Return to Naples
By Robert Zweig © 2007
In the summer of 2004, while traveling to Naples, Italy with my family, I found myself standing in the middle of a courtyard that, as a boy in the 1960’s, I had once claimed as my domain. I had fantasized about this return to childhood for many years. I had imagined entering the courtyard in endless variations, and envisioned startled ghosts, shaken by my appearance. But when I discovered the big courtyard door unexpectedly open, allowing me to step straight into the rectangular courtyard, I found myself simply, uneventfully there. That summer, I was 49 years old. This trip was very different from my previous visit ten years earlier, for at a certain age your past casts a longer shadow. I must have looked confused because a woman, a little younger than me, yelled from her balcony, “Are you looking for something?”
I told her that my grandparents had lived here many years ago, that I had stayed here every summer in the 1960’s, and that I was just looking around. “They were the Calabi’s,” I said. “Reccanati was my aunt. She owned the building.”
“Yes, yes,” she said, “I remember them a little bit. Where are you from?”
“I’m American. I’m here on vacation.”
I had last seen my Aunt Lietta in 1977. She was nearly one hundred then, a diminutive figure lying in bed, her body making a small impression along the four lines of her legs and arms, now little more than bones covered by flesh.
Her home could have been the setting of a gothic novel. The walls of her dining room were lined in heavy, dark wood, intricately engraved, and large Chinese vases stood in all the corners. You might have expected cobwebs between the folds of her thick, red curtains. In closets upstairs were dust and papers, secrets from a mysterious past.
As a boy, I had walked through this house in awe and fear, alienated from its objects but also strangely exhilarated by its otherworldliness.
A rectangular, marble walkway 6 by 40 feet led to the door of my grandmother’s house. Here chairs had been assembled at 4 o’clock every afternoon to usher in the end of the siesta for everyone except me, for whom taking out the folding chairs signaled the end of afternoon listlessness. I remember looking up at the window where my grandmother sat, hip broken, in her eternal, sad-eyed pose.
I also recalled Maria, my grandmother’s housekeeper. When I was 12, I once told her that soon people would be walking on the moon. Astronauts were walking in space, I said; they’d been preparing for the big event for years. I had actually seen the astronauts blasting into space on television.
“It’s impossible,” she said. “The moon is sacred and God doesn’t wish for it to be disturbed.” Even if it were shown on television a million times she would not believe it, she told me. “The Americans are good at faking those things. God would not want it. The moon is for looking at and for kissing in its light when you are with your boyfriend or girlfriend, but it is not for walking on.”
Maria, in her late fifties, announced her arrival early every morning by her clumping flip-flops and shrill voice. She came with the groceries for the day’s meals and sat with my grandmother, going over the bills for all the food items. “The fruit is going up every day, Signora, just like everything else,” she would sigh.
My grandmother would give her the “skeptical eye,” the kind of look that could make you feel as if she had just caught you committing an indecent act. Then, after putting on her apron, Maria would get busy more or less cleaning up, dusting where there was no dust and sweeping where there was nothing to sweep. After walking around with her feather duster, she would settle down at the table to cut green beans and peel potatoes and prepare everything for the impending meal.
Maria was short, on the hefty side, and had a crooked eye, so I wasn’t ever sure if she was looking at me or at a table that needed dusting. Nor did the content of her conversation give any clue as to whether she was looking at me or not, for she held continuous conversations with herself and imaginary listeners. She lived, sometimes, with her husband who was, according to her, a short, unemployed, philandering dip-shit bum who disappeared for days at a time. Maria’s husband looked like Popeye with a hangover. Her meager salary had to support him and her would-be-movie-star daughter, who considered it cosmopolitan to leave the block she had grown up on and take a bus to a different part of the city.
Maria feared just about everything, and therefore never left the street of her birth, the same block my grandmother lived on. She was afraid of the traffic in the busy part of town, the crowds, the noise, the strange people, and the strange stores. She seemed incredulous that I would take a walk and wander into town as if it were nothing. She was also afraid of roaches, bees, spiders, flies and dust balls dancing in the air.
Maria’s favorite word was “Gesu” (jezoo). Most sentences, regardless of content, were preceded by Gesu. “Gesu, it’s hot in here. Gesu, did you see that? Gesu, what are you doing?”
