When I walk among the graves of the Jewish graveyard in Lisbon, I recognize the names on the stones, as in a village cemetery. Some are of my grandparents' closest friends, those who were part of the canasta group, others of people who attended, as we did, the synagogue on holy days or the community center on Saturday afternoons. Other names are older than these. Grandparents, uncles or parents, who also managed to escape. Of the 50 to 200 thousand people who passed through Lisbon, only around fifty remained.
Now we have three graves in the cemetery here. Like so many others, they are part of the history of this war.
My grandparents Ursel and Herbert August left Hamburg and arrived at Lisbon's port on April 8th, 1936, never to leave again. According to my grandfather' s letters, the sea had been quiet and the trip boring, excited, as he must have been to start his second existence. My grandmother felt sick, probably not seasick as my grandfather thought at the time, but due to her condition: she would give birth to my mother, a few months later, in October, in this safe haven.
In Germany we decided to leave as quickly as possible. To the oblivion of those outside, the situation had deteriorated enormously, not only for us Jews, but also for everyone.
Portugal was the only open country in Europe that came in question, and there was danger that it would close its borders as well.
So we married on 16.03, though only at the registry office, as everything else would have cost a lot of money, which we needed for other things.
On 31.03 we left Magdeburg, our relatives and friends coming to see us off.
Everything went well, and we left on the Monte Olivia on 3.4.36. We could have taken thousands with us.
The voyage was tedious. The weather was cool and the sea calm, but my wife got seasick all the same and did not enjoy the journey.
We arrived here on 8 April, just before Easter. The weather was beautiful and the palm trees shined towards us.
UNDER STRANGE SKIES
Thousands of refugees came through Lisbon, and just a few remained. For one reason or another, the transit harbor became the final destination.
Here they died and here they lived their lives. These would have been totally different, had they, like so many others, continued their journey to the Americas, north or south, as was originally planned, to escape a Europe in flames.
Few stayed and there is almost no trace of those who went on.
In the Portuguese Museums there are no works by Marc Chagall and Lisbon is just a short passage or note in the memoirs of the writers Heinrich Mann, Hans Sahl and Hertha Pauli.
In "A Night in Lisbon", the famous novel by Remarque, who only wrote it in 1962 and wasn't here, the city is not much more than a title and a backdrop for another story. One can more easily recognize it in Arthur Koestler's imaginary Neutralia, with its palm tree avenues and cafés full of emigrants, as described in "Arrival and Departure", published during the war, but in which Lisbon is never actually mentioned:
The roads had become avenues, with rows of even statelier palms on both sides and white, cubic blocks of buildings, which reflected the glaring hard light. The shops were of a provincial luxury and seemed mostly to concentrate on men's silk shirts and panama hats. Queer looking trolley-trams, hooting like motorcars, jingled over rails warped by the heat. He reached a large, open square with a fountain in the middle. It was surrounded by cafés, and the pavement in front of them was packed with tables and cane chairs, protected from the sun by bright canvas awnings. Most of the tables were occupied by men, the swarthy natives of Neutralia, with butterfly-ties and padded shoulders, sipping black coffee from tiny cups; they smoked cigarettes which they lit and relit with firework-producing wax matches, or basked in a quiet stupor like solemn lizards on a rock. Some of the tables were occupied by mixed groups of men and women, but those were obvious foreigners, exiles in transit from countries overrun by the war. They talked in low voices with little nervous ticks in their faces, putting their heads together over the table like crows in a thunderstorm.
In Madgdeburg, my grandmother's hometown, my grandparents had decided to leave. It had been three years since Hitler's election to power, which had been mentioned only briefly in the diary of my grandfather, who at the time was only twenty years old. Even though the situation had become worse I do not know exactly what made him decide to depart long before all the others who followed. It could have been the accusation of not doing the Nazi salute at a place he had never been. It could have been the new racist laws. Fact is that in September 1935, my grandfather had already written letters to Spain asking for information on immigration.
I grew up on the 5th floor of the same building where my grandparents lived, two floors below. The apartments were identical and I would go back and forth many times during the day. Meals and evenings were spent downstairs, mostly because my grandfather had bought a TV set. I can't remember my grandparents buying any piece of furniture; everything seemed to have been there from the beginning. It was left like that many years after my Grandmothers death, as it still is in the summerhouse outside of Lisbon. Only a few of the objects brought from Germany survived all the changes of homes and social classes. One or two hatboxes still bearing old hotel labels and trunks that had been part of the back of a car and carried my family possessions on the boat to Lisbon.
The old tablecloths from my great-grandparents house in Magdeburg and many small objects disappeared when the house was robbed a number of times during the years after the revolution in Portugal in 1974.
My grandfather found in my grandmother someone he could escape with. On the day of their departure, their friends offered them an edition of "The Jewish Saga" with the signatures of those who remained. Despite their determination to keep in touch, I don't think they ever saw any of those twelve names again.
So, soon we will all be out and only God knows where we will land. One follows the other. In Germany the situation is worsening all the time. The irony of it all is that, for the Jews in Germany, there is really only one salvation: war.
Weeks after their arrival in Lisbon, my grandparents managed to find a first source of income. My grandmother started working at home as a dressmaker, but things were not as easy for my grandfather. Without the knowledge of the Portuguese language the first few months must have been a struggle, while he tried to figure out different ways to earn money, such as a rental room service and a plan to sell home made ice cream during the summer.
In spite of the Portuguese laws forbidding foreigners access to jobs, I have some letters of recommendation from firms where my grandfather must have worked temporarily. I know he was a door-to-door salesman, but I don't know what he sold or for how long.
Until 1940, the number of refugees in Lisbon was in the hundreds. With the fall of Paris and the humanitarian action of the consul Sousa Mendes, the numbers rose abruptly. In spite of all restrictions, there were estimates of 30 000 to 50 000 or even 200 000 refugees passing through the Portuguese capital. The waiting time for a ship passage to New York was now one year. Many of those who were persecuted found their way to safety through Lisbon. But, as in other countries, much more could have been done and many more could have been saved through flexible immigration policies.
To arrive legally a refugee needed a departure visa from France, a Spanish transit visa, a confirmed passage by ship from Lisbon to another country, a visa into another country overseas as well as transit visas for any connection ports, funds abroad to pay for the journey, and finally, the Portuguese visa. Many were arriving without any papers at all.
The boarding house filled up. More and more friends were arriving in Lisbon. They crossed the Pyrenees on foot, Carmen third act, said the operetta composer. Often the venture was not successful, and they tried again a second or third time, or they never tried again. At any rate, the boarding house was full, and Mr. Carvalho, the owner, paced up and down the corridor between the kitchen and his little office with his hands clasped behind his back. He was probably making sums in his head. He looked at the foreigners and he knew that amongst the many languages, German and Polish was the most common, that he had never thought he would ever open up the top floor again and that the course of world history was surprising.
The dining room had never been so full. The foreigners got worked up when they had to wait for their meals. But Mr. Carvalho just shrugged it off. Things had always gone well with two waiters, why should they not go well with two waiters now? Nor was Mr. Carvalho having any changes in the menu. He himself liked the onion sauce and olive oil, and the fish and roast meat were prepared just as his mother in Coimbra and even his grandmother in Pombal had always prepared them. The foreigners were to take it or leave it, for no one had asked them to come here.
Lisbon got used to the foreigners spending their days in street cafés, that were not considered suitable for ladies by the natives. The women among the fugitives smoked, used lipstick and modern hairstyles, that attracted the attention of the men and were copied by the women. They seemed to lead useless lifes, generating amongst the Portuguese some hostility or even envy. They could not understand how miserable the refugees felt, tired out by such imposed inertia, always worried about the ones left behind.
A memory of a memory from a memory:
I remember my mother telling me the story of her mother telling her one of her wartime memories. Both were walking along downtown together and, as they passed in front of a shop window, filled with candy, my mother stretched her arm against the glass, trying to grab those unreachable sweets. My grandmother cried for not having enough money to buy them.
The authorities did not help the refugees, who depended entirely on the funds from the American relief organizations, the HICEM and the Jewish Joint, distributed by the committee for the refugees of the Lisbon Jewish Community. The money came from the United States and was spent in Portugal for rented rooms, the police, food, clothes, medicines and, of course, the tickets for the Portuguese vessels.
The Jewish organizations usually chartered entire Portuguese ships, thus guaranteeing not only an adequate allotment, but also a constant source of income to the Portuguese National Shipping Company.
The country and its citizens were making good money, serving as a waiting room for all these people.
In Lisbon's harbour lay ships that no longer or only seldom sailed. In the cafés sat refugees from all possible countries, which were waiting for visas and in many languages sought to find someone willing to listen to them. There, too, were the black market traders offering tickets for small Portuguese steamboats that took two weeks to get to America.
We believed to be in safety... We had food; we could get a haircut, even have a manicure. In smoky sailor's bars at the harbour we embraced friends who had also managed to flee. We drank to America and arranged to go to see the new Chaplin Film "The Great Dictator", which had just premiered in New York, as soon as we arrived. The safety was deceiving, however. As long as we didn't have an American visa, we were in Europe, and Hitler had occupied almost all of Europe. Why should he spare Portugal? We had to hurry. We had to ensure a passage before it was too late. We had to go to HICEM. The Jews in America took care of us. HICEM paid the passage; HICEM paid the hotel and the hairdresser; HICEM paid the cakes we devoured, the fruit, the chocolate, all we could eat until we were sick. HICEM paid the doctor and the pharmacist, the pills for the anxiety and the sleeplessness. When, more than three weeks late, the American visa arrived, it also paid for the ticket that I had purchased in the Café (Chave) d'Oro only a few hours before the little Portuguese steamboat was set to sail.
Once, in Lisbon's main square Rossio, I recall my grandfather pointing out the building of the Café Chave de Ouro, which at this time had already been replaced by a bank. This used to be the place chosen by the exiles to meet and discuss the situation, exchange information, buy boat passages and, most of all, wait. As my grandfather was told right the first time he was there, most of the waiters worked for the state police. The refugees, although usually speaking in German, nevertheless found it wise to replace the words Portugal and Portuguese with Greece and Greeks, which would attract less attention when their conversations were overheard.
Further left on this square, just in front of the Hotel Metropole, occurred one of the most frightening episodes for the refugees in Lisbon during the war. In October 1941, the editor and journalist Berthold Jacob, the author of several anti-Hitler articles was forced by three men to enter a car and taken to Spain, from where he was flown to Berlin and tortured to death. Such a kidnapping in broad daylight on a main square could only be possible with the support of Nazi sympathizers within the Portuguese police and, most likely, with the consent of the dictator, who at the time kept a framed portrait of Mussolini on his desk.
The case was exposed by the English press and followed with anxiety by all refugees in Lisbon. Still, when, right after the end of war, Jacobs' brother inquired at the Portuguese Foreign Ministry about the disappearance, the police reported total ignorance of the matter and alleged that Jacobs had never even been in the country.
The authorities were frightened by the possibility of a refugees' "invasion", so to speak.
The refugees represented different kinds of threats, socially and politically. Besides being Jewish, they were possibly also communists, anarchists or intellectuals. The allegation that they were taking gains from the natives and therefore forbidding them to sell articles on main streets and forcing new arrivals to stay out of the capital were obvious consequences of such fears.
Lisbon was beautiful, as long as one stayed on the Avenida and did not wander off to the right or left into the dark streets, where, in front of their miserable housing, men and women cooked their frugal meals on open fires &endash; slums, the likes of which I was later only to see in Harlem, New York. When one had made the daily &endash; and for weeks on end fruitless &endash; return morning trip to the post office building that stood in proud magnificence at the end of the Avenida, one would go into a coffee house, where for hours on end over a cup of coffee one could amuse oneself by watching the secret service agents of the warring nations give each other knowing winks. At the time, Portugal was home to probably the most Nazi German, British and American spies or "officious" agents on some mission or other. Contrary to Paris, Prague or Stockholm, there was no connection between the emigrants. Sometimes one met by chance, but otherwise one was on one's own.
My grandmother's brother, Hans Leinung, arrived here in 1938 and was the Jewish committee delegate in Ericeira, one of the places where refugees were forced to stay under police control.
His house was not only office, but also school and synagogue. I found a small album of pictures from activities organized for the refugees, who were not allowed to work. There were about 145 foreigners there and my mother used to spend the school holidays amongst them, between beach, main square, the café Salvador and the police station, where she was sent by her uncle to get the visas of his protégés renewed. Visas granted were for transit purposes only, valid for a period of 15 to 30 days and, in theory, not renewable. This way, refugees were at the mercy of the local authorities. Maybe he thought a child could, in certain cases, achieve things more easily.
I remember there was a toy made out of cloth, a pig, a survivor of MUNA, the toy workshop my grandfather started in the cellar of the house they had moved to, just outside of Lisbon. Imported goods were scarce and the workshop produced mostly cloth toys that contrasted with the metal and wood ones produced by the Portuguese factories. All models were photographed in a small-improvised studio and were named and included in hand-made catalogues for shops in downtown Lisbon.
MUNA was my mother's nickname. She made it up from her own name, Manuela -- the first Portuguese name in the family. The business went on for several war years and it prospered until it employed, as shown in a photograph I found, some seamstresses who wore uniforms with the company logo designed by my grandfather.
My grandmother had also been working as a "Fraulein" for several wealthy Portuguese families, taking care of children and teaching them German.
Around the same time, she became one of the firsts to work in the new Lisbon Zoo kindergarten, located in the miniature houses that still exist.
One of my great-uncles main responsibilities was the welcoming of new arrivals in the Rossio Station in Lisbon, where the newcomers were no longer allowed to stay. Some of the trains had been locked up since Berlin or kept at the border for several days, so the members of the committee would greet the distressed in-comers and assign them to their different destinations outside of town.
On one of these missions, Hans saw a beautiful girl, Ursula. She had arrived illegally by boat from Spain, after crossing the Pyrenees on foot. He brought her to my grandparent's house for the night and later to Ericeira.
A photograph I found, in an archive in New York, shows them in the harbor, witnessing the only ship departure from Lisbon to Palestine. Hundreds of refugees were aboard and some had been staying in Ericeira in their Portuguese sojourn. There had been a big farewell party for them the day before, as it always happened, when someone managed to leave the fishing village for good. Friends said good-bye forever, but a departure meant also renewed hope for the ones who remained.
Lisbon, the only free and neutral harbour in Europe, has become the meeting place and waiting room for all those who have flown from Hitler. What has drawn the people to these streets is neither a world exposition nor a festival. It is the banished, the homeless, who have gathered here. Their numbers may fluctuate, but they are always in the thousands: the refugees arrive here without belongings, without money, often without identification papers &endash; and what can they do here? Only one thing: stay as long as they are allowed to. Just wait &endash; for what? For the ship that will save them, that will take them away, anywhere, just away, further away from the enemy who was at their heels no matter where they went. He had hunted them across the whole of Europe and now they waited for the ship that would save them.
Ursula married Hans, in the Lisbon Synagogue, in the presence of my grandparents. After the war they moved to Canada, where, fifty years later, I could still see a shiny tear in her eyes, when mentioning the ones she never saw again.
Amongst the ones who stayed, friendships were made for this second life and, actually, forever after. They are all now close to each other in that cemetery.
My grandmothers canasta group was composed of refugee ladies. The group gathered on Tuesdays and my grandmother would shut herself up in the kitchen preparing her famous apple pie, which tasted better than any other I have eaten since. I would sit around waiting for the moment my grandmother would call me into the kitchen to scrape the chocolate leftovers with the "salazar", named after the Portuguese dictator, a name commonly given to the scraper, whose double meaning I only truly understood much later.
From three o'clock onwards the living room would become full with smoke and ladies, who gathered around the green gambling table, green as my grandmother's cigarette packs.
German was spoken, between the smoke and the card dealings. A certain distance from Portugal and the Portuguese was maintained, not out of superiority, but for the need of an identity, I suppose. That canasta table was a country, whose inhabitants got together Tuesday afternoon. Of these ladies a few had married Portuguese men and here they found a part of themselves again, a Jewish-German heritage, mixed with the Portuguese daily life. It surely would have been impossible to find this combination anywhere else in the world. Some of what the Nazis had denied to them could be found again in that room.
My grandmother was the first one of the group to die and, I guess, the canasta meetings went on without her for some years, until one day there was no one left at the table.
The poste restante corner in Lisbon, Portugal, in the extreme corner of Europe, became the tragic meeting place for many in this unfortunate year of 1940, which had laid bare the frivolity and thoughtlessness of peaceful life in Europe. Peoples were thrown into servitude and families were broken up. Europe was repenting for its sins and failures. And we refugees, belonging to this Europe, we stood here in Lisbon and waited for the life belt that was to be thrown to us from across the ocean.
The Portuguese Government had been avoiding the refugee issue for years, by refusing to participate actively at the Evian conferences and rejecting any discussion of the possible colonization of the African colonies by Jewish settlers.
The regime was preparing to celebrate itself at the Fair of the Portuguese World and nothing, not even the war or the refugees, would spoil the party.
The police had all visa requests under control and made good use of the "J" for Jews, stamped on German passports, as a way of easily distinguishing the Jews from the Aryans.
The files in the archives are filled with rejected requests and I can't help wondering, whatever happened to these sisters, this professor, this girl, the couple, whose photographs are kept here after all these years, in a country they were not allowed to enter.
A remarkable colonial exhibition had been set up on the seafront at the time; the little train to the city passed by it, and made an extra stop here &endash; I did not get off for it. That is what the farewell does: it affects one, leaves one worried. What would otherwise have oppressed one is overlooked. The caravel of the discoverer Vasco da Gama lay as tall as a house on the water. Though only an imitation, the fantastic contours nevertheless glistened with all their gilding. As far as I was concerned, the famous traveler himself could have been standing on it waving with his hat: my impending journey belittled his. Had he not, after all, returned?
When we came home from the hospital, the day my grandmother died, I felt deeply impressed by my grandfather's apparent calm. His concern in finding a legal parking spot for the big white car on our street, as if that was really important at that moment, still nerves me today. I do not know if it was his typical strictness and respect towards law and authority or just a mere attempt to go on living as nothing had happened. If so, it was in vain, because what had been, ceased to be on that day.
I never found out when or how my grandfather met my grandmother. Maybe through common friends or in a Jewish youth circle, in a café or at the movies. One could say, a commonplace story in a not so common time. My grandmother must have felt attracted by my grandfather's plans of leaving Germany, a turn of events that possibly had crossed her mind as well. She dedicated her life to him and nowadays her grave stands right next to his, not far from her parents, Elsa and Julius Leinung, who followed them to Lisbon in 1939, earning their lives renting rooms in their rented house.
My great-grandfather Leinung passed away on the last day of 1942 and she followed on the first day of 1945, just before rare snow covered the city outside. It was a unique moment in a usually warm Lisbon and it must have brought memories to the refugees, along with the marches of the national youth formation. Maybe they weren't far enough from home.
The refugees were under extreme psychological pressure. They had already suffered and lost almost everything. The fear of being arrested and deported was part of their everyday life. There were cases of insanity and suicides among the fugitives, during this waiting period.
In Lisbon I immediately wished to seek out the young friend, whose messages had given us the courage to make the journey. I no longer found him. He was dead. After his joyous arrival he had taken his own life in an attack of persecution mania. We came too late to thank him.
I got onto the ship feverish with excitement. At midnight we watched the last lights of Europe sink blood red into the sea.
The ship was bringing us to the New World &endash; to the old ideal of freedom.
Having been amongst the first refugees to arrive in Portugal, long before the exodus caused by the German invasion of France, they must have had the chance to move on as so many others did. However, when the visas became available to them, my grandfather kept on stalling and delaying the process, until one day he must have finally and definitely decided to stay.
I don't think we can pinpoint one specific reason for his decision to stay, probably also caused by his usual stubbornness. Abandoning Portugal, meant also giving up years of efforts, to leave Europe and start all over again in a new country and continent.
Let's hope the war is over quickly. We, who were the first in the family to leave Hitler's country on our own initiative, will be amongst the few who will remain in Europe safe and sound (at least up to now).
Did he ever regret his resolution? I have no idea. But I know I am a direct result of this decision.
My brother and I used to play with a British flag, we found somewhere in the Birre house. Flying atop an Indian-cane, witnessing our imaginary battles, unless it was resting somewhere in the garden in peacetime. It was there it burned, together with cane and all, during a fire in the seventies that threatened the house.
This flag was the only one remaining of the ones my grandfather had flown in their old house on the day of the end of war in Europe.
The time has come at last. For days and weeks on end we have been sitting in front of the radio so as not to miss the joyous news. The people are happy here and Lisbon is decorated in festive flags. People started manifesting their joy in front of the house yesterday, for we were the first to get out the flags. We could hear good wishes and shouts such as "Vivam os Judeus". Today I took pictures of our house with the flags.
I was never able to find these photographs, taken by my grandfather on that day of great expectations, celebrated in Lisbon with flags and sticks, representing the forbidden communist flag. Hope was in the air the regime in Portugal would fall as well.
Days earlier, the Portuguese dictator Salazar sent a rare telegram to Germany, condoling Hitler's death and declaring two official days of mourning in Portugal. By then, he had surely read the extensive report on the camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, sent to Lisbon in August 1944 by the Portuguese Consul in Bucharest. The document described the organization of the extermination camps and included detailed victim numbers and the exact location of the buildings.
Just imagine! There is a dictator there, who is so good &endash; a good-natured, old university professor &endash; that all the people praise him. What could one call this system &endash; a democratic dictatorship? A dictatorship with butter and no cannons? For they have butter there, and in the most humble boarding houses menus that never end, light and cheerful noise the whole night long!
At the end of the war in 1945, less than a thousand refugees remained in the country. The Portuguese policy of not being a country of exile but a corridor to other destinations, an uncomfortable waiting room, proved to be a success.
Just after VE Day a law was passed here, according to which Germans had to apply for authorization to continue their businesses. Of course, the law was meant for the Krauts only, but we German Jews were also affected... One can only ask oneself if we are now living in peace or if the war is still on. Meanwhile the Police here are going to great lengths to "honor" all Jews with the German nationality when they renew their residence papers. Apparently it's over with the race laws. This is really the limit! Some people have no notion of honor and the dignity of others.
My grandfather was unable to compete with the foreign toy imports and he started to look for other ways to earn money, such as trading second hand clothes from the US army to the colonies, importing textiles and finally iron coils. At its height, the company would employ a delivery boy and Miss Angela, the secretary, who, I remember clearly, gave me a cricket in a cage, around 1974, the year of the Portuguese revolution. The fall of the Portuguese dictatorship, brought about a decline of business and a rise of mistrust in my grandfather, forcing him to work alone for the rest of his life.
In the fifties life was getting better for my grandparents; they could now afford to move from the house near the city to my childhood apartment in Lisbon. They had also bought their first car and during the summer months started travelling, with other refugee friends, around the country, still unknown to them.
On our holiday trip I took lots of photographs, which I will soon develop and enlarge. I have set up my own darkroom again and all pictures are enlargements I made myself. Now that I have a self-shutter, I also appear from time to time as well. You know that this was my old hobby and I am happy to be able to take it up again after all these years.
The coffeeshops were now deserted of foreigners and those who had stayed formed new groups of friends, more or less integrated in the daily life. The ones who were still here, had mostly arrived before the war. By then, of the thousands who had passed through this port, only around fifty were still in Lisbon.
During my childhood, I learned about them through stories I heard at home. Sometimes I couldn't match the names to the faces, but I knew of their businesses, of their ups and downs, of their lives.
The decision to stay here, in the case of my family, had probably been made much earlier, although I see it now metaphorically associated with the construction of the house in Birre.
A new house, a new home, a new history, a new beginning. And that was maybe the reason my grandfather dedicated himself so much to it. For someone who, because of his religion, had been thrown out of the homeland of his ancestors, this bit of land, in his name, could only be felt as a New World. "My homeland is where my legs are standing", he said later. And it seems that it was on that piece of land that he stood firmer.
When my grandparents found the property, an hour drive from Lisbon, there was absolutely nothing there. They would spend days with the construction workers, serving meals and proudly witnessing the building of their house. In the summer of 55, there was a house warming party, a buffet served on the terrace for the guests, who, except for a few neighbors, were also former refugees. I firmly believe that for the first time in so many years, my grandparents must have felt at home on that particular day.
They were no longer seen as refugees, but they were now included in the better accepted category of immigrants. My grandparents learned the language relatively well, although my grandmother still mixed up some of the articles and never got rid of the accent. For some reason, they never had Portuguese friends, but they did have a Portuguese daughter, and, later, two Portuguese grandchildren, even though my father was also a son of refugees. He didn't stay in the family for very long, anyhow. They lived in the quietness of a stagnant country. My grandmother was never able to see her home again, now on the other side of the wall, but, in the sixties, she did see her brother Hans. And, a few years later, my grandfather saw his sister again, thirty years after separating from her back in Germany in 1936.
When my grandfather woke up in the Hospital, he asked me if he was in Germany and in the following years of his illness, he made that same mistake a few times. Maybe, in his head, he had never actually left . And that is, I think, the condition of exile, the feeling of always being far away from home, from the mother tongue, from the books and food of our childhood and the culture of our parents.
There were times I questioned his whole existence, asked myself questions, that could not be answered, what would have happened if he had not been a Jew, could he have lived in a Nazi Germany, would he have left? Unfair questions, I know, but no less disturbing.
Now, I am on this side of the screen, looking at all those photographs and old 8 mm reels and I can see all, who have left, one by one, taking a part of me forever. Strangely enough, in some ways, I became exiled as well. Where is my home? I don't really know. Probably in that house outside of Lisbon, under the trees my grandfather loved so much.