Follow by Email

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Smelly business

Smelly business

"Enough is enough!", said Bassam while he closed the window. He walked over to the wall and started the air conditioner. It was one of those days: 40 degrees Celsius outside, humidity over 80% and the hot wind bringing us the sour smell of the petrochemical industries near Haifa bay. It was really smelly, which explains Bassam's actions.

"I am going to call the municipality!", said my friend determined. He walked over to the phone and called 106, the municipal service center. While listen to the music until his call was answered, he quickly grabbed three cookies and ate them quickly, without losing even one crumb. Suddenly he looked at me and pressed the loudspeaker button on the phone, so I could listen in. suddenly a lady answered.

"Municipality", said the lady.

"Good Morning", said Bassam, surprisingly polite.

"Good morning to you too, Sir."

"Look, it really smells here…."

"Where does it smell?"


"Where, outside?"

"Outside my house."

"And where is your house?"

"Well, here in Haifa."

"And you address is?"

Bassam gave her the address.

"And what does it smell like?"

"Sour. Like petrol."

"Really now. One moment please."

Again music. After a few minutes she came back to us.

"I'll connect you with the ministry of environment."

Again music. We looked at each other. The ministry! Not bad at all!

"Ministry!", said an important-sounding person on the other side of the line.

"Hey good morning to you! We called the municipality because of the smell outside.", said Bassam quickly.

"Yes, so I heard. Are you asthmatic?"

"Me? Not at al."

"Are you sensitive to smells?"

"If I am…what are you talking about???"

"Sir, just answer the question with a yes or no, it will go much faster this way."

Bassam shrugged. "No."

"So why are you calling?"

"Because it smell terrible outside."

"Bu you just said that you are not sensitive to smells."

"No..I said….excuse me, where is this conversation leading to?"

"Sir, that's not what you just said."

"No, but I mean…."

"Sir, you just claimed it smells outside?"


"And you are outside."

"No, we are inside."

"And it still smells?"

"Yes!" Bassam was turning read and I started to enjoy this.



"But you are inside?"

"I just said so!"

"And your windows are open or closed?"

"Sir, what are you complaining about? The smell is supposedly outside, you are inside, with the windows closed and you claim not to be sensitive to smells!"

Bassam looked with big eyes at the phone and then at me. I shrugged. This was his problem and not mine and I was enjoying this.

"Sir I am telling you there is a terrible smell outside!"

"Yes, well, I cannot solve that and you are inside with the windows closed."

"And what about the smell outside?"

"I would advise you to stay inside."

"That's a big help, thank you!"

"I hope so. Satisfied citizens are our main goal, you know."

"But I am not satisfied!! And it stinks outside!!"

"So what do you want me to do about it? Come over and blow it away?"

Bassam's eyes went wide open. His face went purple.

"The gull of you public servants!!"

"You think so?"

"I demand to speak to your superior! Immediately!"

"Well I am the superior. When is your wife coming home?"

"What on earth has my wife to do with this?"

"Well, do you think she will notice the smell?"

"What..what….", Bassam was dumbfounded.

"I think she must be used to the smell, no? I mean, she is married to you for 27 years, right?"

Basam gave me an incredible look. I looked at the ceiling.

"What…who…who is this?"

"Bassam, you fool! It is me, you cousin Mussa! Did you forget I work at the ministry? The moment I heard it was you, I asked to handle the call myself, you donkey!"

Bassam hit himself on the forehead.

A while later we were outside, in the street. The smell was still there.

"What a smell.", said Bassam. "What can we do about it?"

"Take a shower!", said a passerby while lifting his nose.

©Simon Soesan

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Simon Caun, one of the six million

Simon Caun – one of the six million

For years he was a sad and short story in our family: Simon Caun, the brother of my mother. Born on March 20, 1926 and disappeared in 1942. I was born on March 20, 1956: it will not surprise you that my name is Simon.

Just sixteen years old, Simon Caun got an official call up to apply for a work camp. There was little known what was actually happening in the oh so cultural Germany, but nobody was happy. The night before he quickly made a picture, neatly in his suit because he thought the next day he wouldgo to work somewhere. In good faith and fear in the heart on July 20, 1942 he went to Westerbork. Since then nothing was heard from him except a laconic postcard of the o, so human Germans, who after a few months informed the family that Simon Caun had good arrived safely in the camp. Over the years there were flashes of rumors: Sobibor, Birkenau, and Auschwitz. We never actually learned anything, there never was anything conclusive.