For more extraordinary events, two Gesu’s: “Gesu, Gesu, they killed a man on Via Roma.” To signify shock, three Gesu’s followed by nothing, “Gesu, Gesu, Gesu.” Maria spoke Neapolitan truly, with the color, emphasis and nuance that created a special music. Now, walking in the garden, I felt her absence. Even as a child, not seeing her had left a small, unlighted space in my life.
I now walked past a plastered wall where there had once been a small room, the room where my friend, Pasquale, used to sit.
I had been a pre-teen, and he was in his 50s, about 5’6” and heavyset, when I’d seen him in the mid 1960’s in this courtyard. He was the concierge and lived in a small room above the large portico leading to the courtyard. He spent most of his days in the tiny room, now plastered over, at the entrance of the courtyard from which he could see the comings and goings of visitors
There are people for whom the tragic sense of life and the disappointments of failed dreams bear an especially heavy burden. They face life stoically, savoring the elixirs of its joys and bearing the weight of its injustices with equanimity. For such people their stories may be read in their faces, in the lines that droop from the eyes to the ridge going below the cheekbones, and especially in the fathomless eyes that tell you they have seen, if fleetingly, the whole of life. Such a person was my friend, Pasquale.
His room contained a small table, two chairs and a small black and white television. If I walked by and caught him unawares, he was usually sitting with his head in his hands, watching television or looking pensive. On some nights, he would invite me to dinner, which invariably consisted of a tomato sandwich. “Tomatoes keep the blood flowing through the head and are a cure for any type of headache.” On other nights, I would go buy fried dough balls with fish or meat in them at a penny apiece and we would sit and eat them in the courtyard.
He had lots of stories to tell, many of them about his wartime exploits…or lack of them. They were perfectly believable, as they were mostly about his cowardice. He hadn’t been sure how to use his rifle, but then, he hadn’t intended to use it anyway. A raid one day by a single-engine British prop plane sent him running for his life. “That’s when I learned I had an excellent heart,” he told me. “I was so frightened and I ran so fast that if I did not drop dead then, I was sure I would live many more years.” Pasquale did not understand why there were wars or why there was hate. His ideology did not extend beyond the beauty of nature and the enjoyment of life.
One day, he invited me to go on a trip with him. The destination would be a surprise, and I was excited. When I walked down to the courtyard from my grandmother’s house, he was waiting for me, dressed better than usual. We got on his Vespa and went down the street to a tobacconist shop, where he bought himself one cigarette and a piece of gum. He looked at the cigarette as tenderly as one might a newborn baby, and put it in his pocket along with the gum. We then rode to a park, where the bay was spread out before us in all its mid-day splendor. The sunlight danced on the gentle waves and the smell of sea salt filled the air.
“Sit down, Roberto, and look out at the water and the mountains.” I thought this was just a stop on our way to somewhere else, but no…this was where he had intended to go. The piece of gum slid out of his pocket and into my hand; then, the cigarette emerged from his pocket and he held it briefly up to the light to catch one more glimpse before lighting it. When he took the first puff, his face held a look of excited expectation, as if he were a refugee arriving in a free land. Pasquale was savoring the moment as if it were his last.
“Can anything be better than this?” he asked, leaving the answer to the gentle breeze.
Now, I left the courtyard and walked into the street leading to the hub of the city. Gone was Giuseppino, sitting in his wicker chair, straw hat in hand, examining each passerby as if observing a thief. He would always signal me to come over so he could tease me about almost anything. He asked me once why we didn’t have cheese in America. When I insisted that we did, he looked deliberately skeptical, as if to tell me, “I am letting you go because you are just a boy, but I have serious doubts about the cheese.”
Gone also was Donna Carolina, a small, stooped woman dressed in black who appeared to be 100 years old and no more than 4-1/2 feet tall. Her “shop” was an enclave carved out of the stone wall of a building. She ruled over her small domain with precision and pride, pulling from behind her anything you needed. Books, plates, toys of all sorts, pens with pictures of naked women, pots and pans, cheap cameras, bed sheets, mugs with scenes of Naples, and plastic statues of Jesus magically appeared from the dark grotto just behind her.
Now, gone were the cacophonous noises of vendors screaming out about their wares and the music of women on terraces yelling to each other across the streets. Gone, my immersion in the life of the street. Now, I walked thorough it, a sole surveyor of its ghostly memories.
