Dora’s Legacy

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“All those years when he taught the four of us, when he came here, to our house for dinner, when he went to church, when he let me clean his kitchen and bathroom, and do his wash, he was not what he seemed to be,” lamented Eileen to me that evening as we sat on the terrace of our childhood home. “I don’t know whether to feel betrayed by his dishonesty to me, awestruck by his audacity, or humbled by whatever demons he felt were still breathing down his neck decades after the end of the Holocaust.” She took a sip of her gin and tonic. “I know I should be charitable, and I probably will be—later. It is just such a shock. You think you know a good friend, and then you find you didn’t…

“The only thing he disguised was his identity as a Jew,” I replied, in the silence that then fell between us. “And he had good reason to do that. More than six million of his co-religionists were not so lucky.”

“That is true, but we are not anti-Semitic. Dad fought against the same evil, and thousands of fighting men lost their lives doing so. Why could he not have confided in me? Why did he distrust me? I was his friend, not merely his pupil.

“Now you know what Mother would say: ‘It’s not all about you, Ellie!’ We both chuckled. “Besides, you do not know that he did not convert to Christianity. If he did, then your anger would be very wrong. Even if he did not, it would still be misplaced. Charity in all things…”

“True. I suppose he might have. It is a very private matter—what you believe, isn’t it?”

“I didn’t show you your copy of ‘Here I Stand’. He gave it to you on your fifteenth birthday.”

“The biography of Martin Luther?  Yes, I remember him giving it. Odd now we know, isn’t it?”

“Open it. Read what he wrote on the flyleaf forty years ago.”

“’The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul”. Johann Sebastian Bach.’  Yes. That helps. It does. He was a good man, kind, generous, and gentle. He loved music and he was an inspiring teacher, in so many ways, especially to Eamonn…” She reflected. The setting sun caught her in profile, still beautiful. She continued, “We must love God first, and then all others as ourselves. And in his quiet way, he did both, in spite of the suffering he was subjected to. Imagine his loneliness, his homelessness, his loss of the mother he adored. His lifelong exile. A Wandering Jew who never went home, never stood by his mother’s grave. He kept all the pain to himself. That I can never forget …”


Man playing piano

Peter was born in England, spent his childhood there and in South America, and taught English for 33 years in Ottawa, Canada. Now retired, he reads and writes voraciously, and travels occasionally with his wife Louise.
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