Liberation – Early September 1944
Liberation in Cul-des-Sarts was preceded by three days of fear, fear of how much harm the retreating German army would inflict on the countryside. We children spent some time in the basement, away from windows. Finally, beginning in September of 1944, we stood in front of the entrance gate to await the liberating troops. My heart took a plunge when I thought I saw Germans in the distance but as they approached, we distinguished the American uniforms. Immediately the soldiers were embraced, showered with flowers, and practically smothered with kisses. Everybody was delirious. We discovered several Jewish soldiers among General Patton’s tank troops who came back every day to bring us chocolate and other goodies. They were so happy to find Jewish children who had survived. We also went to visit them in their camp across the French border nearby. Some of them left their U.S. addresses with us which I kept for the longest time. Unfortunately and to my greatest regret, I did not have these names anymore to bring with me to the United States.
I wanted to go home to Brussels but had no means, nor was I allowed to travel by myself. It probably took a while to restore train service. Finally, after several weeks, the committee lady came from Brussels to pick me up to return me to my parents. I realized how lucky I was, as most of my friends had lost their parents in the deportations. We did not know then that they would never return. I traveled back to Brussels together with Rosalie, whose parents did not make it. They had tried to hide and work in Cul-des-Sarts some six months prior: in fact, the day their arrival was set, Rosalie went to the railroad stati on, where she waited in vain all day. Then she cried all night.
The committee lady took Rosalie and me to her house to stay overnight, while I was ready to walk all the way to St. Josse to see my parents. The room Rosalie and I slept in was full of marionettes belonging to the lady’s son. I was on edge. The next morning the three of us took the tram to St. Josse. I was embarrassed at the thought that Rosalie would have to watch the happy reunion with my parents but there was nothing I could do about it. I rang our apartment bell with trepidation. My parents, who had seen who was downstairs from their balcony, ran down the stairs and opened the door. I embraced my mother who had shrunk after two years. Or had I grown? I quickly whispered in her ear, “Don’t kiss me, this girl has no parents.” My mother didn’t listen, nor did my father. It was a joyous reunion that Rosalie had to watch. Many years later, I told her about my concern. She didn’t remember a thing.