By: Sophie (Tajch) Klisman, Holocaust Survivor –
At the age of 88, I attended my mother’s funeral. I know I sound too old to be attending my mother’s funeral, but you see, the Holocaust robbed her of a proper Jewish funeral and me of a proper good bye. In the Jewish tradition, her body should have been carefully washed, been dressed in a shroud, placed in an all wood coffin, and she should have had the dignity of her loving family with her and been respectfully buried in her final resting place. Instead, after dying from the horrible conditions of the Lodz Ghetto, her body was put in the street to be picked up by a wagon, loaded with so many others who died without the privilege of their dignity.
I managed to survive the Holocaust; my years between the ages of 10 and 15 fully robbed of my childhood. But, I would go on and create a beautiful life in America. I would marry, have beautiful children and see them marry and give me grandchildren. I had a career as a saleswoman and fashion consultant. Having lost everyone except my sister Felicia, who I survived with, I made friends who would become my family. I chose to focus on happiness and count all of the good things that happened to me. I enjoyed love, laughter, family, and success.
There was, however, a hole in me. I had never lost the feeling of a need for closure, of being able to properly stand at a funeral, before my mother or father, or 2 brothers who perished, and give them a proper goodbye filled with love and respect. Who knew where their bodies were. In a mass grave? Buried all alone? Like their aloneness, I kept this in the privacy of my mind.
Then, my thoughts were encouraged to surface by my daughter, Lori, who had begun to do research into our family genealogy. Having had little family as a result of the Holocaust, Lori wanted to explore her roots. As our family tree grew, and Lori sought more information, there it was: my mother Luba’s burial records and her plot number in Lodz. Lori shared this with me and I knew that I, who had never wanted to go back to Poland after I was robbed of so much, was going to make an unveiling and place a granite stone on my mother’s grave.
Lori, with her gift of patience, research, support of family… and long distance calls to the Lodz cemetery, arranged a grave stone to be made. And, if there was the chance to honor my mother by placing the stone at her gravesite, I was going to be there!
Lori and her sister in law, Anne began to plan a trip “home” to Poland. It was scary for me, but I knew with the support of Lori and my son Mark, and their spouses beside me, I could do this. And, I did. We held an unveiling. Prayers were said, we pulled the cover off of the stone and we honored Liba Tajch’s life. We did this together.
I wanted to be alone for a bit. My children stepped back. I held the stone, I talked to my mother, I cried all of the tears of love I had held on to for so many years. I could not get back more hours to be with my mother, but I could finally and with respect, say goodbye.
Sophie (Zosia) Tajch Klisman was born in Piotrokow, Poland in 1929. Daughter to Liba and Icek Berek Tajch, she is the youngest of four children. Regretfully, she and her older sister, Felicia were the only two family members to survive the atrocities of the Holocaust. Liberated and eventually immigrating to America, Sophie married Bernard Klisman, a fellow survivor. Together, they settled in Michigan and built a new life. They had a son, Mark and a daughter, Lori, who married Anne and Jeff, and brought four beautiful grandchildren: Michelle, Joshua, Rachel and Aaron, into Sophie’s world.
With a career spent as a fashion consultant and saleswoman, Sophie has translated her hard work ethic into a devoted advocate and speaker for the Holocaust Memorial Center and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. Her activism has led to numerous features including coverage in the local and national news, a book about her life: 4,456 Miles, A survivor’s Search for Closure, an interview for the Case Files podcast, and a soon to be documentary.
Learn more about Sophie’s story in the HMC Oral History Archive, or watch a recording below of Sophie Klisman speaking at the HMC from August 2017.