Geraldine talks about life in Glasgow; growing up as a child of two survivors and about her mother’s role as a minister’s wife.
And in the autumn of 1951, my mum and my grandma came to Glasgow and they were married in London and their life began.
Int: And your father was a minister of the synagogue here?
GS: He was. My father became a reverend, a minister, and I think that was due to the fact my father, having left, in his teens, Germany, he’d left all his family behind. The only person that knew him from his past was his teacher at Jewish school, who was a rabbi, Joseph Dunner, who was a very, very, religious, important gentleman who was now established in London, and I think, through his influence, he went to study and went down this road of becoming a minister.
Int: It must’ve been hard, after the experience of both your father and your mother to have a belief.
GS: That’s one of the things, actually, that I find very hard to believe. That, after all the atrocities that my mother endured; after the years of hardship and what she saw, how she had any faith left in her body, to give, I don’t know. And Judaism was practised obviously in our home to quite a high degree, with my father being head of the synagogue. Therefore, to this day, I find it quite unbelievable that she had all this belief. That she had so much. And she was wonderful. She very much, took the place of the minister’s wife, and did a lot of work in the community for many, many years. My father sadly died, quite a young man, after everything that he’d gone through. He died, just aged sixty-five, which today is relatively young. He sadly got ill and he was dead, two and a half weeks later. He was just going to retire and I felt they were denied that time…time of peace and of tranquillity for them, with their family and they didn’t get this time.
And it was really only after my father’s death at the end of 1986, that my mum really started to tell her story. It was only after then. We were sheltered; they wanted to protect us.
Yes, with certain things- we couldn’t leave food on our plate, and certain things were different and I think we’re all a wee bit neurotic. And I’m affected with the fact that I can’t go near gas – gas cookers, gas flames, anything. The smell makes me want to retch. Obviously as a child growing up I knew that my mother had been in the gas chambers several times, but I thought of it as the gas flames and I didn’t know it was Zyklon B powder until I was older. And, I think that’s just left its mark on me. I think I was married quite a wee while, before I could even strike a match to light a candle. And you know, in the Jewish religion we bring in the Sabbath when we light our Shabbat candles and I just found it very difficult. It was a very difficult thing for me to do.