Stopping the clocks or 9th of November

On every 9th of November my grandmother stopped all the watches and clocks in her apartment. The old Longcase clock and the delicate silver watch, she wore as long as I knew her. She stopped the kitchen clock and the alarm clock next to her bedside table. Neither my grandmother or my grandfather went to work on a 9th November. They did not cook. they did not went outside. They did not listen to the radio and would not turn the TV on. My grandfather would not play the piano as he would do on every other day of the year. Neither my grandmother not my grandfather looked into the newspaper and if someone would ring their doorbell, they would not open the door. Even in the afternoon, they would not switch on the lights. My grandmother would stand all day long by the window-front looking down on the marketplace, where life run past as if it would be just another ordinary day. Silent she stood and never she uttered a single word. My grandfather sat in the corner of the old, green chaiselongue, his head buried in his hands. His eyes locked with the wooden floor, he silent and nearly invisible in the corner. Sometimes my grandmother walked through the room, just to return back to the window-front and from time to time my grandfather would get up to pace up and down the long floor. But he as well returned to his sofa corner after a short while. Both of them thought of the 9th November 1938, when they came with their hob-nailed shoes and banged open the doors. Both thought back of this very night, in which my grandmother stood behind another window, seeing her father kneeling on the cobble-stoned marketplace of another town, holding a toothbrush in his hand, cleaning the pavement. Jewish bastard cajoled the men and women standing behind him and my grandmother might have heard this behind the thin glass of the window. Later the men and women came up to the house where my grandmother grew up, they banged the door open  and threw the sofa that was upholstered in the same way as the one my grandfather sat upon over and started to search for goods they were in need of. They took the jewelry of my great-grandmother and bed linen, they threw plates and cups out of the window and took the silver forks and soup-ladles with them. They were well prepared. The women held open white linen bags while the men were opening drawers and searched for money. They slit open the portraits and shot into the lamps and when they finally left the apartment was not the same apartment anymore. The town was so little, it never had a synagogue and so no synagogue was burnt down on this day, the market place was so little that everybody knew everybody. My great-grandparents knew the families, who now slept in their duvets and used the bed-linen, my grandmother went to school with the girls, who now buttered their bread with the silver knives and her sisters stopped taking piano-lessons because a grinder axe had destroyed the piano. A couple of months later the family of my grandmother was thrown out of their house and till they were deported they lived in a house exclusively meant for Jews. Only my grandmother returned from Auschwitz. Only my grandfather returned from Auschwitz. But if they would be able to stop the time, my grandmother told me many, so many years later, when I stood in silence next to her, waiting for the day to pass by, if we would be able to stop the time just for this one particular day, when we wouldn’t turn out the light and making no noise at all, if we only would be able to stop this day passing, then maybe her father and her father-in-law, her mother and her mother-in-law, her sisters  and her husbands brothers would not have been found kneeling on the cobble-stoned pavement, would not have been spit at and beaten up, would have never left their house and the green, chaiselongue and would have never been forced into a train, they would certainly, be back, if only we would be able to stop this day happening. My grandparents waited and I waited with them. Always in the semi-darkness, always silent, no one ever came back. On the next morning my grandmother would set back the clocks, my grandfather would practice the piano, my grandmother peeling carrots and going to work, in the evening they would listen to the radio, my grandmother would not stare out of the window for hours and my grandfather would not sit in the corner of the sofa all day long- till the next 9th of November, which for sure would come in another year’s time.

2 Gedanken zu “Stopping the clocks or 9th of November

  1. The impact of this perfectly written piece is too great for me to be able to comment intelligently on it. I’ve read ir three times, and all I can do is react emotionally. But I suppose that is the best critique or compliment i could give you, the gifted author of these poignant words.

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