A plea for memory in France
SOON AFTER WRITING my letters, I received a message from the state archive of Belgium, with tantalizing news.
Wow. The e-mail nearly took my breath away.
I was amazed that the archive held so many documents -- for both the brothers and for Adolf, who had been arrested in Belgium in 1940.
I was also astounded that normally these documents would be sealed for 100 years -- 100 years!! -- after they had been created. The archivist didn't say why I would be given permission to have these documents even though it had "only" been 75 or 85 years since they were created. I assumed it was because they concerned my relatives.
Two other factors sharpened my anticipation of the Belgian files even more. First, the Belgian police files usually included photographs, Patricia Rozenberg had told me -- and if so, Mel and I would finally know what the two brothers looked like. Second, although I'd asked if there were files concerning Owszyia, Awazyga or Orejza Kagan, the writer had specifically responded that the eight documents concerned Owszyia Kagan, his first name accurately spelled. Could it be that these documents would provide substantive proof of his correct name?
BUT NOW CAME FRUSTRATING DELAYS from the Archives générales du Royaume in Brussels.
"Given the fact that my colleagues from reproduction face a backlog," the archivist wrote, "it will take three to four weeks for the invoice to arrive." Just the invoice. Then I'd have to make the payment by bank transfer before I could receive the documents on digital scans accessible by password. There was no way to speed up the process. I would have to be patient.
At last the invoice for 38 Euro arrived. My bank charged me $30 for the international money transfer, so the overall cost came to $69. Everything was in order, and the bank sent the money transfer. I could hardly wait to see the documents.
THERE WERE MORE PRESSING CONCERNS in the world when I wrote this note to the archive on January 7, 2014. It was the same day that terrorists attacked the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, a horrific event that I noted in my Grey Folder project journal.
TWO-AND-A-HALF WEEKS passed since I had sent the wire transfer, which should have taken no more than a couple days. Still, there was no sign of the documents. And I'd requested online delivery -- how long could it take to send them?
By the time I wrote the note above to the Belgian archive, my anticipation was turning to anxiety. My patience was wearing thin.