Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Woman of Valor

Anne with my grandson Mordechai a few months ago
Last February, my sister-in-law, Anne Maryles was the picture of health. Even at age 88. She looked at least 20 years younger. A lot younger than I look at age 74.  Her energy matched her youthful appearance. Her age did not slow her down at all. Although she had begun to have some minor medical issues, no one expected her sudden demise. 

Most people that knew our family thought my brother who at age 92 had far more serious medical issues was the one to be most concerned about.  It was in fact during an outpatient medical procedure he had undergone that she was felled. Just as he was being taken out of the operating room she suffered a massive brain hemorrhage in the waiting room and fell into a deep coma from which she never recovered. 

One moment, the picture of health. The next moment she would lay motionless but alive until last Monday. 

Anne was a remarkable woman who was of a survivor. She was born in pre-war Mainz, Germany where her parents had lived at the time. After Kristalnacht where Jewish businesses were ransacked, it became clear that Jews were not wanted in Germany. Hitler desired to make Germany a Jew free country. Jews were told to leave or suffer the consequences. But the borders of other countries were closed. 

Anne’s parents saw the handwriting on the wall and made the gut wrenching decision to place all of their 6  children on the Kindertransport. This was a train  filled with Jewish children under the age of 18. In Anne’s case, it was Holland. They had made an exception to their immigration policies allowing children 18 and under to enter. Anne and her 5 siblings were placed on that train by their parents. That was the last time she saw them. She was 6 years old. 

After arriving in Holland which had not yet been invaded by Germany, she was eventually placed with a Jewish family. Not long after that, Holland was invaded and Jews were rounded up. Long story short two non Jewish women - one of whom was Anne’s teacher - showed major compassion and secretly found a hiding place for her. Anne eventually ended up being placed with a Catholic farm family. She was told to hide her Jewish identity by changing her name; learning to recite all of their Catholic prayers in Latin; and taken to church every Sunday. In order to save her life and the lives of her adoptive family, she had to pretend to be their daughter - making a ‘nice Catholic girl’ out of her. After a while she got used to thinking of herself that way.

After Anne was liberated, she reconnected with her older sister. She convinced Anne to leave her ‘family’ whom she had by then become comfortable living with. The two Catholic women that saved her returned, took her back, and  placed her with a Jewish family. Anne then returned to her Jewish roots. Anne was forever grateful to those two women for saving her life. She called them the 'Tahntes' - Yiddish for aunts. She remained in contact with them until their death. I remember meeting them when they visited Anne many years ago. They were truly righteous gentiles!

A bit later Anne immigrated to the US and found employment in Chicago where she met my brother. They were set up by a mutual friend. And got married in 1957. A marriage that lasted 64 years! 

Anne not only returned to her Jewish roots, she became an exemplary and devout Jewish woman who cherished Jewish tradition. Caring for her husband and raising her family with a love of Judaism and the land of Israel.  Eventually her three oldest children made Aliyah - one of whom ended up on Malle Gilboa – a Religious Zionist Kibbutz. Anne’s Israeli grandchildren are all devoutly religious and her grandsons there served in the IDF  - as did one of her granddaughters. 

Her youngest son, Ari, lives in Chicago; is a very successful businessman; and is active in Agudah. Ari’s oldest son, Chaim, now learns in Yeshivas Brisk in Israel under the leadership of the Griz’s grandson, R’ Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik. 

Anne was so proud of her family despite their widely differing Hashkafos. She was a beloved figure in Chicago. She arose from the ashes to become a true Eishes Chayil. A role model that understood what it means to be a Jewish woman. She was devoted to her children and treated her grandchildren like her own. But most of all she was devoted to her husband, my brother Jack. Never thinking of herself. Always thinking of him first and assuring that all his needs were met. 

And yet did not shy away from participating in the modern world. Even though she was a full time wife, mother, and grandmother, she took a position as an office manager for a prominent medical practice.  There too she was a beloved figure to all who worked under her... as well as her employers. As well as all the patients she greeted.

She retired from that position about the time she turned 80. She had many friends and admirers wherever she lived, making new friends all the time. She was beloved by all. I used to love being invited to a Shabbos meal. She was a great cook! 

I am only scratching the surface of who Anne Maryles was. There is so much more to tell. All who knew her can attest to that. She will be missed. 

Over the last few years she began to tell her story in public. And was invited to do so more than once. The last time at a project my grandson was involved with called ‘Names, Not Numbers’ - a national high school documentary project whose intent was to record the experiences of survivors. It premiered last July in the midst of the pandemic, broadcast on a big screen in the parking lot of a shopping center where we could all watch in our cars.  

During one of the segments Anne she was asked what she would say if she could talk to her parents. She thought a moment and said she would just hug and kiss them.  And now just a few months later she has finally joined them in eternity. May her memory be a blessing.