When I came to the open, nearly desolate Piazza Plebiscito, with a blazing sun on my face, I thought of a story my mother had told me…that in 1938 she had seen Mussolini and Hitler in this Piazza and had not partaken of the wild enthusiasm of the crowd. A Carabiniere had seen the fear in her eyes and had nodded in approval.
Then, it might have been an omen of dark times, but for me now, it brought back a simple question: Why had I been so attached to Naples in a way that could not merely be explained by the life of my Italian family, by the youthful joys of summer, and by the vivid encounters of its people?
I thought about a trip I took to Ischia when I was six, and realized it had begun then.
Ischia is one of the islands in the bay, a little closer to the port of Naples than Capri and larger than that “sister island,” but geographically less defined. Its coastline gently slopes upward to the center of the Island, where a steep incline forms a mountain topped by the cone of an extinct volcano. Hot water springs and beaches line the coastline while pine trees and brush blanket the interior.
One day in 1961, I went there with my father. We got off the little ferry to a blazing, morning sun. A man was pulling sliced coconut out of ice water to entice buyers at a penny a piece as eager tourists thumped down the plank. A sailor called out, “Last return is at 7 P.M. If you miss it, you’re stuck here.” A few men were standing around holding up signs written out on pieces of cardboard.
A small boy ran over to us, not much older than I, and pulled on my father’s sleeve “You like good hotel? Vieni.”
My father said, “No, thank you,” as he strained his eyes in the sunlight trying to find something or someone. Suddenly, a tall, blonde woman in a long, white dress came out of a crowd and extended her hand like a rudder. “Leo, here you are,” she said.
“This is Robert,” my father replied. “Hello!”
As we walked to an open car with a high straw roof braced by four bamboo posts, I wondered, Who is this blonde woman? I didn’t know my father knew any women besides my mother and relatives. And if he did know other women, shouldn’t they be old and ugly?
I looked casually out of the car at all the people in sandals and bathing suits. After a few minutes’ drive, we got to the courtyard of a hotel. My father, the lady, the driver and I got out and stepped onto a pavement made of blue tiles with tiny yellow suns painted right in the middle. Two large potted plants stood on each side of the doorway to the hotel. To one side in the distance, through the swaying branches and leaves of a fig tree, I could see the water, perfectly blue except for a few lines of white sunlight.
“Let’s go to our room,” my father said. “Then we will eat something.”
The room was large, with gold furniture carved of wood and a ceiling higher than a museum’s. Soon it was time to eat, and in the dining room the blonde lady sat with us for a few minutes. She left, then came back and started talking to my father, who had finished his meal and was standing next to her.
I was still eating ice cream, but my father was involved in conversation with the woman, and I began to worry about what had to be done next. Should I leave a tip? There were thick curtains on the windows and waiters in white suits and gloves. This looked like the kind of place where waiters expected tips. Did I have any money on me? Yes, I had an American nickel. Could I leave a nickel in Italy? Yes, the waiter could go to a bank and change it into Italian money.
I was very confused and uncomfortable. I finished eating and pulled out the nickel and placed it by my plate. I was waiting for the blonde woman to comment about how knowledgeable I was about tipping, but she laughed instead. Had I left too much? Had I left too little? Was it wrong to leave American money?
That night, as the sun set and clouds hung in the sky over the bay, an orange blanket lay over the island and the crickets settled down to sing. The darkness crept into the pine trees and then leapt up to chase the light away. Lying in bed next to my father, I wanted to ask him, “Who is that woman?” But instead I said, “Where did you meet Mommy?”
“I met her here in Italy after the war.” I had heard of the war but didn’t know what it was. I would have to find out more about it, I thought. I was falling asleep when my father said, “Do you see how dark it is in this room? You can’t see anything. In a few minutes you will be able to see.”
“Why will I be able to see?”
“Your eyes will adjust to the dark. Just wait.”
I waited for a while until I could see the outline of a jacket hanging on a chair. Back home, I would cover my face as the reflection of car lights moving on the ceiling frightened me. Now, the jacket was scaring me. I imagined that a man was sitting in the jacket about to turn around and lunge for me at any moment.
“Can you see anything yet?”
“I can see the jacket on the chair and a little bit of the chair, too,” I whispered.
In a little while, I could see lots of things. Eyes adjust to the darkness. The sun makes light. The darkness is a magic blanket that wipes the light away. I fell asleep.
“Wake up,” my father said. “We have lots to do. How did you sleep?”
“Hey, it’s morning.”
“Yes, it’s morning,” he confirmed patiently.
