Saturday, December 18, 2010

Paul Caspari: in Memoriam, the grandfather I never knew

Flora Arnswalder Caspari and Paul Caspari, MD

I worry. Who will light the Jahrzeit candles after my death? Who will remember the stories my mother told about her father? My children, who have severed themselves irrevocably from the Rosen, Caspari, and Arnswalder families, as has my niece and nephew. My brother likewise does not give the past a thought. As if he were born from heaven. How sad this tale is, but it is one that has been lived by others. And so when I am deceased so too will the world of our fathers /mothers and the world of their grandfathers and grandmothers cease. Some family members in Europe and in Israel cultivate the memory of the families, indirectly; in those lands the family survived too, having fled from Hitler and the Rise of the Third Reich. Shame on my American family that used a menorah as if it were a candelabra in a horror flick, its arms splayed this way and that, with accumulated wax drippings on its "body;" why? Self immolation in an act of desecration?.

For Paul Caspari, the physician of the people, a student or Rudolf Virchow, a man of principle and courage, who knew what his nation had given birth to, and yet after visiting the United States before the outbreak of WWII, returned to Berlin, though he was not allowed to practice medicine there , because he feared that the delivery of medical care to the Jewish population in Berlin would cease altogether. Even though he would not be able to practice medicine, would have to wear a star of David and live under constant threat of annihilation, nonetheless his concern for the well-being of his fellows' brought him back to the cauldron. Difficult as it may be to say, it was a blessing that he died on the operating table, a heart attack causing his death during a routine gall bladder operation, rather then he had lived to face a monstrous evil and a terrible death in the gas chambers, as his relatives did who remained in Germany.

It is he that I honor; honorable people are difficult to discover today. Today, the courage of Paul Caspari, MD, not the man who sadly bears his name in 2010 is celebrated and mourned by his grand daughter who never knew him.

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