At the end of 1945, my mother, who spent the war years in a Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia, was repatriated to her former home in Palestine at the end of 1945. (Her story is here.) Once her health recovered, she joined the Haganah and was assigned the job of helping to bypass the British blockade stopping Holocaust survivors from coming to the renewed Jewish homeland that the British had promised them.
Some of these survivors were utterly alone in the world. Others had family that had already arrived in Palestine, either before or after the war. My mother’s job was to deliver this second class of survivor to those relatives.
Mom, who had spent almost four years witnessing and experiencing Japanese atrocities, was left utterly shattered by one of these encounters. She knew that she was taking a young Polish man to his mother. Because of the language barrier, however, my mother did not know that the man’s mother, like her son, was herself a camp survivor who had arrived in Palestine only a short time before. This woman therefore fully understood what happened in the camps, and had resigned herself to the fact that she would never again see her family. Had Mom had this information, she might have been able to soften the impact that seeing her living son had on the woman.