“No. It’s really morning. Not like back home.”
“What do you mean?”
“Back home it’s the middle of the day already, no matter when I wake up. The trucks and cars are making noise and it doesn’t feel like morning.”
“Let’s get up. We have a long day ahead.”
We first went to a beach full of pebbles. By squirming and pushing my way into the tiny, smooth rocks I could make a comfortable bed contoured to my body. A few rocks sizzled different parts of my skin. As I pressed my ear down, I could hear a slight whisper of air moving through the rocks. What was it trying to say?
“Daddy,” I asked again, “Where did you meet Mommy and when did you meet her?”
“I met her in Naples after the war. After the war I went to look for my brother in Italy and I met Mommy. You know about the numbers on my arm. I got them in a concentration camp. After the concentration camp, that’s when I came here. Later, we moved to New York.”
I was silent for a while, thinking. Things were starting to make sense. During the war, my father hadn’t known my mother. He was at a constipation camp where they drew numbers on him, probably to be sure who belonged to the constipation camp and who didn’t. After he got tired of the camp he left it and started looking for his brother, who was swimming in Italy because the swimming was not as good in Germany. My father got tired of swimming in Italy and he then went to America, where there was less swimming but there were other things like baseball and smooth toilet paper and milk that you could drink.
Walking back along the side of the road, on one of the many steep climbs that led from the beach to the hotel, we saw a small store with fruits. “Look at these huge figs,” I called out. They were the purple-skinned ones, the “early” ones, as everyone called them, those that were not supposed to be as good. But they tasted the same to me as the more prestigious, green-skinned ones.
My father and I walked in to buy a bagful. A hunched- over woman less than three feet tall came from a back room and asked if she could be of any help. My father said, “We would like two kilos of figs and also some hazelnuts.”
“How many hazelnuts?”
“About 500 lire worth.” (80 cents).
The woman placed figs in a bag and weighed them. She then disappeared into the back room, this time returning with an enormous jar, half her size, filled with hazelnuts. She held it carefully, as if it were a sick child and placed the jar on the counter. A sign was taped on the jar, “Hazelnuts, 10 lire each.”
With a surgeon’s precision, she placed her hand inside the jar, felt around with her fingers and pulled one hazelnut out as she said, “…and that makes ten,” placing it quietly on the counter. “I am picking out the big ones for you.”
She put her hand in again, felt around once more, came out with a large one, “and that makes 20,” she said, placing the hazelnut neatly alongside the first. Her hand went in and out of the jar in slow deliberate strokes, “pianissimo;” the woman was conducting the “Hazelnut Symphony.” The hazelnuts were lined up straight and evenly spaced, like soldiers in training. Mesmerized by the slow-moving arm, the soft song of a cricket outside the store, and the numb feeling that comes after sun and swimming, I almost fell asleep.
I could see my father’s eyes following the arc of the woman’s hand and inspecting each hazelnut to make sure it was a perfect one. Then, as if to break his trance, he called out, “Enough” with the conviction of a tortured prisoner deciding to tell all he knows.
“But it is only 340 lire worth, sir.”
“Yes, thank you. That will do.”
As we left the store, I asked my father, “Did you want to get out there before the next boat leaves for Naples?”
“Yes,” he said. “There are none after 7 P.M.”
“Why were you at a constipation camp?” I asked him, surprising even myself.
“No, no, no. It was a concentration camp. I was there because I was a Jew.”
“And what did you do there?”
“It was a terrible place where many people were worked to death and killed. I lost most of my family there.”
I did not want to know any more. I wanted to cover my ears and shut out any more words and pull out the words that had already gone in. Fortunately, there weren’t any more words; the only sound was of our footsteps and the distant barking of a dog. At first, the interruption of conversation was liberating, but slowly feelings of confusion and pain filled the silence.
I concentrated on the sound of the barking dog and the laughter of two people sitting on a doorstep as we walked by. I thought of the woman putting hazelnuts on the counter, how she counted them with precision, how serious she had been about her job, how her concentration must have pushed back the world just a little bit from squeezing in around her.
My father pointed ahead to a small clearing in the thick bushes. “Look, here we are. This is the path that leads to the hotel.”
Over the years I would acquire more pieces of the story until there was a fairly consistent narrative about what had happened during the war, and how my father ended up in Naples.
