused to take her final examinations on Shabbat.
B”H, Ida and her siblings survived the war, but she struggled to overcome the guilt of “not having been deported, not being dead, … having survived,” and about not being able to help herself or others.
Ida visited Israel as a young woman. She wrote to her brother, “…it was a fantastic period. Everything was lacking and yet it was terrific. Apart from apples, tomatoes and cucumbers, nothing was available, and it was marvelous.” She wrote, “Everywhere they sing… Just imagine, everyone here is Jewish.”
Until today, Ida has a “horror of anything mechanized” like a railway system and she hates crowds. But she struggles to overcome her phantoms. And she became a doctor in order to help others overcome their suffering, be their advocate, and in gratitude to those angels who had helped her throughout her life.
…Tell Your Children follows Ida further, through her marriage, her motherhood, her search for the Jewish heritage of her childhood and her love of Israel.
The book is honest, introspective, counseling and filled with faith.
Ida wrote in 1984, “I’ve toured the earth/ and all the wars/ of the hatreds/ and sorrows/ of all the nations./ So let me go home/ to Zion!”
That’s where Ida, her children and grandchildren live today. Her son Menachem and family live in Efrat. Eliyahu and family were expelled from Gush Katif. Myriam and family live in Mitzpe Nevo.
Great book. It is available in French and Hebrew, and as translated by David Maisel into English. See http://www.UrimPublications.com
From Voices magazine