Today is a special day. In a very rare occurrence, the first day of Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving Day. Seventy four years ago, my family got its best gift. Henry Landman, my 19-year-old father arrived by himself in New York City on Thanksgiving Day in 1939.
A year earlier in November 1938, he was arrested and sent to Dachau after Kristallnacht and was released thanks to Charles Aukin, a London attorney, who obtained a temporary transit visa for my father to get to London on April 15, 1939. His father Joseph retained Mr. Aukin when he was in London en route to New York earlier in 1939.
My father became a stateless refugee, and after the War broke out he was an “enemy alien”. My father went to thank the lawyer, who invited him to a Shabbos dinner with his family. At dinner my father showed a photo of his family and the lawyer’s father-in-law said to him, “We know these two people (pointing to his Gerson and Sofie, his grandparents). They live in Munich. When we were fleeing from Poland they put us up in their apartment until our papers came through to get to London.” After that the lawyer watched over my father and finally got him the necessary paperwork to get to America to unite with his father, mother and siblings, already settled in Washington Heights.
Sadly, Gerson and Sofie (and their other children) died in the camps. Years later my father joined the U.S. Army and was with the first American soldiers who entered Dachau, Munich and his hometown of Augsburg. So on this Thanksgivakkah I remember the miracle of how my great-grandparents helped the in-laws of the attorney who got my father out of Nazi Germany. Every survivor’s life was filled with miracles of survival.
And I give thanks that my grandfather Joseph, like his Biblical namesake, was able to leave his siblings and parents and travel to a foreign land and start the family that I am now part of. I give thanks that I can still have a Thanksgiving Day meal with my parents.