He had been born in 1922 in Bautzen, a small, medieval German town. A few years later, he moved to Breslau, which after the war was in Poland. His immediate family consisted of his mother, father and four brothers. The family was wealthy, and had a maid, a nanny, a cook, and a driver. My grandfather owned a furniture factory, many stores, and real estate in several cities. Despite the rising torrent of anti-Semitism and the increasing brutality of the Nazi regime in the 1930’s, the family hoped to ride out the storm and never considered emigrating; the eldest brother, however, went to Palestine at eighteen, fortunately never to return.
After the Jewish-owned businesses were “Arianized,” and property and valuables seized, my father’s family, except for him and a younger brother, was suddenly taken away to a ghetto and then sent to Sobibor, an extermination camp. Here, my father would later learn, his parents and one brother were killed immediately upon arrival. My father continued to work while surreptitiously obtaining counterfeit French travel documents that allowed some French laborers to return to France on leave.
One day, my father decided to escape with his younger brother, Kurt, using one of the forged travel papers. He was betrayed just as he was about to board a train for France. A notorious trial for obtaining false identities followed, and my father and others were forced to testify about their clandestine activities. In order to spare his younger brother a harsh sentence, my father testified to his innocence, hoping this would shield him from harsh punishment.
Kurt was acquitted, but with tragic consequences: he was sent to Auschwitz and killed. My father, on the other hand, was convicted and sent to a normal prison in another city. One day, the jail keeper called him over. “Hey, you Jew,” he said, “What are you doing in my beautiful prison? You do not belong here.”
That day, a car brought my father back to Breslau, where he was put in a dark, crowded cellar where he shared an overflowing pail to defecate and urinate in. Since there was no room to extend his body, he had to sleep in an upright position. Once he was even hit on the head with a pipe – the dent is still there, and my father has rubbed my hand across it to feel the concave contour of his skull.
Eventually, unlike most prisoners who went to Auschwitz in trains made specifically to bring prisoners to Auschwitz, my father went in a regular train that has a special closed car just for prisoner transport. The starvation (each day he was given only some water in a tin cup and a piece of “sawdust bread”), the physical and mental torture, the constant presence of death, the total lack of hope, and the knowledge that the family was probably destroyed--how could this be endured? For those fortunate enough not to be put death immediately upon entering the camp, it took only one insignificant gesture, a look in one direction rather than in the other, one word rather than another, that meant the difference between life and death.
Upon entering the camp, my father found a friend, a Gentile, who had worked with him on obtaining the forged papers. He was also a prisoner but was responsible for other inmates, as well. He secured a job for my father in the laundry service that meant refuge from the cold, and therefore better chances for survival.
Besides the life-and-death tightrope to be walked, three quotes from his fellow prisoners stood out in my father’s recitation of events. One was advice given to him early on in the camp. “Do not look right or left; look straight ahead.” To be robotized was often preferable to being singled out for an imaginary offense.
Another was a prisoner’s paraphrasing of Dante’s words at the gates of hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter.” Like Dante, the victims in the camp were in hell, but without a guide and with no hope of reemerging to live beneath the stars in freedom.
The third was the vestige of humor that managed to survive in the Frenchman who announced the menu for each evening’s meal, before the sawdust arrived. “As an appetizer, you may choose beluga caviar or escargots or a selection of fresh fruits. As a main dish, beef bourguignon with carrots Lorraine or pheasant under glass in a mild orange sauce..."
As the Allies eventually approached, the camp had to be abandoned of Jews; thus began the long and infamous “ Death March” out of the camp. Prisoners were forced to walk barely clothed in treacherous snow in the middle of winter. Those who could not walk were shot on the spot; others simply took their last breath and fell in the snow. After days of marching, the column of the half-dead arrived at a camp from which they were transferred to other concentration camps.
My father was sent to Dachau, but after several months Dachau also had to be abandoned because of the approaching allied forces. The inmates were put on a train to be taken away, and my father was shoved into a crowded open car. Somewhere along the way he leaned off the side as if he were about to defecate. The train turned around a bend and my father suddenly saw his opportunity. He jumped backward into the snow and lay there until the train had disappeared. When he got up, he saw that he was in a field. Miraculously, he found a hunter’s cabin, where he hid for several days. During the night he would leave the cabin and dig small potatoes out of the ground.
One day, he heard the rumble of armor moving on a nearby road. Suffering from typhus and delirium, weighing 90 pounds, despite being 5’10”, he knew this was his last chance--he would either live or die right there. Staggering towards a column of soldiers, he saw that they were American.
