09 - The Dentist

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(From the tapestry): ”July 1940. I had heard that the Nazis had a dentist in their camp, so when I developed a terrible toothache, I got one of my Polish friends to go to the camp with me. Since the Germans wouldn’t have helped me if they had known I was Jewish, I taught my friend to say, in German, ‘My sister has a toothache.’ After the dentist took out my tooth, he gave me a bar of chocolate. When I got home, my mother was shocked that I had had the nerve to go to the Nazis for help.”

Embroidery and fabric collage, 1997.

29-1/4″W x 33″H .

Transcript of Narration

This is now July 1940—Esther was 13. After developing a terrible toothache, she was desperate to relieve her pain and decided to go to the German dentist. She knew he wouldn’t help her if he heard her Yiddish accent, so she taught her Polish friend to say in German, 'My sister has a toothache.' 

 

After the dentist took out her tooth, he rewarded her with a piece of chocolate. When she went home to tell her mother what she had done, her mother was shocked at Esther’s nerve. And years later, when my mother told the story, she herself was astonished at her audacity. But this was the same daring and guile that she used later to save her life.