Friday, July 16, 2010

Light & Shadows: Excerpt V

Chapter 5: The Fleischmann family settles in Baltimore and buys a small farm with the help of their American relatives. As they work to rebuild their lives, they are consumed with fears about their relatives left behind in Germany.

The farmhouse in Harrisonville.

When we arrived in Baltimore, my father looked around for something to do and decided he wanted to return to the land and become a chicken farmer. He was forty-six years old.

We moved to our new farm on April 1, 1941. It was located northwest of the city, off of Liberty Road, beyond Deer Park Road. There was a wood frame house, and we also had a stable and a large group of chicken houses, which were what had attracted Vati to the farm. Soon, we acquired a horse, a cow named Mookie, and about 3,000 chickens. My father used the horse to plow, and we raised corn and tomatoes, cabbage and lettuce, and all sorts of other vegetables. Most of our property consisted of arable land and meadows, which provided enough feed for the horse and the cow during the summer.

The spring and summer of 1941 were difficult. Vati’s brother Max and his wife Lucy, together with their children Rudy and Inge, had arrived safely in Baltimore shortly after we had the year before, but the rest of the family remained in Germany. So while Vati labored to get the farm going, he also expended enormous amounts of time and energy arranging for his sister, Fanny, and brother-in-law, Bernhard, and his parents to come to the United States. It was clear that his heart was in two places. Martin worked equally frantically, and I still have reams of correspondence between him and my father and various refugee organizations and the U.S. State Department, which shows just how close we were to saving our relatives. In fact, they had reservations on the SS Excalibur, scheduled to sail for New York on November 7 (my birthday). But soon after we received the happy confirmation of their arrival date their luck seemed to turn, and the mail brought one piece of bad news after another.

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