Benjamin Mermelstein had married Dora Mirowski. The Mirowski’s left their village of Bedzin in Poland near about 1880. There were at least a handful of Mirowskis who stayed behind. In 1939, many of them were photographed, their names inventoried and registered. By 1942 they had all been burned to ash.
I look at Danny Feikin’s ancestors staring out from these pictures taken in the waning autumn of 1939. Their eyes register the uncertainty that can be party to any time, and not yet the dread and horror that would soon be theirs alone.
But the faces of these lost members of the Mirowski family also suggest something else. To the name every one of them, if they had the heart to imagine, would have been very proud of Danny.
First and foremost, of course, because he became a doctor. Danny always wanted to be an evolutionary biologist, but for the record they probably wouldn’t have given a wit about that. They may not even have known what evolution was. But a doctor? Why, I’m sure you would expect nothing less of a Mirowski.
But secondly, and ultimately of greater importance, Danny gave them a son. And he has given them a daughter. And looking into those eyes now shuttered, you sense that in the last moment, that was probably the only thing that they may have wanted.