“I am greeting my liberators,” he said in English. They stopped, staring at him in disbelief. “Why are you in this condition? Who are you?”
“I am a Jew and have been in a camp.” Upon hearing those words, a chaplain pulled out a prayer book and asked him to read it. My father read a few lines of a Hebrew prayer and was then brought to a house nearby. The occupants, several women, were asked to take care of him. He remained there for a week, after which he was sent to a displaced person’s camp for several weeks.
When soldiers of a Jewish Brigade came by the camp inquiring about survivors, my father told them that he wanted to locate his brother, who was with the British Army. They told him that he was somewhere in Italy, but could give no more specific details. My father insisted on trying to get to Italy despite the advice of the brigade, who felt him to be too frail to make the required journey. They finally agreed to get him across the border to Italy, but he must lie low in the truck. If they were ever stopped, he was to feign sleep and remain silent.
He succeeded in crossing the border and went to Jewish Brigade Headquarters in northern Italy. There were many questions for him, as no one had seen any survivors until then. “Were Jews really being slaughtered, as was rumored?” he was asked. Despite knowing about some of the horrors that were going on, the Brigade members seemed stunned to hear about them in such detail. The Brigade then gave him a list of places in Italy where British soldiers from Palestine were stationed.
He was given a pass as an employee of the British Army and was allowed to ride on British army vehicles. That meant that, if they were to pass by, he could flag them down and hitch a ride to the possible locations where his brother, Sigi, might be. Thus began a long trip through Italy. Searching in various cities unsuccessfully, in a few weeks he made his way from the north of Italy to the south
Upon arriving in Naples, he went to the British soldiers’ club, hoping to find some food. As he was sitting and eating, an officer approached and said. “Excuse me, but there is a soldier in my company who looks exactly like you.”
“That’s who I’m looking for,” my father excitedly replied. “Where is he?”
“Come back tomorrow and your brother will be here,” the officer said. “Tonight you can sleep at the Palestinian garrison here in Naples.”
The next morning the two brothers were reunited and joyously embraced one another. They hadn’t seen each other in six years. My uncle inquired about the family. My father wasn’t sure but said that he feared the worst.
My father returned with his brother to the beach where he was stationed and shared a tent with another soldier. After roll call one day, my father was informed that the company would be moving on and that he could not go with them. He would be lodged in Amalfi, a city on the coast from Naples, where two women who were paid for supplying food and shelter would care for him. There he stayed for three unhappy weeks. It was stifling hot and uncomfortable, and the horror of recent events was overwhelming.
When Sigi came to visit, my father told him that he wanted to find some work. They went to Naples to an employment agency, where my father was told to go to the British Officer’s club, located in the San Carlo Opera House. Here, he could work and sleep.
My father lived in Naples for 18 months until July 1946, when he got married and emigrated to America.
The boat ride back to Naples with my father that day in 1961 was not smooth. Clouds had settled over the bay. They were puffy white on the contours, but dark gray in the middle. I placed my chin on my hands that leaned over the wooden plank so that my face caught the wind, and I could look down at the white foam hitting the side of the boat and the waves slapping each other.
I had found out, without drama, the identity of the blonde woman; she was a friend of my father’s, the proprietor of the hotel where we were staying. I had also learned more of the war; however, it was something I wanted no part of, at least not then. At that time there were many things I didn’t know, and so many things I didn’t want to know.
On this 2004 visit, I visited many other parts of the city with my wife and children; unlike them, I was more than a tourist of unfamiliar sights. I was mining a dark, unknown terrain that had become an important part of who I was. When it was time to leave for the airport for our trip back home, my daughter was crying; not wanting to make it worse for her, I betrayed no outer emotion, as if to reinforce that I was leaving a place of little importance.
On the way home, I thought of Pasquale, Maria, my family, Ischia and its beauties and secrets and the past, fathomless and now, but for those tiny pieces of it still attached to me, dissolved into nothingness. Over many years, like eyes that eventually adjust to see objects in the dark, the pieces of history I learned enveloped Naples like a clear light that settled into the corners of its winding streets. Like building blocks mounted slowly and carefully to build a steady house, stories of family and Holocaust would become a bricked, impenetrable edifice within me.
All rights to the story belong to the author. Contact the author at RobertMZweig@yahoo.com
from the August 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine