We both had reasonably normal and uninteresting and safe childhoods, ten years and many miles apart. We also had [maternal] grandfathers with a liking for holes. But where my Morfar asked me to save him the holes in the Emmental cheese, Michael Rosen’s Zeyde wanted the holes from their bagels.
The other difference is that Michael’s father had two uncles who ‘were there before the war, but weren’t after.’ The war was WWII, and when Michael had grown old enough to realise this was not a normal thing to say about your family, he began decades of research to discover what happened to Oscar and Martin Rosen.
It’s rather amazing that in the end it was possible to discover enough of what probably happened. It was slow, but then Michael was looking into things in a different country, in the past, during a war. I feel he could easily have found absolutely nothing.
His search is both inspiring and frightening. It’s wonderful that he could find, but what he found is horrific and tragic.
I’m just grateful that he went to the trouble and that he then wrote this little book, The Missing, about his great-uncles, and filled it with so much feeling and so many of his beautiful poems.
And then we learn how he has gone into schools to talk about this and some children ‘know for a fact’ that none of this actually happened.
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s time to remember the Oscars and Martins of the past. While we hope there will be no more in the future, we know there will be.