A year ago, on the 16th of Adar 5777, my mother a”h was buried in a small cemetery in the town of Manchester, New Hampshire. Her burial marked the second time she had been saved from a crematorium.

The day of her funeral was a frigid winter day, so when the rabbi instructed me to take off my shoes and walk between the two rows of people present, I demurred.

“I didn’t think to bring a pair of non-leather shoes,” I said. “I guess I’ll just have to keep my shoes on.”

But the rabbi insisted that I remove my shoes and walk in my socks. As I walked along the frozen ground, I was surprised that my feet did not feel cold at all.

At that moment, I remembered my mother’s description of the death march she had been part of 72 years earlier, in the winter of 1945. As the Russian liberators approached, the Nazis liquidated most of Auschwitz, and my mother and other inmates were forced to walk some 500 miles, in the snow, to the Salzwedel concentration camp in Germany.

And my mother had no shoes.

By a miracle, however, her feet suffered no harm during that march and did not even feel cold. Eventually, a Nazi guard tossed her a pair of boots removed from a corpse.

After the war, my mother, who was an only child, was reunited with her mother, who had survived the war as well. Her mother remarried and moved to Denver, while my mother made her way to Toronto and then Montreal, where she married my father in 1952. A highly intelligent woman, she learned to speak English fluently, and she attended university and became a psychologist. Eventually she was appointed head of psychology at a Montreal hospital.

She may have survived the war and built a successful professional life for herself, but part of her died in Auschwitz. As a mother, she was emotionally absent and had no interest in me or my older sister, Hayley, even though we were well-behaved, conscientious children who made no trouble. She didn’t care what I ate, what I wore, or what time I went to bed. My achievements didn’t concern her at all.

“The boy needs a mother!” my father would often exclaim in frustration. He was the one who bought me clothes, took me where I needed to go, and showed interest in my life. While he worked long hours and was rarely around, I never doubted that he loved me — unlike my mother, who clearly did not. She was busy with her clients and her friends, who found her witty, entertaining, and full of personality. But that side of her was reserved for outside the home.

Years later I would wonder about the schism between her professional and parental roles. How could such a successful psychologist have so little compassion for her own child? I’ll never know the answer, although I suspect the Holocaust had a lot to do with it. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 701)