I know my mom a bit. Except one of the sweetest, she is also one of the smartest women I know. And although itI was almost forty since I lived in the Netherlands, we have enough contact for me to know that her brother is not forgotten. In fact, her time stopped on July 20, 1942, when her brother left her with fear in his heart.
A few years ago, my first book,
Pita with Sprinkles was published. To do something for Simon Caun, the book is dedicated to him, so his name really is registered, and nobody, certainly not the oh so accurate Germans can deny that he existed, that he was on this earth has walked around, had dreams, had plans, all of which was swept away by the oh so human German people.

I had not enough. A few months ago I decided to start a project. Through contacts, I was able to dig very deep into the past of the oh so accurate Germans, who, with eager volunteers in the oh so pastoral Poland, tried to eradicate the Jewish People. My starting point was the administration. Netherlands, the country where the largest percentage of Jews were killed (more than 90%) using the majority of the cowardly cooperating Dutch people, have a great bureaucracy, but the oh so precise Germans surpass that of course.
The search faced a lot of obstacles.
The fact that the Germans cannot deny that they massacred millions of Jews, does not mean they are ready to help prove it. Many archives were not opened in the beginning, many emails were not answered and I will save you the specific comments on the phone. But I can tell you that I now, after searching, I am more than ever convinced that the Poles, Latvians, Ukrainians and oh, so, good Germans learned from this well planned genocide, which we call in Israel Holocaust, one thing only: never get caught again..

But back to my quest: I wanted to know what happened to my uncle, and refused to accept a "no" as an answer. A few days back, the phone rang with me. A Mr. Kowlaski from Poland. Deputy director of the Auschwitz Museum. He told me that my stubbornness had turned up something and if he could send me first a mail, after which he would give an explanation over the phone. Of course emotions ran high for me and a moment later came a mail.
"Our research tells Simon Caun, born March 20, 1926, was put on transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz on July 21.
We know that this transport consisted of 931 Jewish men; women and children and arrived in Auschwitz Camp on July 22, 1942 in the evening. After selecting, 479 men were admitted to the camp and they received numbers 50403-50881. 297 women were also allowed into the camp and were registered with numbers 9880-10176. It is important to note that deportees who were sent directly to their death on arrival, did not receive a number and were not registered. Your uncle had no number and was not registered."
I reread the notice a lump in my throat: here he was: my uncle!

The phone rang and Mr. Kowalski commented on his mail. "You should assume that probably was sick or crying upon arrival. Maybe he was dehydrated and hungry from the long journey. He was alone, I understand from the list. "

My hard stopped.

List? There was a list? And Mr. Kowlaski from Poland sent me a page. Neatly typed by an officer in Westerbork. A list of names. With birth dates. And one comment that married women had their maiden name mentioned.The list goes about the transport from Westerbork on 21 July 1942. In the middle of this list is Simon Caun. Suddenly there is a sign of him. His last sign of life! A neat officer of the NS or the Dutch police put even a pencil with 'V' sign next to his name, as if to say that also this Jew he sent to his death. Then the officer probably went home, to mother the wife, to enjoy some food. Maybe his wife said a few years ago in a documentary NCRV (Dutch TV) that " 5 minutes after the war the Jew already sell you something", who knows.

But here was my uncle, just sixteen years old, on the list. As if I could touch him for a moment. He then disappeared into the lorry, and after two long days arrived at Auschwitz, scared, hungry and thirsty, to be marched straight to the gas chamber. We have a date to remember him. Anyone who wants can now say a prayer for him, light a candle, as he was murdered on July 22, 1942 by oh, so nice German people, using the oh so hard working Polish people. The laconic red postcard, received by the parents of Simon Caun a few months later, is another proof of how efficient the Germans are.

I have sent information to my parents. And to my brothers and sisters. And their children. I asked them to tell this story to tell their children and make sure that their grandchildren will know it by heart and get the same mission: tell it on.

Somewhere in the ground to Auschwitz are the ashes of my uncle. Extradited by the Dutch people, where my family lives for almost 400 years.

Killed by Germans and Poles.

The reader may think that the search is over for me now. The opposite is true. I am now trying to figure out who these good Dutch people are: the one that neatly typed the list, other who neatly made a "V" beside the name of Simon Caun on July 21, 1942 and put him on the train to his death This story wil continue. Believe me, I will find them. It's easy: They documented everything so well.

They were proud of their work.

Simon Soesan

In Memory of Simon Caun, 'yehiyeh zichro baruch' – may his memory be of blessing

(The author is the fifth child of holocaust survivors, who were hidden and saved by the Snelle family in Sevenum, Limburg, the Netherlands. His parents bore 5 children, who bore 13 grandchildren and – up to 2010, 17 great-grand children. And the story goes on.)